Inkwell with Zodiac Signs

Object Name: Inkwell

Date: early 13th century

Geography: Attributed to probably Iran

Medium: Brass; cast, inlaid with silver, copper, and black compound

Dimensions: H. 5 7/8 in. (14.9 cm)
H. w/o lid: 3 5/8 in. (9.2 cm)
Diam. 4 9/16 in. (11.6 cm)

Classification: Metal

Credit Line: Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1959

Accession Number: 59.69.2a, b


One of the innovations of the Khurasani metalworkers is the development of animated inscriptions, in which parts of letters are transformed into animal or human figures. Here, the tall letters of the inscription on the lid are embellished with human heads. The use of animated inscriptions traveled westward, appearing on metalwork produced in western Iran, Iraq, and Syria, but was never adopted in other media. The body of the inkwell is decorated with the twelve signs of the zodiac.