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  • Place of origin:

    Southern Germany (possibly, made)
    Northern Italy (possibly, made)
    Egypt (probably, decorated)
    Syria (possibly, decorated)

  • Date:

    ca. 1475-1550 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Zayn al-Din (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Brass, spun, chased and overlaid with silver

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery, case 5

This brass bucket has been overlaid with silver to give it added prestige. It has an Arabic signature inside the flanges for the handle. It states that the bucket was decorated by Zayn al-Din, whose signature is found on several other pieces in the same style.

This type of richly decorated so-called ‘Veneto-Saracenic’ metalwork was once thought to have been made by Arabs living in Venice. It is now known that it was originally produced in Egypt or Syria, and only later copied in Italy.

In the medieval period, there was a ready market in Christian-ruled Europe for luxury goods from the Islamic Middle East. These imports enjoyed such prestige that luxury goods made in Europe were often decorated in Islamic styles. By the late 15th century, when this piece was made, intense trade across the Mediterranean makes the lines of influence difficult to unravel.

Physical description

Brass bucket with handle, spun, chased all over with floral designs and partly overlaid with silver. Signed inside the flanges for the handle by Zayn al-Din.

Place of Origin

Southern Germany (possibly, made)
Northern Italy (possibly, made)
Egypt (probably, decorated)
Syria (possibly, decorated)


ca. 1475-1550 (made)


Zayn al-Din (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Brass, spun, chased and overlaid with silver

Marks and inscriptions

Arabic signature, Zayn al-Din.


Height: 13.5 cm without handle, Diameter: 27.5 cm

Object history note

The shape of this bucket, with its straight walls and bail handle, bears similarities to Islamic examples dating back to the eighth century. A related shape with a more rounded body and at times a high splayed foot was fashionable in Iran during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The earliest dated example of the latter type is the celebrated Bobrinsky Kettle made in 1163. At least six other Veneto-Islamic buckets are known to exist, one of them is signed by Mahmud al-Kurdi.

Historical context note

There is ongoing debate as to the provenance of what are known as Veneto-Saracenic wares. Trays, bowls, buckets, handwarmers and penboxes feature superimposed scrolls, one creating well-defined units and the other forming the background as their main characteristic. About thirty of these pieces bear the names of Muslim artists, including Muhammad, Muhammad Badr, Qasim, Umar, and Zayn al-Din. Some scholars feel the style was initiated by Timurid artists who immigrated to Venice at the end of the fifteenth century; while others point to the Mamluk tradition of Egypt and Syria as its source. Specific motifs seen on Veneto-Islamic pieces are related more closely to late Mamluk metalwork, and several bear the same Arabic inscriptions. Venetian metalworkers also worked in the Islamic tradition, calling themselves "al-Azzimina", after the Arabic word "al-ajam", meaning non-Arab.

Descriptive line

Brass bucket, made in southern Germany or northern Italy, with decoration added in Egypt or Syria and signed by Zayn al-Din, 1475-1550.

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

E.Atil, W.T. Chase, P. Jett, Islamic Metalwork in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 1985
Sievernich, Gereon, and Budde, Hendrik, Europa und der Orient 800-1900 , Berlin, 1989. Catalogue of the exhibition, 28 May - 27 August, 1989. 923 p., ill. ISBN 3750048144
Catalogue entry 4/98 pp601-2, (Ill.693 p602)
Mayer, L.A., Islamic Metalworkers and their works, 1959. p.91
Robinson, B. W., 'Oriental Metalwork in the Gambier-Parry Collection' In: Burlington Magazine, March, 1967. p.169
Scerrato, U., Arte Islamica a Napoli, Naples, 1967. Nr.27
E.Atil, Renaissance of Islam. Art of the Mamluks, Washington D.C., 1981
G. Curatola (ed.), Eredita dell'Islam. Arte islamica in Italia, Venezia, 1994.
Curatola, G., and Spallanzani, M., Metalli islamici dalle collezioni granducali, Catalogue, Florence, 1981.Nr 4.
pp.98, 125
Tim Stanley (ed.), with Mariam Rosser-Owen and Stephen Vernoit, Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, V&A Publications, 2004

Labels and date

Jameel Gallery

Brass Bucket
Egypt or Syria

An Arabic signature inside the flanges for the handle states that the bucket was decorated by Zayn al-Din. This craftsman signed several other pieces in the same style, which is similar to that of Mahmud al-Kurdi. Both used silver wire sparingly. The wire was not inlaid, but was hammered flat over a ridge of brass, the surface of which had been roughened.

Brass and silver wire. Signed by Zayn al-Din

Museum no. 1826-1888 [Jameel Gallery]
Engraved gilt bronze inlaid with silver
ITALIAN (Venice); about 1500
From the collection of Octavius Morgan
The bucket is engraved with the name of the maker Sain ad-Din, an Islamic craftsman who worked for Venetian patrons. A number of wares signed by this artist are recorded, some of which have been prominent in Italian collections for many centuries. [Used until 06/2004]


Brass; Silver


Hammering; Chasing; Inlay

Subjects depicted

Floral patterns


Islam; Metalwork


Middle East Section

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