December 4, 2011

At the Met: Metalwork in the New Islamic Wing

Base for a Water Pipe with Poetry and Flowers; India, early 18th century; cast, engraved, inlaid with silver and brass.

The glory of pattern, refined, elegant, and complex, is the essence of so many of the metal objects in the new wing at the Met, the "New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia". The full round form of this water pipe base is so satisfying, inviting me to cup my hands around it, but it is the pattern that astounds.

Base for a Water Pipe, detail.

In columns that curve around the form, enhancing its bulbous grandeur, are marvelously wrought flowers and leaves and words (there is unfortunately no translation of the text).

Basin with Figural Imagery; probably Iran, early 14th century; brass, raised, engraved, and inlaid with silver and gold.

Looking at this work, I am in awe of the detailed craftsmanship, the intense quality of attention that had to be called up in order to complete these complex tasks. The pillowed curves of the rim of this basin are perfectly matched, and create a sensuous rhythm around its edge.

Basin, detail.

Every curve has a figure or animal at its center. Each line, each shape, whether flower or fruit or figure, is beautifully wrought, inviting close looking.

Dragon Handled Jug with Inscription; present day Afghanistan, late 15th - early 16th century; brass, cast and turned, engraved, and inlaid with silver, gold, and black organic compound.

This wonderful jug has repeated medallions of twining gold and silver lines which repeat its rounded shape.

Dragon Handled Jug, detail.

The inscription around the neck is an invocation to 'Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammud.

Inkwell with Floral and Animal Imagery; Iran, 16th century; brass, lid cast, body worked, engraved and chased, inlaid with silver.

There are delightful animals cavorting amid flowers and foliage on this charming small object. Who wouldn't be pleased to be writing if they could dip their ink into this lively and perfect little world.

Helmets; from the left: Helmet with the Name of Sultan Ya'qub; Iran, 15th century; iron, silver.
Helmet; Turkey, early 17th century; copper, embossed, engraved, stippled, and gilded.
Helmet; Turkey, late 16th century; steel, forged and engraved.

Lastly, some accoutrements of war, or of military parades, because they too are gorgeously shaped objects. I am showing them together because I am fascinated by the variety of form, topped with an ending sphere (click on the image to see them enlarged). Each piece is a sculptural object, a variation on a theme; each is inventive and graceful. I am looking forward to exploring more of this new installation, and discovering new treasures.

The previous post on the new Islamic wing:
At the Met: Ceramics in the New Islamic Wing


  1. I am always amazed at these artists that can repeat a pattern over and again around some object and it all fits perfectly. Especially before the advent of computers and other machines to do it for you. Amazing. Beautiful.

  2. I feel the same, Lisa. It's a wonder.

  3. The glory of pattern indeed...lovely photos! You have honored the work.

  4. Not surprised at how beautiful the helmets are when you think about how the surfaces of their buildings are so decorative, along with domestic objects and calligraphy.

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