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Key facts
Full title Hemispherical half of incense burner of engraved brass and pierced
Artist Mamluk, Egyptian or Syrian
Date made late 15th - early 16th century
Medium and support Brass and silver inlay
Dimensions 13.6 cm
Acquisition credit On loan from The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London
Inventory number L1264
Location Room 55
Art route(s) A
Image copyright On loan from The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London
Collection Main Collection
Silver inlaid brass half of incense burner
Mamluk, Egyptian or Syrian

In the late Middle Ages, glass, textiles, carpets, ceramics and metalwork from the Muslim Mediterranean and Mesopotamia were highly valued in Europe, because they came from the lands associated with the Old and New Testaments. Some of these objects were used in Christian rituals. These finely wrought and inlaid objects were much sought-after luxury commodities in Venice, Italy and beyond.

These brass vessels are typical examples of the objects admired by art historian Giorgio Vasari, who praised their intricacy and craftsmanship. Many were designed for export to Europe. They are inlaid with patterns in gold and silver, based on curving arabesques, as well as Arabic and fictive Arabic script. These precious objects fascinated painters all over Italy, not least the Bellini family and their followers. They appear in many paintings of sacred scenes and they inspired many of the patterned golden haloes that identify saints in 14th-century and 15th-century paintings.

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