Basin with Fishpond Motif

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Basin with fishpond motif 12th–13th centuries, Syria or Egypt Brass Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, 28801

Basin with fishpond motif
Basin with fishpond motif


Although dented and worn, this large brass basin originally would have shone brightly with silver and gold inlay. The different metals would have played with the light as it hit the concave and convex surfaces. The outlines of inscription bands and pictorial motifs remain. Around the basin's outer surface, a large calligraphic inscription praises the last Ayyubid prince Najm al-Din Ayyub. The interior of the basin includes a design known as a fishpond motif. The incised circle is filled with the outlines of dozens of small fish that appear to be swimming about. When filled with water, the reflective metal and the basin's contents would have animated the fish, making it appear as though marine life had infiltrated the libations.

Bibliography: Grabar 1961; Ward 1993, 84–85; and Baer 1998, 104–107; 1968.

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