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In MOA’s Drawers: Incense Set

Designed to accommodate an impressive magnitude of objects, the drawers in MOA’s Multiversity Galleries are home to some of the smallest, earliest, and certainly most underrated, objects in the Museum’s collections. Housing more than 9,000 objects from around the world for public view, the Multiversity Galleries invite visitors to take a deep dive into collections that would typically be stored behind the scenes due to constraints on exhibition spaces.

Versatile in their ability to safely display a wide range of materials from across the globe, these state-of-the-art drawers are where curation and conservation come together. With a gentle tug on the long metal handles the drawers roll open, revealing cultural belongings from past and present to explore.

The Multiversity Galleries houses thousands of objects, so it can be easy to feel overwhelmed trying to see them all in one visit. If you’re not sure where to begin in exploring the myriad of works on display, seek out this intricate incense set.

Incense burner (MOA Collection 2988/3 a-b). Photo: Kyla Bailey.
Vase (MOA Collection 2988/5), Spatula (2988/6), Incense Box (2988/4 a-b), Incense Burner (2988/3 a-b). Photo: Kyla Bailey.

Incense set with inscriptions in sini script

Incense has a significant presence in devotional life throughout the Muslim world. This incense set was probably made in Guangdong Province in southern China. The cloisonné enamel vase, incense box, and incense burner are decorated with a dense design of flowers and scrolling leaves on a turquoise ground, while cartouches containing Arabic inscriptions in the Chinese style of calligraphy known as sini appear on a pale turquoise ground. This exquisite set was donated to MOA by the Ismaili Muslim community in Canada.

Find me: Case 073, or view online in MOA CAT