Pen case, brass, engraved and inlaid with silver, Iraq, Mosul; 653 H = 1255-1256. H: 5.7; L: 36.3; W: 7.5 cm, Inv. no. 6/1997. © The David Collection.
In the first half of the 13th century, Mosul was the most famous center in the western Islamic world for the manufacture of brass objects inlaid with gold and silver. The city’s artists settled throughout the Middle East, where the nisba al-Mawsili (“from Mosul”) was a guarantee of quality.
The inscription in the lid gives us e.g. the following information: “This pen case was made in Mosul – The Protected – in the year 653 … Engraved by Ali ibn Yahya al-Mawsili that same year.” Apart from a ewer in the British Museum, this is the only other work of art that can be traced to Mosul itself through an inscription. The pen case is worn and was restored in modern times, but the remnants of the finely engraved ornamentation still bear witness to its high quality.