Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery

Candlestick

ca. 1220-1240 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This fine 12-sided candlestick has a complex shape. It was probably inspired by a candlestick made of silver, which is easier to work than brass. The socket for the candle is a miniature version of the base, which has a central boss on each of its 12 sides. These are matched by the 12 roundels on the drip-tray.

In Islamic art, objects made from base materials were often transformed by sophisticated forms of decoration. Brassware, like this piece, was often decorated with inlaid surface ornament.

For larger motifs, metalworkers chiselled out small areas of brass and filled them with thin sheets of silver, gold and copper. They added details by chasing the surface of the softer metals and contrast by using a black filler.

The inlay technique first became popular in eastern Iran in the mid 12th century. It then spread westwards and by 1250 was in use across the Middle East. Its popularity declined after 1500. This candlestick was made when the technique was at its peak.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Hammered brass, engraved and inlaid with silver and black composition; detail incised over silver foil after inlaying
Brief Description
Brass candlestick with twelve sides, western Iran, 1220-40.
Physical Description
Worked sheet brass candlestick (sham dan) with engraved decoration and silver inlay, with the conventional blessings to an early owner, 'Khwaja Raihan'.
Dimensions
  • Height: 23.8cm
  • Minimum, base diameter: 27.6cm
  • Maximum, base diameter: 28.5cm
  • Minimum, shoulder diameter: 22.2cm
  • Maximum, shoulder diameter: 22.4cm
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
  • (Persian; Kufic; inscription on the shoulder is 'undeciphered'.; engraved)
  • (kufic; the inscription on the upper everted section of the body is 'undeciphered'.)
  • (naskhi; upper inscription on the flat rim)
  • (naskhi; the base)
  • (An inscription incised later by a non-professional scribe.)
Gallery Label
  • CANDLESTICK Worked sheet brass, with engraved decoration and silver inlay Western Persia; 13th century The inscriptions consist of conventional blessings, sometimes in abreviated and garbled form; the name of an early owner of the piece is given: "Khwaja Raihan".(Used until c. 1982)
  • CANDLESTICK Brass, raised and decorated with engraved champleve designs partly inlaid with silver, the ground filled with black composition. WESTERN IRAN; 13th century. [Museum no. given incorrectly as 333-1882](Used c. 1982 to 11/2003)
  • Jameel Gallery Candlestick with Twelve Sides Western Iran 1220-40 The complex shape was probably inspired by a candlestick made of silver, which is easier to work than brass. The socket for the candle is a miniature version of the base, which has a central boss on each of its 12 sides. These are matched by the 12 roundels on the drip-tray. Brass inlaid with silver and a black composition Museum no. 333-1892(Jameel Gallery)
Object history
Purcahsed for £25 from Zadig Eskenazi, 356 Grande Rue De Pera, Constantinople (Istanbul), 24 March 1892.



Historical significance: The Victoria and Albert twelve-facted candlestick is among the earliest Western specimens on record.
Historical context
Apparently the object was reserved for the special use of one Reyhan living in a community - at a court, or in a religious circle.
Summary
This fine 12-sided candlestick has a complex shape. It was probably inspired by a candlestick made of silver, which is easier to work than brass. The socket for the candle is a miniature version of the base, which has a central boss on each of its 12 sides. These are matched by the 12 roundels on the drip-tray.



In Islamic art, objects made from base materials were often transformed by sophisticated forms of decoration. Brassware, like this piece, was often decorated with inlaid surface ornament.



For larger motifs, metalworkers chiselled out small areas of brass and filled them with thin sheets of silver, gold and copper. They added details by chasing the surface of the softer metals and contrast by using a black filler.



The inlay technique first became popular in eastern Iran in the mid 12th century. It then spread westwards and by 1250 was in use across the Middle East. Its popularity declined after 1500. This candlestick was made when the technique was at its peak.
Bibliographic References
  • Melikian-Chirvani, A.S. Islamic Metalwork from the Iranian World, London:HMSO, 1982, p166-169, ISBN 0 11 290252 9
  • Baer, E. 'The Nisan Tasi', fig. 15, p.17, and mentioned as an example 'from about 1200'.
Collection
Accession Number
333-1892

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record createdMarch 18, 2003
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