Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Incense Burner

Object Name:
Incense burner
12th century
Attributed to Iran
Brass; cast, pierced, chased, engraved
H. 6 15/16 in. (17.6 cm)
L. 5 3/16 in. (13.2 cm)
W. 3 3/8 in. (8.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1972
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 453
Incense was widely used in the medieval Islamic world. At receptions and special events, servants would waft the guests with the aromatic smoke emanating from the openwork of the incense burner and sprinkle them with drops of scented water. This bird‑shaped incense burner represents a class of metalwork that would have been sold at market. Birds figure prominently in the decorative repertoire of the Seljuq period, and were probably associated with good fortune.
Signature: Possibly by the artist, in undecipherable Arabic Kufic script.

[Francesca Leoni, Fellow, 11-29-2007]: the inscription consists of two words, al-tamma (completeness) and sa'ada (happiness).
[ Mehdi Mahboubian, New York, until 1972; sold to MMA]
Mexico City. Colegio de San Ildefonso. "Arte islamico del Museo Metropolitano de Arte de Nueva York," September 30, 1994–January 8, 1995, no. 77.

New York. Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture. "Lions, Dragons, and Other Beasts: Aquamanilia of the Middle Ages. Vessels for Church and Table," July 12, 2006–October 15, 2006, no. 38.

Baer, Eva. Metalwork in Medieval Islamic Art. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1983. pp. 58-59, ill. fig. 42 (b/w).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Daniel S. Walker, Arturo Ponce Guadián, Sussan Babaie, Stefano Carboni, Aimee Froom, Marie Lukens Swietochowski, Tomoko Masuya, Annie Christine Daskalakis-Matthews, Abdallah Kahil, and Rochelle Kessler. "Colegio de San Ildefonso, Septiembre de 1994-Enero de 1995." In Arte Islámico del Museo Metropolitano de Arte de Nueva York. Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1994. no. 77, pp. 198-199, ill. p. 199 (b/w).

Barnet, Peter, and Pete Dandridge, ed. "Aquamanilia of the Middle Ages: Vessels for Church and Table." In Lions, Dragons & Other Beasts. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. no. 38, p. 181, ill. (color).

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