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Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.120
Title
Openwork Panel with Inscription
Classification
Plaques
Work Type
plaque
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/160457
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Sheet-worked brass, with inlay and overlay in silver and copper
Dimensions
11 x 14.5 cm
Provenance
Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (by 1978-2002), gift; to Harvard Art Museums, 2002.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
Accession Year
2002
Object Number
2002.50.120
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
This curious object has so far defied identification. A small rectangular sheet of brass was pierced to produce an intricate openwork design, and brass rods topped by round finials were soldered to the sides. The front face was then inlaid with silver and copper (both 99 percent pure). Bold strapwork divides the design into three horizontal registers. The upper and largest zone carries a Kufic pseudo-inscription set against a foliate scroll. The letters are animated with two bust-length human figures and a variety of animals and animal heads.
In the two lower registers, the strapwork is interlaced in nearly symmetrical fashion, creating geometric interstices that are filled with leaves, rosettes, and round bosses.
In accord with traditional metalworking technique, the brass sheet was incised and textured to receive the copper inlay, as can be seen where this inlay is missing. The attachment of the silver, however, is unusual and may reflect modern restoration: it appears to have been positioned in parallel strips (usually three) and hammered to make it adhere to the underlying sheet. Both silver and copper inlays are partly decorated with fine incised lines and punch marks.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
144

Openwork panel with inscription
Possibly Iran, combining elements from earlier and modern eras
Sheet-worked brass, with inlay and overlay in silver and copper
11 × 14.5 cm (4 5/16 × 5 11/16 in.)
2002.50.120

This curious object has so far defied identification. A small rectangular sheet of brass was pierced to produce an intricate openwork design, and brass rods topped by round finials were soldered to the sides. The front face was then inlaid with silver and copper (both 99 percent pure). Bold strapwork divides the design into three horizontal registers. The upper and largest zone carries a Kufic pseudo-inscription set against a foliate scroll. The letters are animated with two bust-length human figures and a variety of animals and animal heads.[1]

In the two lower registers, the strapwork is interlaced in nearly symmetrical fashion, creating geometric interstices that are filled with leaves, rosettes, and round bosses. In accord with traditional metalworking technique, the brass sheet was incised and textured to receive the copper inlay, as can be seen where this inlay is missing. The attachment of the silver, however, is unusual and may reflect modern restoration: it appears to have been positioned in parallel strips (usually three) and hammered to make it adhere to the underlying sheet. Both silver and copper inlays are partly decorated with fine incised lines and punch marks.

Mary McWilliams

[1] Animated inscriptions, in both Kufic and cursive scripts, enjoyed a vogue on inlaid metalwork made in Iran, Syria, and Iraq during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. See, for instance, Baer 1983, 200–207.

Publication History

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), pp. 269-270, cat. 144, ill.

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu