Pen Box With Hadith Inscription
front © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
1979.352
Title
Pen Box with Hadith Inscription
Classification
Artists' Tools
Work Type
pen box
Date
second half of the 14th century
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Western Iran
Period
Jalayirid period
Culture
Persian
Location
Level 2, Room 2550, Art from Islamic Lands
View this objects location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Brass, incised (thuluth band) and inlaid with silver and gold
Dimensions
H. 4.5 x W. 5.4 x L. 24.8 cm (1 3/4 x 2 1/8 x 9 3/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: Inscribed in Arabic, in human-headed thuluth script: The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "The believer is the mirror of the believer." The Prophet of God has spoken truly.
Provenance
Frances L. Hofer, Cambridge, MA, (by 1979), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1979.
Aquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Frances L. Hofer
Accession Year
1979
Object Number
1979.352
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
Descriptions
Description
This penbox is very unusual in bearing such lavish and intricate decoration on the lid and the clasps, and being otherwise completely plain. Such an object would normally have decoration on all sides, including the interior and the bottom. The Arabic inscription in human-headed script is a hadith, or a quote ascribed to the Prophet Mohammed. This is also rare on Islamic metalwork, which usually bears benedictory phrases, verses from the Quran, dedications to rulers, or information about the artist. Notes from the Glory and Prosperity exhibition, Feb - June 2002.

Label Text: Glory and Prosperity: Metalwork of the Islamic World, written 2002
Pen Box
Iran or Syria, 14th century
Brass with silver and gold inlay
Bequest of Frances L. Hofer
1979.352

This pen box is very unusual in bearing such lavish and intricate decoration on the lid and the clasps, and being otherwise completely plain. Such an object would normally have decoration on all sides, including the interior and the bottom. The Arabic inscription in human-headed script is a hadith, or quote ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad. This is also rare on Islamic metalwork, which usually bears benedictory phrases, verses from the Qur'an, dedications to rulers, or information about the artist.

Label Text: Re-View: Arts of India & the Islamic Lands, written 2008
6
Pen Case with Hadith Inscription
Probably western Iran, Ilkhanid period, 14th century
Brass, incised, with silver and gold inlay
Inscribed (Arabic) The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "The believer is the mirror of the believer." The Prophet of God has spoken the truth.
Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Frances L. Hofer, 1979.352

On the cover of this pen case, silver inlay traces a saying attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. The letters, written in thuluth script, terminate vertically in human profiles. Muslim metalworkers did not invent the technique of metal inlay, but they raised it to unprecedented levels of complexity, beginning in the eastern Islamic lands. From there the technique spread westward, due in part to the export of wares and in part to the diaspora of craftsmen in advance of Mongol incursions.

Label Text: Sacred Symbols of Islam, written 1980
Iran, late 14th-early 15th century
Pen box. Incised and inlaid with silver and gold.
Inscribed: “The Prophet, peace be with him, said, ‘The believer is the mirror of the believer.’ The Prophet of God has spoken the truth.”
Hofer Bequest 1979.352

Label Text: Geometry of the Spirit: Islamic Illumination and Calligraphy, written 1988
Qalamdan (pen box)
Inscribed in human-headed thuluth script:
The Prophet, peace be upon him, said,
“The believer is the mirror of the believer.”
The Prophet of God has spoken truly.
Iran, Timurid, late 14th or early 15th century
Brass, incised and inlaid with silver and gold
Bequest of Frances L. Hofer
1979.352

Label Text: Calligraphy and the Arts of the Book, written 1993
Qalamdan (Pencase)
Inscribed in Arabic, in human-headed thuluth script:
The Prophet, peace be upon him, said,"The believer is the mirror of the believer." The Prophet of God has spoken truly.
Iran, Timurid, late 14th or early 15th century
Brass, incised and inlaid with silver and gold
Bequest of Frances L. Hofer
1979.352

Label Text: Transformations: Asia East and West, written 1992
Pen Box (Qalamdan)
Inscribed in thuluth letters with anthropomorphizing tops: "The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: 'the believer is the mirror of the believer.' The Prophet of God has spoken the truth."
Iran, late 14th-early 15th century
Brass inlaid with silver
Bequest of Frances L. Hofer
1979.352

Label Text: Enter Ye the Garden: Prayer Rugs of Islam, written 1989
Pen box(qalamdan)
Inscribed in Arabic: “The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, ‘The believer is the mirror of the believer.’ The Prophet of God has spoken truly.”
Iran, Timurid, late 14th or early 15th century
Brass, incised and inlaid with silver and gold
Bequest of Frances L. Hofer
1979.352

Label Text: Arabesque, written 1990
Pencase (Qalamdan)
Inscribed in Arabic: The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “The believer is the mirror of the believer.” The Prophet of God has spoken truly.
Iran, Fars, late 14th or early 15th century
Brass, incised and inlaid with silver and gold
Bequest of Frances L. Hofer
1979.352

Publication History

Kristin A. Mortimer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums/Abbeville Press (Cambridge, MA; New York, NY, 1985), page 82/figure 87

Harvard University Art Museums, Director's Report / Harvard University Art Museums, 1990-1991 (1992), p. 14

Annemarie Schimmel, Terres d'Islam: Aux Sources de l'Orient Musulman, Maisonneuve et Larose (Paris, France, 1994), Pg. 107

Rahim Habibeh, Inscription As Art In the World of Islam - Unity In Diversity, exh. cat., Hofstra University (Hempstead, NY, 1996), page 34/figure 1

Melanie Michailidis, Glory and Prosperity: Metalwork of the Islamic World, brochure, ed. Marsha Pomerantz, Harvard University Art Museums (2002), p. 3, fig. 3

Exhibition History

Islamic Art and the Written Word, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 10/05/1983 - 11/27/1983

The Heavenly Court: Persian Poetry and Painting, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 02/09/1985 - 03/31/1985

Geometry of the Spirit: Islamic Illumination and Calligraphy, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 04/30/1988 - 06/26/1988

Enter Ye the Garden: Prayer Rugs of Islam, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/26/1989 - 08/20/1989

Arabesque, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 12/01/1990 - 03/24/1991

Transformations: Asia East and West, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 12/19/1992 - 02/14/1993

Calligraphy and the Arts of the Book, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/25/1993 - 01/30/1994

The Continuous Stroke of a Breath: Calligraphy from the Islamic World, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 12/20/2003 - 07/18/2004

Overlapping Realms: Arts of the Islamic World and India, 900-1900, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 12/02/2006 - 03/23/2008

Re-View: Arts of India & the Islamic Lands, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/26/2008 - 06/01/2013

Verification Level

2 - Adequate. Object is adequately described but information may not be vetted