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Celestial sphere - Celestial Sphere

Celestial Sphere

  • Object:

    Celestial sphere

  • Place of origin:

    Lahore (made)

  • Date:

    1656-1657 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Ziya al-Din (engraver)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Brass, engraved and inlaid with silver and black lac

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This celestial sphere, made of brass and engraved and inlaid with silver, was made in Lahore. It is dated AH 1067/AD1656-1657 and is inscribed with the name of Ziya al-Din Muhammad. He was a member of the famous Lahore family of astrolabists whose association with the imperial Mughal family began with their service to the emperor Humayun in the 16th century. It was bought for the South Kensington Museum in Bombay for £8 by Caspar Stanley Clarke on his purchasing mission for the museum in 1881-2.

Physical description

Brass sphere engraved with astrological signs and inlaid with silver. Inscriptions in Arabic and Persian.

Place of Origin

Lahore (made)


1656-1657 (made)


Ziya al-Din (engraver)

Materials and Techniques

Brass, engraved and inlaid with silver and black lac

Marks and inscriptions

'amal-e 'aqall al-'ebad Ziya al-Din Muhammad ibn-e Qayem-Muhammad ibn-e Mulla 'Isa ibn-e Shaikh Ilahdad-e Ostorlab-e Humayuni-e Lahuri Sana 1067
The work of the most insignificant of slaves Ziya al-Din Muhammad ibn-e Qayem-Muhammad ibn-e Mulla 'Isa ibn-e Shaikh Ilahdad, His Majesty's astrolabist, the Lahuri, 1067.
This gives the lineage of Ziya al-Din Muhammad, the maker of the celestial sphere, and records that he belonged to the family of astrolabists who had worked in Lahore from the 16th century in service to Akbar (r. 1556-1605), Jahangir (r. 1605-1627) and Shah Jahan (r. 1628-1658).


Diameter: 13.1 cm

Object history note

The Lahore astrolabist, whose name and date are inscribed on the celestial sphere, was directly descended from Sheykh Allahdad, who worked for the Mughal emperor Humayun and whose family continued their asscociation with the court. It was bought for £8 in Bombay (now Mumbai) for the South Kensington Museum by Caspar Purdon Clarke on his purchasing mission to India on behalf of the Museum in 1881-2.

Historical significance: The sphere is signed by Zia al-din Muhammad (son of Qayem Muhammad, son of Mulla 'Isa, son of Shaikh Ilahdad, astronomer of the Mughal emperor Humayan).

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Emilie Savage-Smith, Islamicate Celestial Globes. Their History, Construction and Use, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1985, p.228, no.22.

Susan Stronge, in The Indian Heritage. Court Life and Arts under Mughal Rule, V&A, 1982, cat. 496, p.148, ISBN 0906969263.
Swallow, Deborah and John Guy eds. Arts of India: 1550-1900. text by Rosemary Crill, John Guy, Veronica Murphy, Susan Stronge and Deborah Swallow. London : V&A Publications, 1990. 240 p., ill. ISBN 1851770224, p.63, no.43.

Stronge, Susan, ed. The Arts of The Sikh Kingdoms. London : V&A Publications, 1999. p.214, No.39. ISBN 1851772626


Brass; Silver; Lac



Subjects depicted



Images Online; Metalwork; Science


South & South East Asia Collection

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