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Court and Craft: A Masterpiece from Northern Iraq at the Courtauld Gallery

The Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House, London will stage an exhibition of art from the Islamic world from 20 February to 18 May 2014. At the centre of the show is a mysterious and exquisitely intricate metalwork bag from the Gallery’s collection about which little is known or understood.

Courtauld Gallery

Bag, Mosul, northern Iraq, 1300-1330
Brass, inlaid with gold and silver
Height: 15.2 cm; width: 22 cm; depth: 13.5 cm
© The Courtauld Gallery, London

Acquired by Victorian collector, Thomas Gambier Parry in 1858, it is suggested that the bag was made in Northern Iraq around 1300 -1300 as a metalwork version of a luxury textile or leather object. The spectacular inlaid decoration along the lid depicts a convivial scene of the festivities that would have followed a hunt and was obviously designed by someone well acquainted with the customs and traditions of the Mongol Il-Khanid court.

Courtauld Gallery

Bag: detail of a roundel with a musician


Bag: detail of lid showing court scene with a couple and their retinue

Through the display of some forty related works on loan from international collections, the exhibition will explore the origins, function, imagery and cultural context of this masterpiece of craftsmanship.

Courtauld Gallery

Spherical incense burner, probably Mosul, 1319-1335
Brass, raised, engraved and inlaid with gold, silver and black material
Diameter: 17 cm
Soprintendenza Speciale Patrimonio Storico, Artistico ed Etnoantropologico e per il Polo Museale della città di Firenze – Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence

Courtauld Gallery

Juz’ (section) from a Qur’an written for the Il-Khanid sultan Öljeitü, Mosul, 1310
Ink, colour and gold on paper (brown leather binding)


Enthronement scene (detail), from the Diez Albums
Iran, possibly Tabriz, early 14th century
Ink, colours and gold on paper
Height: 19.2 cm; width: 26.1 cm
Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – PK, Diez A fol. 71, S. 48


A lady walking with two pages, from the Diez Albums
Iran, possibly Tabriz, early 14th century
Ink on paper
Height: 9.5 cm; width: 14.4 cm
Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – PK, Diez A fol. 72, S. 11


Humay and Humayun in the garden, from the Khamsa of Kwaju Kirmani
Baghdad, dated Jumada I 798 (March 1396)
Height: 32 cm; width: 24 cm
© The British Library Board, BL Add.18113, f.40v


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