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On Display
Shell with inscriptions
  • Accession Number:AKM665
  • Place:India
  • Dimensions:14.5 cm
  • Date:18th century
  • Materials and Technique:Incised mother-of-pearl

This palm-size, perfectly shaped mother-of-pearl shell displays an elegant design and an intriguing function. Its luminous surface is engraved with eight concentric rings containing verses from the Qur’an and religious supplications. The variety of the calligraphic styles and their layout make the design both dynamic and quite dignified. Although the intensity of the decorative program on the shell and the attention given to the minutest detail are unique, the shell may have been designed for a specific purpose that demonstrates how Muslims evoked the Qur’an in their everyday life. The concave shape of the shell and some of its decorative motifs suggest that it may have been used as a drinking vessel. In line with the belief in the protective and therapeutic power of the Qur’an, some Muslims drank water that came into direct contact with Qur’anic verses in order to obtain blessings and protection. Could this have been the role of this singular shell?

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