Pen Box With Hadith Inscription
front © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Pen Box with Hadith Inscription
Artists' Tools
Work Type
pen box
second half of the 14th century
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Western Iran
Jalayirid period
Level 2, Room 2550, Art from Islamic Lands, The Middle East and North Africa
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Brass, incised (thuluth band) and inlaid with silver and gold
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.
Frances L. Hofer, Cambridge, MA, (by 1979), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1979.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Frances L. Hofer
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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.
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

Subjects and Contexts

Artstor Digital Library

Google Art Project

Verification Level

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