Exhibitions/ Art Object

Drinking Bowl Shaped as a Begging Bowl

Object Name:
Begging bowl
early 20th century
Attributed to Central Asia or Iran
Silver, fire-gilded with applied and stamped silver decoration and inset carnelians and turquoise, carnelian and turquoise and coral beads
3 1/4 x 9 in. (8.3 x 22.9 cm)
Accession Number:
Not on view
Drinking bowls outfitted with spouts are commonly carried by water-sellers in eastern Turkey. This bowl, a luxurious version of a drinking bowl, may have served as a symbol of the water-seller’s trade rather than as a functional object.[15]. The bowl is based on the shape of a half coco-de-mer or coconut. Nineteenth-century begging bowls were often made of coco-de-mer shells, sometimes enriched with gold or silver decoration and carved versified inscriptions and vegetal designs (see photograph on p. 225 in this volume). The coco-de-mer form was also popular for metalwork and, more rarely, for porcelain begging bowls.[16]

The bowl is embellished with a double bird’s-head design on either side of the opening at the top. The overall organization of the surface is similar to that of cat. no 188 in this volume, but this bowl is embellished with brilliant primary colors and bold designs, whereas no. 188 is ornamented with softer hues and daintier patterns related to textiles or embroideries.

Layla S. Diba in [Diba 2011]


15. Marilyn Wolf, conversation with the author, August 2008.

16. The form was originally thought to have existed as early as the seventeenth century in Persian steelwork. See Allan, James W. Nishapur: Metalwork of the Early Islamic Period. New York, 1982, pp. 114–15, for an example dated 1608 from Isfahan signed Hajji 'Abbas. However, the entire group signed Hajji 'Abbas has recently been re-dated to the late nineteenth century. For other nineteenth-century examples, see Piotrovsky, Mikhail B., and John Vrieze. Earthly Beauty, Heavenly Art: Art of Islam. Exh. cat., Die Nieuwe Kerk. Amsterdam, 1999, pp. 128–32, fig. 72, for a steel and gold example, figs. 73–75 for similar coco-de-mer examples, and fig. 76 for a rare porcelain example. See also Froom, Aimée, et al. Spirit and Life: Masterpieces of Islamic Art from the Aga Khan Museum Collection. Exh. cat., Palazzo della Pilotta, Parma; Ismaili
Centre, p. 67, fig. 40, for a coco-de-mer begging bowl with spout.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Turkmen Jewelry," October 9, 2012–February 24, 2013, no. 188.

Diba, Layla S. "Silver Ornaments from the Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf Collection." In Turkmen Jewelry. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 188, p. 225, ill. pl. 188 (color).

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