Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Goblet with Applied Decoration

Object Name:
11th–early 12th century
Colorless glass with greenish tinge; blown, applied decoration
H. 4 1/2 in. (11.4 cm) Diam. 2 3/4 in. (7 cm) Wt. 1.6 oz. (45.4 g)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Friends of Islamic Art Gifts, 2000
Accession Number:
Not on view
This dainty goblet with a flange, or projecting ridge, and a splayed foot would have been used for drinking wine. Representations of glasses of this shape appear on a lusterware bowl in which the drinker holds the goblet by the flange and a poetic inscription exhorts him to toil in the land of Merv to become joyous and “take ample wine and give brimful goblets.” Glasses of this type have been found in Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and Northeastern Iran.
This delicate glass vessel lends insight into eating and drinking practices in Iran during the reign of the Great Seljuqs. In representations of drinkers in other media such as metalwork, ceramics, and stucco, conical beakers appear, but the flange and splayed foot are usually invisible, and the beakers are often much larger than the example seen here. Since drinkers depicted on objects are invariably men, dainty goblets may have been intended for women’s use or for small quantities of strong fermented drinks. However, a goblet with a flange and splayed foot appears on a lusterware bowl dated A.H. 575/A.D. 1179–80. It is shown being offered to a bearded man in a turban by a young servant in the presence of a beardless figure enthroned in a garden. The servant holds the goblet with his thumb touching the edge of the flange and his forefinger underneath it, but on the actual glass goblet the swirling trailed decoration on its sides may have kept the drinker’s hand from slipping while drinking. Most representations of drinkers do not show them actually imbibing; rather, they hold the goblet by the stem in a static pose, which may reflect a princely prerogative and one stage of the etiquette of a bazm, or Persian feast.

Although the everted rim of the goblet depicted on the bowl differs from that seen here, the figures and inscription on the bowl provide useful information about the period and context in which such goblets would be used. The poem below the figures refers to the amir of Transoxiana saying, one assumes to his turbaned guest, that he should toil in the land of Merv to become joyous and "take ample wine and give brimful goblets" of it. By 1179 the Seljuq sultan Tughril III no longer controlled Transoxiana, begging the question of whether the bowl was produced, presumably in Kashan, for a Seljuq patron nostalgic for the "good old days" when Sultan Sanjar ruled from Merv (1118–57), or for a patron from one of the rival dynasties rising in the east. The place of production of the glass goblet would have been in the eastern Iranian world, as comparable examples have been found in Afghanistan, northern Iran, and Turkmenistan.

Without more corroborating evidence, one can only speculate about the social implications of different shapes of glasses. However, since even the way they were held varies, the suggestion is that a specific etiquette applied to some but not all types of drinking vessels.

Sheila R. Canby (author) in [Canby et al. 2016]
[ Mansour Gallery, London, until 2000; sold to MMA]
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Court and Cosmos: The Great Age of the Seljuqs," April 25, 2016–July 24, 2016.

Canby, Sheila R., Deniz Beyazit, Martina Rugiadi, and A. C. S. Peacock. "The Great Age of the Seljuqs." In Court and Cosmos. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016. no. 66, pp. 135-136, ill. p. 136 (color).

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