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The Courtauld Bag. Metalwork bag, Mosul, Northern Iraq 1300 – 1330. Brass with silver and gold inlay. The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld, London.

OXFORD, 5 October 2020 – Precious and Rare: Islamic Metalwork from The Courtauld, a new exhibition at the History of Science Museum provides a modern day interpretation on Islamic metalwork spanning the 11th to 16th centuries, with an accompanying online exhibition and contributions by the local community.

The exhibition will explore how the intersections of cultures across the Islamic world influenced the creation of this metalwork, some of the finest produced. Part of a national tour supported by Art Fund and in partnership with the Subject Specialist Network for Islamic Art and Material Culture, the exhibition features a stunning array of objects on loan from The Courtauld, many never seen outside of London before this tour. These include a delicate candlestick made to a precise size and weight, rare brass bowls inlaid with silver and a 14th century bucket for everyday use, all elaborately designed. They will be displayed alongside the History of Science Museum’s own world-class collection of scientific instruments from the Islamic World.

The exhibition will also examine the intricate designs and styles that made these metal pieces so renowned – and imitated – by civilisations around the globe. Signs of the zodiac, constellations, the planets and coats of arms all feature. Islamic metalwork is renowned for its exquisite craftsmanship and the skill behind this work will be showcased through on-screen content.

The highlight of the exhibition is a woman’s metal handbag, the only surviving example of its kind. It was made in the early 14th century in Mosul, northern Iraq for an important lady based in the courtly circles of the Ilkhanid dynasty. This handbag, known as the Courtauld Bag and decorated with images of eight musicians playing instruments, shows the incredible metalworking skills passed down through generations.

To ensure as many people as possible can experience the exhibition, the History of Science Museum has responded to the current climate by creating a full online exhibition that will also include objects and stories not seen in the physical exhibition. There will be modern ‘Cultures in Conversation’ as the online exhibition will include input from visitors and social media. Visit www.hsm.ox.ac.uk/islamicmetalwork (to go live on 9 October).

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Bucket of engraved brass with silver inlay, Iran (North-West) or Turkey (Anatolia) or Mamluk, 15th-16th century. The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld, London.

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Bowl-shaped box with cover of engraved brass, Mamluk (Damascus, Syria) late 15th - early 16th century, The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld, London.

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Bowl of brass, formerly inlaid with silver, engraved with floral decoration, Mamluk, late 14th or early 15th century, The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld, London.

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Dish of engraved high-tin bronze inlaid with silver, in the centre a coat of arms, Italy,16th century. The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld, London.

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Bowl-shaped box with cover of engraved brass inlaid with silver, Mahmud al-Kurdi (late 15th century). The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld, London.

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Incense burner of pierced and engraved brass inlaid with silver, with images of the planets within roundels, Mamluk (Syria) 13th century. The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld, London.

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Candlestick of cast bronze engraved and inlaid with silver Eastern Anatolian,Turkey, late 13th century. The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld, London.

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The Courtauld Bag. Metalwork bag, Mosul, Northern Iraq 1300 – 1330. Brass with silver and gold inlay. The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld, London.

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Bowl of engraved brassinlaid with silver; decorated with inscriptions of titles, Mamluk, 14th century. The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld, London.

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Pair of candlesticks of engraved brass, Italy (Venice) 16th century. The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld, London.

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Set of Drawing Instruments. Italy, early 1500s CE. 

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Astrolabe with Lunar Mansions. Abd al-Karim, Syria, 1227–28 CE.

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Celestial globe. Ja’far ibn ‘Umar ibn Dawlatshah al-Kirmani, Iran, 1362–63 CE.