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Wine Bowl Inscribed with the Names of the Twelve Shi`a Imams

Arts of the Islamic World

Despite the Qur’an’s warning against strong drink, many Sufis consider wine liquid sunlight, whose intoxicating properties can reveal a reflection of the divine and induce 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 and must have been familiar to Indian artists of later periods, since one is featured in the nineteenth-century portrait of Shaykh Chishti nearby. The inscriptions on such bowls, engraved in nastacliq script, tend to be in Arabic, Persian, or a combination of the two, and are often laced with mystical references.
MEDIUM Copper; cast, raised, and turned, then tinned; engraved and inlaid
DATES late 16th-early 17th century
DIMENSIONS H: 3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm) Diam. of body: 7 in. (17.8 cm) Diam. of rim: 5 15/16 in. (15.1 cm)
INSCRIPTIONS Inscribed with the names of the 12 Shi`a imams
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
ACCESSION NUMBER 1989.149.4
CREDIT LINE Gift of Mrs. Charles K. Wilkinson in memory of her husband
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