Circular tray with inscriptions
Egypt, probably Cairo
Museum no. 420-1854
This impressive tray shows the kind of inlaid metalwork made in the Mamluk empire from the late 13th century. Mamluk art of the 14th century did not usually show figures, and other forms of decoration became more prominent, especially plant ornament and monumental inscriptions such as those which encircle this tray. Most of the silver inlay has been lost, but originally the letters would have stood out boldly against the minutely decorated ground. These inscriptions contain blessings for the reigning sultan, and mention al-Malik al-Mansur, a title borne by two sultans who ruled in 1341 and from 1361 to 1363.
Dishes such as this came to Europe through trade or as diplomatic gifts, and their impressive inscriptions were copied on European-made objects. However, by the end of the 14th century, Mamluk tastes began to change in response to the import of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain, and the production of inlaid metalwork declined.