Inkwell with twelve Zodiac medallions, Seljuq period (1040–1196), late 12th–early 13th century
Brass, cast, inlaid with silver and copper; H. 2 3/8 in. (6 cm), Diam. 3 1/4 in. (8.3 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1944 (44.131)
Virgo (al-sunbula, "ear of corn") is the only sign of the Zodiac whose iconography is very different from that of Western cycles. For some reason, while the name of the constellation is al-cadhra ("the virgin") and it is depicted in astronomical treatises as a female figure, the name of the corresponding sign of the Zodiac was sunbula, after the brightest star of the constellation. Therefore, in representations on objects, the image of the female virgin was replaced by a male figure, evidently Gemini's Planetary Lord Mercury, who was shown as a farmer slashing ears of corn with a crescent-shaped scythe. On this vessel, the signs of the Zodiac are arranged in groups of four, surrounding a central medallion with a horseman or a falconer.
Said the Wise Abu Macshar: "Those who are born in this decade have a bright complexion. They have a pleasant build and small, symmetrical shoulders. They have a good voice and they like to be entertained and to play. They love good manners and are eloquent in their speech. They are considered intelligent by men of culture. Allah knows more..."