A Medieval Islamic lacquered wood Covered Box Persia, 11th/ 12th Century
of rounded form on flat base, with separate slightly domed lid and secondary removable lid with finial, plain to interior 13 cm. high
Due to the scarcity of surviving material, the history of early Islamic lacquer production is obscure at present. Of the surviving works, the first published example is a Mamluk bowl in the Museum of Islamic Arts, Cairo (Abd el-Ra' uf Ali Yousuf, 'Syro-Egyptian glass, pottery and wooden vessels', in Rachel Ward (ed.), Gilded and Enamelled Glass From the Middle East, London, 1988, pp. 20-29, col. pl. 6.9). Fragments of painted and varnished wooden objects were found in excavations of the Mamluk site of Qusair al-Qadim (Estelle J. Wheelan, Unusual Islamic Finds in Qusair al-Qadim 1978, Preliminary Report, Cairo, 1978, pp. 206-7). 13th Century fragments were also found in Persia during the excavations at Ghubayra (Geza Fehervari, Near Eastern Lacquerwork: History and Early Guidance, in Lacquerwork in Asia and Beyond, London, 1981, pp. 225-231).
More recently, two further additions to the corpus of early lacquered wood have appeared at auction, viz a small bichromatic cup with a design of birds in red and black attributed to Afghanistan or North East Persia, 11th/ 12th Century, and a cylindrical box in the same colour scheme with a naskhi inscription from North East Persia, circa 14th Century (see Christie's, Islamic Art and Manuscripts, 1st May 2001, lots 280 and 281).