Spherical Incense Burner

Unknown2nd half of 13th century

Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Berlin, Germany

A luxury object appealing not only to the eye but also to the sense of smell, the spherical incense burner came into fashion in the eastern Mediterranean in the thirteenth century CE. The design is dominated by a radiant sun in the topmost medallion and twelve further medallions with figures: these show enthroned princes holding wine goblets, a rider out hawking and another attacking a lion, and musicians with tambourine, flute and lute. The inlaid silver displays the rich detail to advantage. The spaces between medallions are filled with elegant, symmetrical arabesques of foliage. In the medallions are perforations to allow the passage of smoke and air. The sphere consists of two halves, and at its centre is a small brass cup to hold charcoal and aromatic substances to produce the perfumed smoke. Suspended in a system of gimbals, sometimes called cardan joints, the cup and its contents remained horizontal whatever the movement of the burner. Together with its appealing appearance, such technical refinement made the spherical burner a status symbol among the upper classes, who indulged in an extravagant cult of incense, importing exotic aro¬matic materials. It was hoped that the clouds of scented smoke would cure disease and protect against the 'evil eye'.


  • Title: Spherical Incense Burner
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 2nd half of 13th century
  • Location: Syria
  • Physical Dimensions: w15 x h15 cm
  • Type: Spherical Incense Burner
  • Medium: Brass, inlaid silver and gold
  • Inv. no.: MIK I 2774
  • ISIL no.: DE-MUS-814517
  • External link: Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Copyrights: || Text: © Scala Publishers / Museum für Islamische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Almut von Gladiss Photo: © b p k - Photo Agency / Museum für Islamische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Georg Niedermeiser
  • Collection: Museum für Islamische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

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