Exhibitions: Light of the Sufis: The Mystical Arts of Islam

Inscribed Wine Bowl

Wine Bowl Inscribed with the Names of the Twelve Shiʿa Imams. Iran, Safavid, late 16th–early 17th century. Copper; cast, raised, and turned, then tinned; engraved and inlaid with black composites. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mrs. Charles K. Wilkinson in memory of her husband, 1989.149.4

The Sufis consider wine liquid sunlight. Through its intoxicating properties, wine provides the mystic with an alternative reality in which he or she might catch a reflection of the divine and experience a form of ecstasy. The Persian poet Hafiz (1315–1390) also compared red wine to tears of blood resulting from the suffering of the soul estranged from the beloved. The form of this wine bowl appears to be a standard type among Iranian metal wares of the Safavid period (1501–1732). The inscriptions on such bowls, engraved in nastaʿlīq script, tend to be in Arabic, Persian, or a combination of the two, and are often laced with mystical references.