Enamel plate for an Artuqid emir

Type: Bowls, Plates
Date: Mid-twelfth century
Location or Findspot (Modern-Day Country): Georgia, Turkey
Medium: Copper, Enamel, Gold
Dimensions: Height 5.1 cm , Rim diameter 27 cm
Description: This exceptional enameled plate (or shallow bowl) now in Innsbruck, Austria, bears two inscriptions along the interior and exterior rim. The poor-quality interior text, in Arabic, associates the plate with an Artuqid emir. The Artuqids were a minor dynasty founded by an emir named Artuq who served the Seljuqs; they controlled lands in what is now eastern Turkey, northern Syria, and Iraq. But the inscription is garbled; it was likely copied from a model by a craftsman who did not know Arabic. The exterior inscription is in Persian, but it is even less coherent. The combination of inexpert texts paired with technically proficient enamels—both cloisonné and champlevé—suggests that the plate was crafted in or near the Byzantine world in the twelfth century (enameled metalwork was not made in Islamicate lands). It may have been made in Georgia, which was adjacent to the Artuqid realm and produced enamel work.

The secular imagery on the Innsbruck plate was associated with rulership across the medieval world. At the center of the interior, Alexander "the Great"—the archetypal world ruler—ascends to heaven. He is surrounded by roundels that depict acrobats, musicians, and dancers, animal combats, and birds that include a peacock and an eagle. Except for Alexander, the same iconography appears on the exterior, with the undecorated foot of the vessel at the center. These human and animal images were part of a broad vocabulary of power and courtly life, widely used in diverse media in the royal and imperial arts of Byzantium, the Islamicate lands, and Europe. Works with such imagery often crossed cultural borders as diplomatic gifts.

The plate is now in the Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum in Innsbruck (K 1036).
Relevant Textbook Chapter(s): 7
Image Credits: Linda Safran

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Enamel plate for an Artuqid emir, mid-12th c. Enamel plate for an Artuqid emir, mid-12th c., interior detail Enamel plate for an Artuqid emir, mid-12th c., side view