Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Calligraphic Dish

Object Name:
ca. 1600
Attributed to India, Deccan, Bijapur
Copper alloy; cast
H. 1/4in. (0.6cm) Diam. 5 7/8in. (14.9cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Wendy F. Findlay Gift, 1983
Accession Number:
Not on view
The central inscription on this dish is a slightly altered form of the Shi'i profession of faith and the passages around it are from the Qur'an. This dish is one of a group of about twenty objects decorated with superb thuluth script, the specific function of which is unknown.

Two Inscribed dishes (Private Collection, London, and MMA no. 1983.227)

On the dish from the London Private collection, the composition of concentric bands of text surrounding a single name, ‘Ali, is similar to the arrangement and function of the verses on the Al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait, tray (Al-Sabah, Far al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait no. LNS 823 M ab), and it is likely this was also a tray for a small cup from which to drink healing water. The center of the dish is surrounded by two inscribed bands with verses from the Qur’an (2:196): "And do not shave your heads until the sacrificial animal has reached its place of slaughter. And whoever among you is ill or has an ailment of the head must offer a ransom of fasting or charity or sacrifice." The phrase begins in the lower left of the outer band and continues into the second circle, ending with the names of Allah, Muhammad, and ‘Ali at the center.

The phrase at the center of the dish from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1983.227) was intended to convey the message, "There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God, ‘Ali is the regent of God." Read line by line, however, the words state: "There is no god but ‘Ali/God, Muhammad is the regent of God/The messenger of God." These central inscriptions interweave the two phrases in a manner seen in several other vessels, likely to intensify their esoteric qualities. Around the rim of the dish are the verses, "And we reveal of the Qur’an that which is a healing and a mercy to the believers, and it adds only to the perdition of the unjust" (Qur’an 17:82); "Peace, a word from the Lord of mercy" (Qur’an 36:58); "Peace, it is until the break of dawn" (Qur’an 97:5); and "finished" (tammat).[1] Another unpublished dish in a private collection contains virtually the same design and was likely issued from the same rubbing.

Abdullah Ghouchani and Marika Sardar in (Haidar and Sardar 2015)


1-The inscriptions were read by Annemarie Schimmel, 1986.
Inscription: Center inscription: "There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God, 'Ali is the friend of God"
[ Bashir Mohamed Ltd, London, 1982–83; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Nature of Islamic Ornament Part I: Calligraphy," February 26, 1998–June 28, 1998.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Courtly Radiance: Metalwork from Islamic India," September 25, 2001–May 5, 2002, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Balcony Calligraphy Exhibition," June 1, 2009–October 26, 2009, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Sultans of Deccan India, 1500-1700: Opulence and Fantasy," April 20, 2015–July 26, 2015, no. 155.

Zebrowski, Mark. Gold, Silver and Bronze from Mughal India. London: Laurence King Publishers, 1997. p. 339, ill. fig. 553 (b/w).

Haidar, Navina, and Marika Sardar. "Opulence and Fantasy." In Sultans of Deccan India 1500–1700. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015. no. 155, p. 263, ill. pl. 155 (color).

Related Objects

Dagger with Zoomorphic Hilt

Date: second half 16th century Medium: Hilt: copper; cast, chased, gilded, and inlaid with rubies. Blade: steel; forged Accession: 2011.236 On view in:Gallery 463

The House of Bijapur

Artist: Painting by Kamal Muhammad (active 1680s) Date: ca. 1680 Medium: Ink, opaque watercolor, gold, and silver on paper Accession: 1982.213 On view in:Gallery 463

Base for a Water Pipe (Huqqa) with Irises

Date: late 17th century Medium: Zinc alloy; cast, engraved, inlaid with brass (bidri ware) Accession: 1984.221 On view in:Not on view

Pilgrim Flask

Date: early 17th century Medium: Brass; cast Accession: 1992.50 On view in:Gallery 463

Garden Fountain

Date: early 17th century Medium: Brass; cast in sections, joined and engraved Accession: 1997.150 On view in:Gallery 463