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Copper alloy, cast, engraved, chased, and pierced
Overall: 35.5 x 11 cm (14 x 4 5/16 in.); Head: 17.8 x 9.5 x 12.5 cm (7 x 3 3/4 x 4 15/16 in.)
Weight: 8.78 kg (19.36 lbs.)
John L. Severance Fund 1948.308.a
A Kufic inscription against a background of scrolling arabesques runs along the back and neck of the feline form.
In Iran during the 1000s and 1100s, vessels in the shape of animals gained popularity, especially as incense burners. Felines were favored in Persian art and this piece may represent a caracal, a type of lynx. The head of the creature was cast separately and is removable to fill its body with hot coals and incense. Qur’anic verses on the neck and spine remind worshippers to set work aside, attend prayer, and then disperse to seek God’s bounty. The diffusion of perfumed smoke through the burner’s pierced palmette design may have served as a sensorial reminder of this teaching.
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