Arts of the Islamic World & India including Fine Rugs and Carpets

Arts of the Islamic World & India including Fine Rugs and Carpets

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 76. An early Mamluk silver-inlaid brass bowl featuring the personifications of the planets, Egypt, 14th century.

An early Mamluk silver-inlaid brass bowl featuring the personifications of the planets, Egypt, 14th century

Auction Closed

March 31, 12:40 PM GMT


60,000 - 80,000 GBP

Lot Details


with large silver-inlaid engraved calligraphic band between foliage, interspersed with four roundels containing seated figures, the underside engraved with a central stylised sun motif surrounded by six roundels containing personifications of the planets, remnants of silver inlay, incised swimming fish to interior

 5cm. height; 16cm. diam.

Formerly in the collection of the Habsburg Imperial family
By repute, Count Don Enrico Lucchesi Palli, 11th Principe di Campofranco (1861-1924).

Count Enrico Lucchesi Palli together with his cousin Enrico Prince of Bourbon Parma, Count of Bardi, and other notable relatives embarked on a journey around the world between 1887 and 1891, which also took them to Alexandria, Egypt, where this bowl was most likely acquired, thence by descent.



The science of astronomy was practised in Baghdad and Persia from at least the ninth century and in Egypt and Syria since the tenth century. It was the work of the celebrated astronomer, al-Battani, which would later become so influential with European astronomers. It is against this notorious backdrop and five-hundred years of accumulated knowledge that the Mamluks came to power, ruling present day Egypt and Syria (1250-1517) D.A. King, ‘The Astronomy of the Mamluks, A Brief Overview’, in: Muqarnas, Vol.2. The Art of the Mamluks, 1984, pp.73-84. This silver-inlaid basin draws inspiration from Persian models (see lots 74 and 75), but also fits into a uniquely Mamluk tradition, in which benedictory inscriptions combined with seated courtly figures in roundels, fish swimming at the centre of the bowl and an underside with the personifications of the planets indicate a courtly use for this bowl. Mamluk metalwork, as well as other types of decorative art, is renowned for its high calibre workmanship and recognisable motifs. This inlaid brass basin is no exception. The large amount of brassware surviving from the Mamluk period attests to the popularity of this metal which began to be used heavily during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries due to its resemblance to gold and silver.

The base of the bowl is particularly noteworthy as it depicts the sun surrounded by six roundels containing figures, each personifying one of the known celestial bodies of the time. The figure with the crown would have represented the moon, the scribe is Mercury, the oud player depicts Venus, Mars holds a sword, Jupiter in this case is depicted with two fish, and Saturn with a pickaxe.

This base can be compared to that of a bowl found in the Bargello Museum in Florence (E. Baer, Metalwork in Medieval Islamic Art, New York, 1983, p.249). Another close comparable is in the Musée du Louvre, Paris, inv. no. OA 6032 (L'apparence des cieux: astronomie et astrologie en terre d'Islam, ed. Sophie Makariou, Dossiers du Musée du Louvre, Paris, Volume 54, Réunion des musées nationaux, 1998, p. 59 and 61, no. III.33). In addition to this are two further examples, one in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Limoges, and the other in the Museo Civico of Bologna. Another version of this iconography appears on a twelfth/early thirteenth century minai bowl, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, inv. no.57.36.4, indicating a potential source of influence for the present example. Further examples are discussed by Stefano Carboni in Following the Stars: Images of the Zodiac in Islamic Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1997).