Vesica Blog - Taking museums and art collections to the cloud

April 20, 2015

Sharing Beauty Series Part 2 – Egyptian Walnut Wood and Mother of Pearl Rehal (Qur’an Stand)

The second post from our Sharing Beauty series.

A beautiful, hand made Rehal (or Qur’an stand) made traditionally from a single piece of walnut wood, decorated with mother of pearl and camel bone. This Rehal was made in Cairo within the last 25 years using traditional methods. All the ornate work is done on either side of the a slab of wood before it is cut into half. Rehal making is an old and delicate art, because cutting or slicing the wood incorrectly could mean all the hard work is wasted.

A rehal (rihal or rahle) is an X-shaped foldable book rest used for placing the Qur’an on whilst reading or reciting.

February 24, 2015

Sharing Beauty Series Part 1 – 19th Century Persian Incense Burner

Following on from our last blog post about documenting and sharing beauty, we’ve decided to do a series in which we share an object documented in Vesica (with the relevant user’s consent, of course) in each blog post (at least once a month). This is the first post of such a series  of posts.

Antique Islamic Persian Engraved Pierced Brass Incense Burner

Photographs and description courtesy of Armando Aranjo

A large, beautifully detailed, hand hammered & chased ornate Middle Eastern ~ Persian brass incense burner from the 1800s. Hand engraved with a profusion of Persian garden and rug motifs interspersed with human courtly figures and numerous animals. Engraved and incredibly ornate all over with piercings.

The incense burner is beautifully crafted with deep relief and chase work and a beautiful patina. Exceptionally well designed and highly ornamented in very good antique condition. a very rare and fine piece.

Incense in the Islamic World

Incense was used in the Islamic world to scent people and air alike with a fragrant mix of aloes (wood), frankincense and ambergris. According to the historian al-Mas’udi, guests of the ninth-century caliph al-Ma’mun (r. 813-33 CE) were offered an incense burner to perfume themselves before meeting with him (Bloom and Blair 1997, p. 120). Metalwork incense burners were made in a variety of shapes, including animal forms such as lions and birds, which were associated with paradise and good fortune.1

Motifs, figures and animals in Islamic (Persian) objects

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Helibrunn Timeline of Art History states:

“With the spread of Islam outward from the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century, the figurative artistic traditions of the newly conquered lands profoundly influenced the development of Islamic Art. Ornamentation in Islamic art came to include figural representations in its decorative vocabulary, drawn from a variety of sources. Although the often cited opposition in Islam to the depiction of human and animal forms holds true for religious art and architecture, in the secular sphere, such representations have flourished in nearly all Islamic cultures.”2

Whilst this is true, at a lecture recently given by Dr. Michael Barry at SOAS ( explained the nature and purpose of courtly and animal figures in Persian courts and life, particularly with a view to explaining the Persian poetry, miniatures and related artefacts / objects. Objects and paintings were typically made with a specific person and purpose in mind, with animal motifs either showing you the gallantry of the recipient of the object or their bravery (in hunting scenes, for instance), with courtly figures shown in specific positions and situations to make a point (and this was particularly true with miniatures animating poetry).

It’s safe to assume that these craftspeople and artisans put a lot of thought into the work they did – and the reflection of beauty, abstract as well as manifest, was high on their list of elements that would define their work. If research of this nature interests you, I suggest you have a look at “The Canticle of the Birds” – in which Dr. Michael Barry analyses the many meanings of these motifs.


1. Aga Khan Museum -
2. Metropolitan Museum of Art -

January 30, 2015

Documenting and Sharing Beauty

Just a few generations ago, people did things beautifully. From hand-written letters to beautifully carved furniture, our ancestors took pride in whatever they produced, bought or collected. These objects really had soul then, and they do today, because someone put love, effort and care into them.

Perhaps you have inherited some of these things, or bought them because you feel a connection with them. The fact is that beautiful things generally tend to have beautiful stories and history behind them.

The sad thing, however, is that with our 140 line microblogging habits and subsequent 60 second memory, we are forgetting these beautiful things and the amazing, inspiring stories behind many of these things. But it is up to us to not only save these objects, but also to help tell and share these stories with our coming generations, and not in just 140 characters, but with all their essence and grandeur intact.

For this reason, it is not just up to our museums and wealthy collectors to document and preserve our heritage, but as such, it is the responsibility of each and every one of us. Just like those before us planted trees so we may have fruits and gardens, built beautiful things and wrote poetry that moved the heart, we must not only add to the mix, but preserve what has been passed down to us.

Whether you use Vesica to document and share (if you have less than 100 objects, it’s free) what you have or not is not important, but you must do it anyway.

In fact, preservation of beauty is a Divine and prophetic prescription, as can be seen from the following verses in the Qur’an and Bible.

“…that He (God) may try which of you has done the best (most beautiful) in deed!”
Qur’an – 67:2

“God is Beautiful and He loves beauty.”
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

 “…as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”
Bible – Romans 1-:15

If you’d like to learn more about what we are doing to preserve beauty, please get in touch with us.

January 29, 2015

Update: Pinch Zoom Now Available on the Mobile Web App

Filed under: News - Tags: , , , , @ 10:09 am

Pinch zoom for images is now available on the Vesica mobile app at We’ll be rolling this out to both the Android and iOS apps in the coming weeks.

October 1, 2014

Vesica iOS App for iPhone and iPad now available

The Vesica mobile app for the iOS platform (both iPhone and iPad) went live last week..

As with the Android app, the mobile app allows you to connect to your Vesica account and view your pieces and collections. We’ve also added several enhancements to both Android and iOS apps and introduced some caching to help load the data upfront for a faster experience.

You can download the app via the App Store. More details on

The app has been tested on a variety of devices. If you come across any bugs, issues or have any suggestions, please post them here or drop us a line on