Calligraphic Dish

Object Name: Dish

Date: ca. 1600

Geography: Attributed to India, Deccan, Bijapur

Medium: Copper alloy; cast

Dimensions: H. 1/4in. (0.6cm)
Diam. 5 7/8in. (14.9cm)

Classification: Metal

Credit Line: Purchase, Wendy F. Findlay Gift, 1983

Accession Number: 1983.227


This dish is made of a cast copper alloy that has been etched. The central medallion has three horizontal lines of calligraphy in thuluth script on a background of spiral scrolls with floral and leaf motifs. The writing in the surrounding circular band is placed among scattered vegetal elements. The central inscription is a slightly altered form of the Shi'i profession of faith—"There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God, 'Ali is the friend of God"—and the passages around it are from the Qur'an. More metalwork is known from the Deccan than from any other region in India, and a group of about twenty bronze, copper, and brass vessels decorated with superb thuluth script, like this one, can be attributed to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The inscriptions on them are in the style of the Arabic epigraphy carved on black basalt panels in mosques and tombs in the Golconda-Hyderabad area, which were designed by scribes from Iran or the Arab world working in India at the time. The content of the inscriptions is frequently Shi'i—the invocation to 'Ali being particularly common—in combination with verses from the Qur'an. Shapes of these pieces differ substantially from those found in Safavid metalwork; in the Deccan, mostly trays, plaques, lotas (a type of water vase unknown in Iran), stemmed cups, and kashkuls (begging bowls) were produced.