Attributed to Iran or Afghanistan, Khurasan or Herat
Brass; raised, repoussé, inlaid with silver and a black compound
H. 15 3/4 in. (40 cm)
Diam 7 1/2 in. (19.1 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1944
Not on view
This ewer comes from a group of silver-inlaid brass vessels of similar shape and size decorated with a variety of imagery. While most of the examples have fluted sides and repoussé lions on their neck, the crowned harpies on the shoulder of this piece and the astrological imagery on its body heighten the auspiciousness of its ornament. Set in medallions of twisting vines terminating in rabbits’ heads, each zodiac sign appears with its ruling planet, enhancing its cosmic message.
At the time that this ewer and the group of long-necked ewers to which it relates were produced, Herat was under the control of the Ghurids, not the Seljuqs, but evidence strongly suggests that these pieces were exported to centers in Seljuq Iran and elsewhere. Most of the extant examples are between 14 7⁄8 and 15 3/4 inches (38 and 40 cm) high and share such characteristics as a neck decorated with a repoussé lion on either side of the spout, the top of which is also adorned with a repoussé lion. While the number, width, and shape of the flutes vary from ewer to ewer, the shoulder of all examples is generally flat and the foot curves outward. Additionally, the amount of silver and copper inlay varied on pieces, indicating different levels of luxury in the group.
Like an even more ornate ewer in the British Museum, London (1848,0805.2), the center of each flute on this one is decorated with a sign of the zodiac enclosed in a medallion whose border is formed of vines terminating in rabbits’ heads. Each sign is combined with its planet lord. Starting from the left of the bottom of the handle and moving clockwise, the signs are Aries, the ram, ridden by Mars holding a severed head; Taurus, the bull, mounted by Venus playing a lute; Gemini as two standing figures separated by a head on a stick, which should refer to Mercury but may represent the pseudo-planet al-Jawzahr; Cancer, the crab, with the moon above it; Leo, the lion, with a tail ending in a dragon and a full sun above its back; Virgo, a kneeling figure holding a sheaf of corn, resembling leaves, in each hand; Libra, the scales, with Venus playing a lute; Scorpio with a figure of Mars holding a rod and standing between two large scorpions; Sagittarius, the centaur, turning back to shoot a leonine dragon; Capricorn, the goat, with bearded Saturn astride it; and Aquarius, the water carrier at the well. Pisces, the fish, should have appeared between Aquarius and Aries, but it is covered by the lower part of the handle. With its many human-headed benedictory inscriptions, lions and harpies, astrological imagery, and abundant inhabited vines, this ewer would have embodied the protective qualities desired in so many Seljuq objects.
Sheila R. Canby in [Canby, Beyazit, and Rugiadi 2016]
Inscription: (In Arabic; on neck, top, in human-headed naskhi script): "Glory, prosperity, power, growth, happiness, survival"
(In Arabic; on neck, middle band, in human-headed naskhi script): "Glory, prosperity, power, permanent survival to the owner"
(In Arabic; on neck, bottom band, in kufic script): "With joy, blessing, power, blessing, comfort, and stability"
(In Arabic; on shoulder, in human-headed naskhi script): "Glory, prosperity, power, happiness, well-being, vigor, comfort, praise, permanent survival"
(In Arabic; on handle, in kufic script): "Glory and prosperity"
(In Arabic; on the bottom): "his owner [is] Fulad bin Mirak".
Neck, In Naskhi script:
1- العز و الاقبال و الدولة و البقا دائم لصاحبه
2- العز و الاقبال و الدولة و النامیة و السعادة و البقا
3-In Kufic script:
بالیمن و البرکة و الدولة و البرکة و الراحة و البقا
On shoulder in Naskhi script:
العز و الاقبال و الدولة و السعادة و السلامة و العافیة و النعمة و الشاکرة و البقا دائم
العز و الاقبال
صاحبه فولاد بن میرک
The inscription also read by Yassir al=Tabbaa as:
Neck, top: العز و الاقبال و الدولظ و ... و السعادة و البقا
Neck, middle: العز و الاقبال و الدولة و السعادة لصاحبه
Neck, bottom: بالیمن و البرکة و الدولة و البرکة و الراحة و البقا
Shoulder: العز و الاقبال و الدولظ و السعادظ و السلامة و العافیة و النعمة و الشاکر(؟) و البقا[ء] و العمر
J. Pierpont Morgan, New York (until d. 1913; his estate, 1913–44; sold to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Following the Stars: Images of the Zodiac in Islamic Art," February 4, 1997–August 31, 1997, no. 9.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Rumi," October 15, 2007–March 5, 2008, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Balcony Calligraphy Exhibition," June 1, 2009–October 26, 2009, no catalogue.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Court and Cosmos: The Great Age of the Seljuqs," April 25, 2016–July 24, 2016, no. 118.
Dimand, Maurice S. A Handbook of Muhammadan Art. 2nd rev. and enl. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1944. p. 139, ill. fig. 81 (b/w).
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries: the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1970. no. 162, p. 183, ill. (b/w).
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Welch, Stuart Cary. The Islamic World. vol. 11. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. pp. 42-43, ill. fig. 29 (color).
de Montebello, Philippe, and Kathleen Howard, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. 6th ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992. p. 316, ill. fig. 12 (color).
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Burn, Barbara, ed. Masterpieces of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York; Boston: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. p. 80, ill. (color).
Carboni, Stefano. Following the Stars: The Zodiac in Islamic Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997. no. 9, pp. 24-25, ill. (b/w).
Canby, Sheila R., Deniz Beyazit, and Martina Rugiadi. "The Great Age of the Seljuqs." In Court and Cosmos. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016. no. 118, pp. 200-201, ill. (color), figs. 79-81 (details).