A rare and important Zangid carved marble Basin Jazira or Syria, 12th Century
Lot 54W
A rare and important Zangid carved marble Basin
Jazira or Syria, 12th Century
Sold for £ 193,250 (US$ 269,853) inc. premium

Lot Details
A rare and important Zangid carved marble Basin Jazira or Syria, 12th Century A rare and important Zangid carved marble Basin Jazira or Syria, 12th Century A rare and important Zangid carved marble Basin Jazira or Syria, 12th Century A rare and important Zangid carved marble Basin Jazira or Syria, 12th Century A rare and important Zangid carved marble Basin Jazira or Syria, 12th Century
A rare and important Zangid carved marble Basin
Jazira or Syria, 12th Century
on a raised foot, the basin with four rounded projections, the rim with a band of floriated kufic on a scrolling ground, the body with an intricate design of split-palmette interlace, the projections with scrolling arabesque vine
50 x 43 x 38 cm.


  • Provenance: French private collection since 1973.

    The inscriptions contain the basmala, and Qur'an, chapters: XVI (al-Nahl, part of verse 10; XL (Ghafir), part of verse 64 and XXI (al-Anbuya') all references to water and its benefits (transl. "From it you drink and out of it [grows] the vegetation on which you feed your cattle" (xvi);
    "[has provided] for your sustenance of things pure and good" (xl);
    "And We made water every living thing" (xxi).

    The Zangids were of Turkic origin and ruled parts of Syria and Jazira, including Aleppo, Damascus and Mosul from AD 1127 – 1250. The region was rich in remains of Hellenistic, Roman and Early Christian monuments, and in centres such as Harran during the Islamic period, earlier stone elements were often re-used and classical ornament was copied.

    This particular basin would probably have once occupied a prominent position in a mosque or public building, where it would have been placed on a pedestal and filled with water. It has been suggested that the form of the present lot was based on a Byzantine capital, although no exact parallel has been found and the piece does not appear to be recarved; however, the closest comparison is a Byzantine basin with three rounded projections and a spout found in an excavation at Pyla in Cyprus in 2006.

    Another example of a marble basin, from the same region, but slightly later in date, can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (Inv. 335-1903). Bearing an inscription giving the name and titles of the Ayyubid governor of Hama in Syria from AD 1244-84, al-Malik al-Mansur Muhammad ibn al-Muzaffar Mahmud ibn Muhammad ibn 'Umar ibn Shahanshah ibn 'Ayyub (also known as Mansur II Muhammad) and, may have adorned the courtyard of a mosque he founded. Although stylistically different, the basin contains an inscription band above a design of split-palmette interlace.

    The intricately carved palmette design of this finely carved basin is typical of a style that developed under the Zangid dynasty and continued in the Ayyubid period. An architectural element in the National Museum of Damascus (A/1545/5068) illustrated in L'orient de Saladin l'art des Ayyoubides (exhibition catalogue, Paris, 2001, p. 45, no. 32) bears a similar design, as well as the triangular suspension bracket of a brass geometric table in the British Museum made in Mosul AD 1241-42 (ibid., p. 210, no. 222). It can be also be seen on the panels of an ivory and bone inlaid wood storage chest attributed to Mosul, c. AD 1240, in the David Collection, Copenhagen (von Folsach, Kjeld, Art from the World of Islamic in The David Collection, Copenhagen, 2001, p. 266-67, no. 428).

    A rare example of a Zangid carved marble mihrab mihrab panel, attributed to Syria or the Jazira and to the early 13th Century bearing a similar kufic inscription to our basin as well as a very similar palmette border and scroll work, was sold at Sotheby's (Sotheby's, Arts of the Islamic World, 6th October 2008, Lot 136). Comparison can also be drawn with a capital attributed to the Ayyubid early 13th Century in Eastern Syria or Mesopotamia that sold a Christie's (Christie's, Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds, 7th October 2008, 128). The Christie's piece has the same net-like decoration covering the whole surface.

    The scrolling vine decoration on the rounded projections can be paralleled closely with the domed terminals of two marble corner posts from a tomb in the David Collection, Copenhagen (von Folsach 2001, p. 245, no. 392). These posts also have similar kufic inscriptions with scrolling palmette vine in the background and also on the surrounding borders. This style of decoration recalls the late Samarra bevelled style found in Syria and Mesopotamia.

    Objects from the Zengid period are rare, particularly in stone, and the present lot is an important addition to the existing corpus of known pieces.
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  1. Matthew Thomas
    Specialist - Islamic and Indian Art
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
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