Tray Made for the Rasulid Sultan al-Mu'ayyad Da'ud ibn Yusuf

Object Name: Tray

Date: early 14th century

Geography: Attributed to Egypt, Cairo

Medium: Brass; engraved and inlaid with silver and black compound

Dimensions: H. 1 1/8 in. (2.9 cm)
Diam. 28 in. (71.10 cm)

Classification: Metal

Credit Line: Edward C. Moore Collection, Bequest of Edward C. Moore, 1891

Accession Number: 91.1.605


A sultan from Yemen commissioned this tray, which includes his name and titles in a large band surrounding a central medallion with the twelve signs of the Zodiac and personifications of the seven planets. The sign of Pisces, called al-hut ("the big fish") in Arabic, is sometimes shown as a single fish. When its Planetary Lord Jupiter is also illustrated, this male figure sits cross-legged, floating above the curved back of the fish. However, the constellation of Pisces (al-samaktan, "the two fish") also influenced the iconography of the Zodiac sign, which often took the form of the more familiar image of two confronted fish arranged in a circle.
Said the Wise Abu Ma’shar: "Those born under this decade have a bright complexion and a tendency to become tanned. Their body is cold and moist as they belong to a watery and nocturnal sign of the Zodiac. Their physique is well proportioned, but they tend to gain weight easily. They change moods often. They tend to work little, since they do not like to exert effort. They get annoyed easily. When they become attached to a place they like, they do not want to leave it. They love women. They have great strength and are cunning. Allah knows more..."