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Box and cover

  • Place of origin:

    Egypt (possibly, made)
    Syria (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    1450-1550 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Mahmud al-Kurdi (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Brass chased and overlaid

  • Museum number:

    2290-1855

  • Gallery location:

    Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery, case 5 []

  • Public access description

    This lid and bowl are both signed by Master Mahmud al-Kurdi. He was responsible for many other signed works decorated with dense, overall decoration in what is called the Veneto-Saracenic style. Thin lines of silver pick out a strapwork design, and most of the ground is textured with a tiny pattern of rotating arabesques. A few areas have inscriptions or knotwork and other patterns overlaid with silver.

    By the late 15th century there was intense trade across the Mediterranean. This often makes it difficult to unravel the different influences on metalwork pieces like this one. Experts once thought richly decorated so-called Veneto-Saracenic metalwork was made by Arabs living in Venice. It is now known that it was originally produced in Egypt or Syria and only later copied in Italy.

  • Physical description

    Bowl, with lid, brass, chased all over with arabesque ornament and signed by Mahmud al-Kurdi.

  • Marks and inscriptions

    Mahmud al-Kurdi
    1) Signature; Arabic

  • Dimensions

    Height: 7.8 cm, Diameter: 15 cm

  • Historical context note

    There is ongoing scholarly debate regarding the provenance of so-called Veneto-Saracenic metalwork as to whether these objects were made in Venice or Mamluk Syria and Egypt and whether they were made by Venetians or Muslim craftsmen. A further complication is the fact that metal objects are known to have been made in Venice and exported for decoration in the Near East. Hans Huth has suggested that the widely-held assumption that much of this metalwork is to be attributed to Muslim craftsmen working in 15th century Venice is not sound and that the Venetian guild system would not have tolerated the presence of foreign craftsmen on Venetian soil. James Allan has suggested that many of these pieces may be reattributed to the Near East, specifically to Damascus and Cairo based on stylistic reasons and comparison with Quranic illumination. This bowl, due to its linear use of inlay, background of finely scrolling stems, highlighted with silver overlay falls into the group he attributes to Cairo.

  • Descriptive line

    Brass bowl with lid decorated in 'Veneto-Saracenic' style and signed by Mahmud al-Kurdi, Egypt or Syria, 1450-1550.

  • Labels and date

    Box and cover
    bronze, engraved and incised with silver, Veneto-Saracenic, early 16th c.
    On the lid is the signature of the maker Mahmud al-Kurdi
    Bernal Collection [pre 2002]
    Brass Bowl with Lid
    Egypt or Syria
    1450-1550

    Both lid and bowl are signed by Master Mahmud al-Kurdi. He was responsible for many other signed works decorated with dense, overall decoration in the Veneto-Saracenic style. Thin lines of silver pick out a strapwork design, and most of the ground is textured with a tiny pattern of rotating arabesques. A few areas have inscriptions or knotwork and other patterns overlaid with silver.

    Brass and silver wire. Signed by al-Mu'allim Mahmud al-Kurdi

    Museum no. 2290-1855 [Jameel Gallery]

  • Collection code

    Middle East Section