Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Swan-Neck Bottle (Ashkdan)

Object Name:
Bottle
Date:
19th century
Geography:
Attributed to Iran, possibly Shiraz
Medium:
Glass, amber-colored; dip molded, blown, folded foot
Dimensions:
H. 13 3/4 in. (34.9 cm) Max. diam 4 9/16 in. (11.6 cm)
Classification:
Glass
Credit Line:
Edward C. Moore Collection, Bequest of Edward C. Moore, 1891
Accession Number:
91.1.1577
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 462
The distinct tear-shaped opening at the top of this amber-toned bottle was carefully tooled while the glass was still molten, and flows into a thin, curvilinear neck, before expanding to a globular body resting on a low foot. The visual resemblance to the curved and attenuated neck of a swan has inspired the name of these types of bottles, but according to folklore, these bottles were used as "containers for tears," (ashkdan) meant to collect the sorrows of wives separated from their husbands.
Starting at the concave tip of the opening, this amber-colored bottle "turns" in the direction of the spiral ribs and gains volume as it moves down; the tear-shaped opening flows into a thin, curvilinear neck, which expands to accommodate a globular body resting on a low foot. The sculpted eye-cup at the top was tooled to achieve its unusual shape.
This bottle belongs to a larger group of glass vessels tinted in hues of amber, blue, green, and rose in the collections of the Metropolitan and other museums.[1] There has not been a satisfactory explanation for the unusual shape of this bottle in terms of its function, but its visual resemblance to the curved and attenuated neck of a swan has inspired its name. According to folklore, these bottles were used as rosewater sprinklers or as "containers for tears," ashkdan in Persian, meant to collect the tears of wives separated from their husbands.[2]
Dating this group of glass bottles presents a challenge. Glassmaking in Persia has had a long albeit sporadic history that dates back to pre-Islamic times. In the Safavid period, foreign travel sources mention that glass production was revived in centers such as Shiraz and Isfahan during the reign of Shah ‘Abbas I (1587–1629).[3] During this period high-quality glass vessels were imported from Venice, which not only satisfied local demand but also stimulated local production, unfortunately of a decidedly lower quality.[4] Safavid album pages and wall paintings feature elegant glass bottles of various shapes with narrow necks, often filled with wine or other beverages. However, it is difficult to ascertain whether the bottles in these paintings were imported or produced locally.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, similar bottles were produced in Shiraz for utilitarian purposes as containers for wine, perfume, and rosewater. The contemporaneous evidence of historical and visual documentation of Persian glass produced during these later periods has helped us attribute this swan-neck bottle and other similar examples to nineteenth-century Shiraz.[5]
Maryam Ekhtiar and Elana Chardakliyska in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
Footnotes:
1. Other examples are found in the David Collection in Copenhagen as well as in the Victoria and Albert and the British museums in London.
2. Layla Diba mentions them by their French name, bouquetières, and notes that they feature prominently in paintings of the Qajar period. Diba, Layla Soudavar. "Glass and Glassmaking in the Eastern Islamic Lands: Seventeenth to Nineteenth Century." Journal of Glass Studies 25 (1983), pp. 187–93, p. 191.
3. Charleston, R. "Glass in Persia in the Safavid Period and Later." Art and Archeology Research Papers 5 ( June 1974), pp. 12–27..
4. Ibid.
5. Diba 1983 (see footnote 2), p. 191.
Edward C. Moore (American, New York 1827–1891 New York), New York (until d. 1891; bequeathed to MMA)
Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 196, pp. 174, 280, ill. p. 280 (color).



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