Bird of Prey

Islamic art is above all famous for its ornamentation, not for its sculpture of living beings. However, sometimes surprises are in store. Islamic art encompasses a wide diversity of forms of expression and enormous artistic and creative ability. There has never been a ban in the Islamic world on artistic depictions of figures – although it was generally avoided in Arabia.

This bird sculpture probably comes from Iraq or Iran. Craftsmen from the Iranian province of Khorasan in particular had in earliest times developed great mastery in the field of metalworking. This bird is made of a special bronze alloy that results in the bright, golden colour.

The bird's strongly abstract form is especially captivating. Its lightness, its streamlined shape, its powerful wings, a hint of feathers – it's all stylised and reduced, but still expresses the core characteristics, the truly "birdlike". If you're wondering what the bird was used for – traces of smoke were found inside it, so it's possible it held incense. Those sorts of vessels are found often in the Islamic and Mediterranean worlds, although few are done with such refinement.