Incense Burner of Amir Saif al-Dunya wa’l-Din ibn Muhammad al-Mawardi

Maker: Ja`far ibn Muhammad ibn `Ali

Object Name: Incense burner

Date: dated A.H. 577/ A.D. 1181–82

Geography: Found Iran, Taybad

Medium: Bronze; cast, engraved, chased, pierced

Dimensions: OveralL. H. 33 1/2 in. (85.1 cm)
L. 32 1/2 in. (82.6 cm)
W. 9 in. (22.9 cm)
L. from heel of back foot to toe of front foot: 22 in. (55.9 cm)
L. from toe of front foot to tip of nose: 4 in. (10.2 cm)
L. from heel of back foot to tip of taiL. 7 in. (17.8 cm)

Classification: Metal

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1951

Accession Number: 51.56


Zoomorphic incense burners were popular during the Seljuq period. This lion-shaped example is exceptional for its monumental scale, the refinement of its engraved ornament, and the wealth of information provided by the Arabic calligraphic bands inscribed on its body. These include the names of the patron and the artist, as well as the date of manufacture. The head is removable so that coal and incense could be placed inside, and the body and neck are pierced so that the scented smoke could escape. The lion certainly would have been at home in a palatial setting.