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Photo © The Courtauld

Hemispherical half of incense burner of engraved brass inlaid with silver and pierced, Late 15th to early 16th century

Metalworker (Mamluk, Syria), name of maker not held by the institution

Beyond the threshold

  • Medium:
    Metalworked brass with silver inlay and later piercing
  • Dimensions:
    13.6 cm (diameter)
  • Collection:
    The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)
  • Coll. No:

Click here to watch a short film about the incense burner, in which co-curator Margherita Dosi Delfini discusses the object with Sussan Babaie, Professor in Islamic and Iranian Arts at The Courtauld Institute of Art.

This is half of what was once a spherical metal incense burner. Aromatic incense would have been placed inside and burned, the fragrance diffusing through perforated holes in the object’s surface and permeating its surroundings. Incense burners like this one were made in the Mamluk Sultanate, which in the Middle Ages included parts of North Africa and the Middle East. They were traded across continental Europe. Still used today in both personal and religious settings, incense activates and aids a sensorial crossing, taking us beyond our immediate environments and into an altered state of consciousness.