Court and Craft: A Masterpiece from Northern Iraq

Art, Crafts
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Court and Craft: A Masterpiece from Northern Iraq
© The Courtauld Gallery, London
Brass bag inlaid with gold and silver from Mosul, Northern Iraq, 1300-1330
An incredibly rare fourteenth century metalwork bag is the centre of this exhibition. The intricately decorated piece is one of the finest examples Islamic metalwork around, and is a prize piece of the Courtauld's collection.


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You won’t have seen anything like the centrepiece of this exhibition - a unique, early fourteenth century box, in the shape of a bag, made of brass and inlaid with gold and silver. One of the Courtauld’s more curious items, the box is placed within the context of other items from the collection, including illustrated manuscripts, ceramics and other inlaid metal objects. 

The box itself is exquisite, and has a chequered history. It was apparently made for a high-ranking lady of the Mongol Il-Khanid dynasty, descendants of Genghis Khan. With a crudely cut keyhole used to lock it, and two rings bolted to the sides for a carrying strap, it has served many purposes. Its shape is strikingly similar to that of a 20th century handbag: think of it as a bulky red-carpet clutch bag (made in Mosul rather than Milan). 

As with the other current exhibition at the Courtauld, A Dialogue with Nature, this is an interesting room, but should be viewed in conjunction with the rest of the gallery’s offering. While you can easily spend the afternoon in the Courtauld, this exhibition probably won’t pique your interest for long. 

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