A Roman banded agate cosmetic dish mounted as a spoon bearing an inscription with the name of Jahang
Lot 436
A Roman banded agate cosmetic dish mounted as a spoon bearing an inscription with the name of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir (reg. 1605-27)
Sold for £ 36,000 (US$ 50,292) inc. premium

Lot Details
A Roman banded agate cosmetic dish mounted as a spoon bearing an inscription with the name of Jahang A Roman banded agate cosmetic dish mounted as a spoon bearing an inscription with the name of Jahang
A Roman banded agate cosmetic dish mounted as a spoon bearing an inscription with the name of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir (reg. 1605-27)
an agate and silver-gilt spoon; the bowl of the spoon carved from a piece of banded agate, the elliptical shape with a low foot ring on the underside, curved at one end and irregularly ground at the other, with an engraved inscription on the outer surface; the handle of silver gilt, in fitted box
the dish 5.5 cm. long; the whole spoon 13.9 cm. long


  • Provenance:
    Sotheby's, Islamic Works of Art, Carpets and Textiles, London, 17th October 1984, lot 232.
    Acquired at Spink in 1993.

    The inscription reads: Al-Sultan Jahangir Shah.

    The title "Sultan" appears in the inscription on the black basalt throne of Prince Salim, that was made in Allahbad, but taken to Agra (see "Jewelled Arts of Mughal India" in Society of Jewellery Historians Journal, vol. 10, 2003, p. 55)

    This agate bowl, now mounted as a spoon, was formerly a complete small cosmetic dish, dating from the Roman period. It has been broken and ground down, then reused to make the spoon. The inscription indicates that it was once in the collection of the Mughal emperor Jahangir. It is possible that the bowl was ground down in the Mughal period.

    The Mughal emperors are well known for inscribing their names and titles on objects in their possession, including manuscripts, jades, jewels, and ceramics. Jahangir noted unusual acquisitions in his journal, the Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri: for instance he remarks on the acquisition of a Timurid jade (Tuzuk vol 1, p. 409).

    Jahangir collected a variety of exotic materials, including natural phenomena such a meteorite which he had made into a knife, now in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington (Atil, Chase and Jett 1985, no. 36, pp. 220-225). It is inscribed on the blade: 'There fell in the reign of Jahangir Shah from lightning iron (a) glittering precious piece Jahangir (son of) Akbar ordered from it two swords and this knife and (a) dagger. In the year 1030 (November 1620-November 1621 AD) In the Year 16. 146.' The event is mentioned in the Tuzuk p.204-5.

    Another Roman period hardstone known in the Mughal period, although uninscribed, is a cameo of a horse mounted within a Mughal jade (formerly in the Falkiner Collection, London 1982 no. 378).

    Ming ceramics with Jahangir's name on them include a blue and white jug in the Chang Collection, Taipei, which is from the Yongle period and is inscribed with Jahangir’s name within in a similar cartouche to the one found on the agate dish. Anther example is a yellow dish, Hongzhi mark and period (1488-1505), inscribed on the foot ring with name of Jahangir, dated 1021/1611-12, also the weight of 28 tola 2 masha. (V&A no. 551-1878; see London 1982 no.401).

    The most celebrated jewels inscribed for the Mughal emperors are a group of spinels, also known in the past as 'balas rubies'. Many of the imperial inscriptions carry the names of Jahangir and his son Shah Jahan, a noted expert on gems. The form of the inscriptions vary, and may include the name of the emperor and his lineage. A typical Jahangir period inscription may read Jahangir Shah-e Akbar Shah, sometimes (but not invariably) with a date and the regnal year. One such spinel is the Carew spinel now in the Victoria and Albert Museum (London 1982 no. 237) which has several inscriptions from various owners.

    Inscribed jades formerly owned by Jahangir include 15th Century dark green jug with inscriptions set in cartouches dating the year of acquisition as 1619 (British Museum no. 1945-10-17-257, published Lentz and Lowry 1989 cat. 126, p. 225).

    The form of the inscription on the agate bowl is unusual, reading Jahangir Shah al-Sultan. However, an emerald in the Iranian Crown Jewels reads simply Jahangir Shah 1018 (AD 1613-14) (Meen and Tushingham p. 47), while another emerald in the same collection has a full list of epithets: Abu'l-Muzaffar Nur-ud-Din Jahangir Padshah Ghazi 1016 (AD 1607-8) (ibid). There was, therefore, no rigid protocol covering all inscriptions.


    Atil, Esin., Chase, W.T., Jett, Paul, Islamic Metalwork in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington 1985

    Lentz, T W., Lowry, Glenn D., Timur and the Princely Vision: Persian Art and Culture in the Fifteenth Century, Los Angeles 1989

    Skelton. R. et al., The Indian Heritage, exhibition catalogue, Victoria and Albert Museum, London 1982

    Meen, V.B., Tushingham, A.D., Crown Jewels of Iran, Toronto 1968.

    The Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri, or Memoirs of Jahangir, translated by Alexander Rogers, edited by Henry Beveridge. London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1914.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that the proceeds from the sale of this lot are being donated to Yale University Peabody Museum.
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