Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

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Magic bowl with Qur’anic verses and personifications of the seven celestial spheres

  • Description

    Islamic magic bowls are documented as early as the twelfth century, although an increased production is attested during the Safavid period (1501-1722). Hemispherical in shape, these bowls are engraved with a range of motifs including magic squares, religious invocations, astrological signs, and Qur’anic verses, whose “healing” power was believed to have protective and therapeutic functions on those who used the vessels. The decoration on the bowl in the Ashmolean Museum, covering both the inside and the outside, is extremely fine and combines signs of the zodiac inscribed in star-shaped motifs; personifications of the seven celestial spheres in roundels alternated to Persian invocations to ‘Ali - the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad - and verses from the Qur’an distributed in rows of interlacing oval cartouches.

  • Details

    Associated place
    Asia Iran (place of creation)
    AsiaIranFars Shiraz (possible place of creation)
    1655 - 1656 (AH 1066)
    Associated people
    'Ali ibn Abi Talib (ruled AD 656 - 661) (named on object)
    Material and technique
    brass, cast, with incised and engraved decoration
    7.3 cm (height)
    22.3 cm (diameter)
    Material index
    Technique index
    formed cast,
    Object type index
    No. of items
    Credit line
    Presented by Mrs Johnson, 1992.
    Accession no.
  • Further reading

    New York: Asia Society Museum, 16 October 2003-18 January 2004, and Milan: Museo Poldi Pezzoli and Palazzo Reale, 23 February-28 June 2004, Hunt for Paradise: Court Arts of Safavid Iran, 1501-76, Jon Thompson and Sheila R. Canby, eds (Milan: Skira, 2003), no. 9.4 on p. 244


    • currently in research collection

Objects are sometimes moved to a different location. Our object location data is usually updated on a monthly basis. Contact the Jameel Study Centre if you are planning to visit the museum to see a particular object on display, or would like to arrange an appointment to see an object in our reserve collections.


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