Pierced globe Incense Burner, Mamluk period (1250–1517), late 13th–early 14th century. Syria, Damascus. British Museum.
Zayn al-Din. Incense Burner or Handwarmer. 15th – 16th c. gilded brass with silver inlay. Walters Art Museum.
Knowing my interests, my friend and remarkable scholar, Dr. Stephennie Mulder sent me the image of the gimbaled censer above. The link to the British Museum (which seems to be dead now) stated that the gimbals keep the incense cup from spilling its contents while swinging but this seems overly fussy to me considering the centrifugal forces of swinging itself solve that problem.
Another site suggested that these type of censers were used in games and rolled from one guest to another. I suppose this would work if it were a very low impact game but any amount of velocity or impact and I think the host’s carpet would suffer some damage from errant embers.
The description of “hand warmer” makes a lot more sense to me. In this case the mechanism would function perfectly. Unfortunately, I can’t confirm that the Walters object is also gimbaled though it must have some kind of suspension for without it the orb would certainly be too hot handle with bare hands.
All these pragmatic issues aside, both of these objects are virtuosic expressions of master metal smiths and are a delight to they eyes. What a pleasure it would also be to hold one of these in my hands!
Don’t worry, this isn’t really a woman teaching men about geometry in the 14th century. She is merely the idealized personification of geometry — not a real woman. So it’s okay.
The personification of Geometry. British Library (c. 1309)
I was quite stuck today in class when I saw the the ivory casket of Abd al-Malik. I was reminded immediately of the Limoges enamel reliquary casket form. Looking into it a little more this evening I found the last image below where an Muslim made casket has had Christian enamel added.
Leyre Casket, Cordoba, c. 1005.
Enamel reliquary, Limoges, 1200-20.
Ivory casket with enamel decoration from Santo Domingo de Silos. Spain. 1026.
By Gerhard Dohrn-van Rossum of the Medievalist blog:
“Working for eighteen years under the patronage of the Norman King Roger II Guiscard of Sicily, who gathered scholars from many regions at his court in Palermo, the Moroccan geographer Al-Idrīsī in 1154 completed a description and an atlas of maps of the known world.”
Al-Idrīsī world map. 1154.
Honnecourt’s portfolio contains many splendors but I’ve always been particularly fond of this humble little sketch.
A page from the Sketchbook of Villard de Honnecourt c.1230
From Medieval Decorative Ornament by James Kellaway Colling. Dover Publications.
It looks medieval, but I can find no additional information on this odd image reblogged from The Scent of Night.