Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Enameled and Gilded Bottle

Object Name:
Bottle
Date:
late 13th century
Geography:
Attributed to Egypt, possibly Cairo
Culture:
Islamic
Medium:
Glass, greenish; blown, folded foot; enameled and gilded
Dimensions:
H. 17 1/8 in. (43.5 cm) Max. Diam. 11 in. (27.9 cm)
Classification:
Glass
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1941
Accession Number:
41.150
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 450
The size and delicate decoration of this bottle are remarkable; few such large or painterly examples of enameled glass are known. The polychrome phoenix on the neck soars above the central scene of mounted warriors wielding maces, swords, and bows. The warriors might well be participants in a horsemanship exercise, outfitted as combatants from the rival Ilkhanid and Mamluk states.
Enameling and gilding on glass was a difficult technique that required much practice before it was mastered. After the enamels were applied on the finished object, they needed to be fired in order to fix them permanently onto the surface; however, the high temperature needed to fuse the enamels could also melt the object. The glassworkers’ clever solution was to constantly rotate the object at the mouth of the furnace while it was still attached to the pontil—a movement that prevented the vessel from sagging. This is how the celebrated mosque lamps, bottles, vases, basins, and other functional objects in enameled-and-gilded glass were created in Egypt and Syria during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, when a full understanding of the physical and chemical properties of glass could be achieved only through experience.

This bottle is perhaps the most important work of enameled-and- gilded glass in the Museum’s collection, a true tour de force because of both its enormous size and its unusually complex painted decoration. It is also memorable because it entered the Museum after a series of fortunate circumstances. Said to have been acquired in Cairo in 1825 by the Austrian vice-consul Champion, it was presented to the Habsburg emperor Francis I. The bottle went on display at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, where it remained until 1938, when it was sold together with other objects in order to acquire an important thirteenth-century Austrian chalice. Joseph Brummer, the dealer in charge of the sale, had a gallery in New York, and the Museum moved swiftly to acquire this, as well as other splendid works, from him.

The decoration of the bottle is not only superior in quality but also unusual for incorporating several features that show a kinship with the Iranian Ilkhanid artistic language, a frequent inspiration for Mamluk artists. The most obvious of these elements is the Chinese-inspired phoenix, known as a simurgh in Iran, that surrounds the neck. Another, the series of individual horseback duels, provides one of the most remarkable painted figural sequences in any media in Mamluk art and probably reflects the popular furusiyya (horsemanship) tournaments. Some of the fourteen individuals engaged in combat are represented as Ilkhanid soldiers, the greatest rivals of the Mamluks in the Islamic world. The three prominent circular medallions are also exceedingly sophisticated: their precise, dense scrolling patterns resemble those found in the best illuminated manuscript pages and inlaid metalwork from the same period.

Stefano Carboni (author) in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
M. Champion, Austrian Vice-Consul, Cairo (until 1825; to Imperial House ofHapsburg); deposited in Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna(1825–1938; to Brummer); [ Brummer Gallery, New York, 1938–41; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks," November 21, 1981–January 10, 1982, suppl. #20.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Nature of Islamic Ornament, Part IV: Figural Representation," September 16, 1999–January 30, 2000, no catalogue.

Corning, NY. Corning Museum of Glass. "Glass of the Sultans," May 24, 2001–September 3, 2001, no. 126.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Glass of the Sultans," October 2, 2001–January 13, 2002, no. 126.

Athens, Greece. Benaki Museum. "Glass of the Sultans," February 20, 2002–May 15, 2002, no. 126.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Rumi," October 15, 2007–March 5, 2008, no catalogue.

Dimand, Maurice S. A Handbook of Muhammadan Art. 2nd rev. and enl. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1944. p. 245, ill. fig. 159 (b/w).

Art Treasures of the Metropolitan. 1st ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1952. pp. 201, 238, ill. pl. 196 (color).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries: the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1970. no. 128, p. 158, ill. (b/w).

Ettinghausen, Richard. "Islamic Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 33, no. 1 (Spring 1975). ill. p. 12 (color).

Atil, Esin. Renaissance of Islam : Art of the Mamluks. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1981.

Jenkins-Madina, Marilyn. "Islamic Glass: A Brief History." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 44, no. 2 (Fall 1986). pp. 42-43, ill. fig. 48 (color).

Welch, Stuart Cary. The Islamic World. vol. 11. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. pp. 48-49, ill. fig. 34 (color).

Ferrier, Ronald W., ed. The Arts of Persia. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989. pp. 200-201, ill. pl. 5 (b/w).

Drake Boehm, Barbara, and Melanie Holcomb, ed. Jerusalem, 1000–1400: Every People under Heaven. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016. p. 200, ill. fig. 72.

Burn, Barbara, ed. Masterpieces of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York; Boston: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. p. 81, ill. (color).

Carboni, Stefano, David Whitehouse, Robert H. Brill, and William Gudenrath. Glass of the Sultans. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. no. 126, pp. 254-256, ill. p. 254 (color).

Sims, Eleanor, B. Marshak, and Ernst J. Grube. "Persian Painting and its Sources." In Peerless Images. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002. no. 201, pp. 283-85, ill. p. 284 (color).

Wypyski, Mark. Metropolitan Museum Studies in Art, Science, and Technology. vol. 1. New York, 2010. pp. 113, 114, 115, 116, 122-3, 126, fig. 8.

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. 111, pp. 6, 138, 162, ill. p. 162 (color).



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