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HOME : Islamic Art : AS Collection Consignment : Bronze Mortar and Pestle
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Bronze Mortar and Pestle - LO.1083
Origin: Central Asia
Circa: 10th th Century AD to 12th th Century AD
Dimensions: 5.125" (13.0cm) high x 6.10" (15.5cm) wide
Collection: Islamic Art
Style: Islamic
Medium: Copper-Alloy

Additional Information: AS
Location: Great Britain
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Bronze mortars were unknown to the cultures of the Mediterranean area and the Middle East in pre-Islamic times and were probably developed in Persia in the 10th century as copies of cruder stone prototypes. Mortars were used for pounding small amounts of food, such as spices or herbs in cookery, and were also an important item of alchemical and pharmaceutical equipment.The size of this beautiful mortar would seem to indicate a domestic use, rather than pharmaceutical.

Mortars during the Seljuks were often made of quarternary alloy consisting of copper and lead with some tin and zinc, known in medieval Persia as shabah mufragh. The high content of lead (acting as a flux) allowed an easier casting but gave the objects a softness whose effects are to be seen in the many surviving examples which are mis-shapen though heavy pestle work. Indeed they must have also been a rather sinister source of lead poisoning. Our example is indeed made of bronze with a minimal content of lead, judging by the hardness of the alloy and its minimal decoration. The cylindrical body presents four flanges on the sides, a played foot and en everted flattened rim. This type of spartan decor was employed in Persia during the 11th and 12th centuries AD and was apparently exported through to Spain, attested by the famous mortar in the Villanueva y Geltru' Museum in Barcelona.

Reference: for a discussion on early Islamic mortars, Hayward Gallery, The Arts of Islam, 1976: pp. 157-171, pl.174 for the Barcelona example. LO.1083. Mortar and pestle, cast bronze. Cylindrical body resting on a flat base with slanting sides, the lower part of the body is thinner and becomes wider right up to the everted slanting rim. The body is decorated with tall and thin almond-shapes in high relief. There is a pestle attached to it. Iran or Central Asia, 10th – 11th century. Prof.Geza Fehervari Prof. Geoffrey King - (LO.1083)


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