Islamic Glass Inkwell

SKU SF.293

800 AD to 1000 AD


2.75″ (7.0cm) high x 2.5″ (6.4cm) wide




Central Asia

Gallery Location



This pale green vessel was probably used as an inkwell by an ancient scribe. The irregular cylindrical body is decorated with a shallow cut honeycomb pattern. Four suspension loops have been applied to the upper part of the body and are joined to the wide flat rim of the opening. It has been suggested that these were used to suspend the inkwell from the left wrist or belt of the scribe. The size and wall thickness of this vessel make it more likely that it was hung from a wall or niche. It is possible that there was once a cylindrical tube suspended in the centre of this vessel to contain the ink or it may have been poured directly into the main body. The pontil mark is visible on the underside of the base.

The art of calligraphy is one of the most celebrated Islamic art forms. Glass inkwells were apparently valued because they were easy to clean and even metal inkwells sometimes had glass vessels placed inside them to hold the ink. The majority of surviving glass inkwells are undecorated so the use of the honeycomb pattern suggests that this was a highly prized object. Although there is some damage to one of the suspension loops, the piece is in good overall condition. Over the centuries it has acquired a pearly-white patina with flecks of golden irridescence, howver the original pale green is still visible in some areas. When one imagines this piece functioning in an ancient scriptoria, where scribes were engaged in manuscript production, its becomes even more fascinating. (AM)

For comparable pieces see, ‘Glass From Islamic Lands: The Al-Sabah Collection,’ (2001), pp. 142-143.

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