Historical period(s)
Ayyubid period, Reign of Sultan Najmal-Din Ayyub, 1247-1249
Brass, inlaid with silver
H x W x D: 22.5 x 50 x 50 cm (8 7/8 x 19 11/16 x 19 11/16 in)
Syria, Probably Damascus
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Metalwork, Vessel


Ayyubid period (1171 - 1250), kufic script, naskh script, Syria
Provenance research underway.

Inscriptions on the interior and exterior of this extraordinary basin suggest that it was created during the reign of Sultan al-Malik al-Salih Najmuddin Ayyub, the last Ayyubid ruler, who reigned during the 1230s and 1240s.  The work is particularly notable for its elaborate decoration which includes both Islamic and Christian themes.  On the exterior, a wide inscription band depicts scenes from the life of Christ: the Annunciation, the Virgin and Child enthroned, the Raising of Lazarus, the Entry into Jerusalem, and perhaps the Last Supper. Some of the other motifs on the exterior consists of a lively polo game and a band of real and imaginary animals, punctuated by medallions with musicians.  On the interior, a row of thirty-nine saints stands under ogival arches. Whether commissioned by a Muslim or Christian patron, the combination implies religious tolerance in thirteenth-century Ayyubid Syria.

Published References
  • Janine Sourdel-Thomine. Die Kunst des Islam. Propyläen-Kunstgeschichte Berlin. fig. 38.
  • Friedrich Paul Theodor Sarre, Fredrik Robert Martin. Die Ausstellung von Meisterwerken Muhammedanischer Kunst in Muchen, 1910. 3 vols., Munich. vols. 1-2, pp. 6-8, pl. 147.
  • Repertoire Chronologique d'Epigraphie Arabe. cat. 3977.
  • Patrick Frank. Prebles' Artforms: An Introduction to the Visual Arts., 8th ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. fig. 288.
  • Ulker Erginsoy. Islam Maden Sanatinin Gelismesi [The Development of the Art of Metalwork in Islam]. Istanbul. figs. 156a-c.
  • Eva Baer. Ayyubid Metalwork with Christian Images. Studies in Islamic Art and Architecture Leiden and New York. .
  • Gaston Migeon. Exposition des Arts Musulmans: au Musee des Arts Decoratifs. Exh. cat. Paris. pls. 11-12.
  • Treasure House of the Middle East. vol. 8, no. 19 Beirut, May 9, 1957. p. 11.
  • Freer Gallery of Art. The Freer Gallery of Art. Washington. p. 14.
  • Stefano Bianca. Syria: Medieval Citadels Between East and West. Turin. p. 35, fig. 25.
  • Rachel Ward. Islamic Metalwork. Eastern Art Series London. pp. 52-3, 85, fig. 35, 64.
  • Ranee A. Katzenstein, Glenn D. Lowry. Christian Themes in Thirteenth-Century Islamic Metalwork. vol. 1 Leiden, 1983. pp. 54-66, pls. 3-4.
  • Calendar of Exhibitions. vol. 16, no. 9 Hong Kong, September 1985. p. 63.
  • Dr. Esin Atil. Art of the Arab World. Exh. cat. Washington, 1975. cat. 27, pp. 64-68.
  • Margaret S. Graves. Arts of Allusion: Object, Ornament, and Architecture in Medieval Islam. New York. p. 82, fig. 2.15.
  • Eva Baer. Metalwork in Medieval Islamic Art. Albany. pp.120-1,149,182, fig. 100, 126.
  • Thomas Lawton, Linda Merrill. Freer: a legacy of art. Washington and New York, 1993. p. 120, fig. 81.
  • , Eric Delpont, Aurelie Fauret, Yannis Koikas. L'Orient de Saladin: L'Art des Ayyoubides. Exh. cat. Paris, October 23, 2001 - March 10, 2002. p. 129.
  • Laura Schnieder. Freer Canteen. vol. 9 Washington and Ann Arbor. pp. 137-156, pl. 6, fig. 19.
  • Dr. Esin Atil, W. Thomas Chase, Paul Jett. Islamic Metalwork in the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington, 1985. cat. 18, p. 137.
  • Yousif Mahmud Ghulam. The Art of Arabic Calligraphy., 2nd rev. ed. Lafayette, California. pp. 186-199.
  • , Eva Baer, David Nicolle, Barbara Schmitz, Oliver Watson. The Art of the Saljuqs in Iran and Anatolia. Costa Mesa, California. p. 218, fig. 215.
  • Antony Eastmond. Tamita's World: The Life and Encounters of a Medieval Noblewoman from the Middle East to Mongolia. Cambridge, United Kingdom. p. 222, fig. 70 and plate 70.
  • October Events at the Smithsonian: Smithsonian Highlights. vol. 16, no. 7 Washington, October 1985. p. 225.
  • Arenberg: Portrait of a Family, Story of a Collection. Belgium. p. 342, fig. 34.E.
  • Richard Ettinghausen, O. Graber. The Art and Architecture of Islam, 650-1250. The Pelican History of Art Hammondsworth, Middlesex, England and New York. p. 371, fig. 392.
  • D.S. Rice. Studies in Islamic Metalwork, II. no. 15. p. 572, pl. 9b.
  • Islamic Art and Archaeology: Collected Papers. Berlin. p. 1174.
Collection Area(s)
Arts of the Islamic World
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.