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Zoomorphic Incense Burners of Medieval Khurasan

A study of Islamic metalwork

Elizabeth C. Kelly
Publication Year:
360 pages, Illustrated throughout in black & white, and colour.
BAR number:


Zoomorphic incense burners were produced in medieval Khurasan between c.441-597/1050-1200. This book examines their role, function and meaning. It includes a database with defined classification criteria that enables them to be contextualised with other contemporaneous metalwork.
Multicultural medieval Khurasan prospered from mercantile activities facilitated by the trade routes. The increased wealth, including middle-class patronage, movement of artisans and goods, along with the resultant transcultural exchanges, all contributed towards a changing aesthetic in artwork that reflect interests and lifestyles. The zoomorphic incense burners that emerged during this time displayed a hybridised iconography of feline and equine characteristics. The analysis indicates they are associated with symbols of power, sovereignty, the military and hunting. Their decorative palmette motifs provide representations of esfand, a plant considered to have talismanic and apotropaic properties known for inducing bravery amongst warriors.

Elizabeth C. Kelly has a PhD in History of Art and Archaeology and a Master’s in History of Art and Architecture of the Islamic Middle East from SOAS University of London.

‘A richly illustrated and meticulously documented exploration of an intriguing aspect of Islamic art that touches on ancient universal traditions, as well as characteristic Iranian lore and Islamic aesthetics. The book is informative and entertaining.’ Professor (Emerita) Doris Behrens-Abouseif, SOAS University of London

‘This book takes scholarship on medieval Islamic metalwork to a new level: original, thorough, packed with insights, analysis, comparative material, tables and superb visual documentation.’ Professor Robert Hillenbrand, Universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews

Table of Contents (S3166_Kelly_9781407353685_-_toc.pdf, 255 Kb) [Download]

Introduction (S3166_Kelly_9781407353685_-_intro.pdf, 385 Kb) [Download]