Pyxis Depicting Standing Saints or Ecclesiastics and the Entry into Jerusalem with Christ Riding a Donkey

Object Name: Box

Date: mid- to late13th century

Geography: Attributed to Syria

Medium: Brass; hammered, engraved, inlaid with silver

Dimensions: (a+b):
H. 4 1/8 in. (10.5 cm)
Diam. 4 1/16 in. (10.3 cm)
Wt. 13.9 oz. (394.1 g)

Classification: Metal

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1971

Accession Number: 1971.39a, b


During the course of the thirteenth century, luxurious inlaid brasses signed by al-Mawsili (from Mosul) artists or made in their style began to display a very particular iconography borrowing from Christian motifs, namely Gospel scenes, images related to the life of Christ, and standing figures of saints and ecclesiastics. These images appear alongside traditional Islamic themes that were popular in the Seljuq era, such as the courtly cycle and astrology. It is noteworthy that such Christian motifs were largely depicted with deliberate variations. The artists either did not entirely understand the iconography or they did not care much about the established canon. The juxtaposition of Christian and medieval Islamic themes suggests that these brasses were probably intended for specific communities, underscoring the complex multicultural milieu of the western Seljuq realm. Some may have been ordered by local Christian patrons, others as souvenirs for Crusader knights. Suitable for Muslim and Christian courts as prestigious diplomatic gifts or as luxurious export works, they reached rulers and elite individuals both within and beyond the Seljuq world, as far west as Europe.