This ewer belongs to a group of about twenty similar objects. Nine of them, including this one, bear the same inscription and almost certainly were blown in the same full-size two-part mold. The inscription does not appear to include the name of the patron, but the glass- or mold-maker is mentioned and he remains one of the few craftsmen whose name is known.
Arabic Inscription: "What was made for the amir in Baghda[d]. The work of Tayyib ibn Ahmad Barmasi."
This ewer and cat. no.13 in this volume (al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait National Museum LNS 44 KG) have pear-shaped bodies. The one in Kuwait has a slightly everted rim with a rounded edge and pinched pouring lip. That in New York (cat. no.14, MMA X.21.191) has an outsplayed rim with a folded tubular edge and a narrow pouring lip; its neck tapers. The base of each is plain: a low kick appears on the Kuwait ewer, while the New York object has a slightly concave base with a faint pontil mark. Their handles, which are circular in cross section, were dropped onto the wall, drawn up, and attached to the outside of the rim; the thumb rests were made by tooling.
The wall of the Kuwait ewer is decorated with a single panel that runs from one side of the handle to the other. The panel contains, in relief, a kufic inscription of two lines separated by a row of dots. Beneath the inscription is a second row of dots bordered by horizontal lines, also in relief. Vertical seams, made by the junctions of the two parts of the mold, are visible behind the handle and beneath the pouring lip. The wall of the New York ewer bears a relief decoration of two lines of kufic inscription, below which is a continuous horizontal rib between two rows of hemispherical bosses.
These objects belong to a group of some twenty small pear-shaped mold-blown ewers with kufic inscriptions. Nine of the vessels have the same inscription and probably were blown in the same mold. The example in Kuwait and a ewer in the Toledo Museum of Art (723.443; Rice 1958, pl. IVa,b) have the clearest inscriptions, but even so they are difficult to interpret. The final word in the first line has been interpreted as meaning "in Baghda[d]." However, it would be unusual for an emir not to be identified by name, and so an inscription that reads in part "for the emir in Baghdad" is disturbing–not least because the form bi-Baghdad is ungrammatical.
David Storm Rice (1958) has suggested that ewers of this type were made in at least two almost identical molds. Although this may be so, it is equally likely that they come from a single mold and that the small differences between them are the result of uneven inflation and of tooling after they had been removed from the mold.
A ewer with the same form, inscribed with the name 'Umar ibn Ibrahim, was acquired in Baghdad (Lamm 1929–30, p. 59, pl. 13:6); another example, formerly in the collection of Ray Winfield Smith (1173) and now at The Corning Museum of Glass (72.1.20), was also acquired in Iraq and "possibly found there" (Smith 1957, p. 237, no. 469). These provenances strengthen the case for attributing the group to Iraq.
The form of these objects is similar to that of an almost colorless glass ewer preserved in the Shoso-in repository of the Todaiji Temple at Nara, Japan (Harada et al. 1965, pp. iii, 12-14, color pl. 2, pls. 26-30 ). The Shoso-in was consecrated in 756, but it also contains objects transferred to it from a second shrine at the Todaiji Temple in 950.
David Whitehouse in [Carboni and Whitehouse 2001]
Yoshito Harada, Jo Okada, Kazuo Yamasaki, and Kozo Kagami. Glass Objects of the Shosoin, Tokyo, 1965. In Japanese.
Carl Johan Lamm. Mittel-Alterliche Glaser und Steinschnitt-arbeiten aus dem Nahen Osten. 2 vols. Forschungen zur Islamischen Kunst. 5. Berlin, 1929–30.
David Storm Rice. "Early Signed Islamic Glass." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (1958), pp. 8–16.
Ray Winfield Smith. Glass from the Ancient World: The Ray Winfield Smith Collection. Exh. Cat. The Corning Museum of Glass. Corning. N.Y., 1957.
Signature: Arabic; translation: "Work of Tayyib (or T[a]lib) ibn Ahmad ibn M...(?)" (See Inscriptions.)
In Glass of the Sultans, when compared to other wares signed by this artist, the inscription is read as: "That which was made for the [emir in Baghda(d)?] / the work of Tayyib ibn Ahmad Barmasi."
Inscription: "What was made for the emir in Baghda[d?]. The work of Tayyib ibn Ahmad Barmasi."
In "Glass of the Sultans", when compared to other wares signed by this artist, the inscription is read as: "That which was made for the [emir in Baghda(d)?] / the work of Tayyib ibn Ahmad Barmasi."
Unknownprovenance; acquired by the Metropolitan Museum by 1937
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Glass Gathers: The Hagop Kevorkian Fund Special Exhibitions Gallery," May 24, 1990–March 31, 1991, no catalogue.
Corning, NY. Corning Museum of Glass. "Glass of the Sultans," May 24, 2001–September 3, 2001, no. 14.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Glass of the Sultans," October 2, 2001–January 13, 2002, no. 14.
Athens, Greece. Benaki Museum. "Glass of the Sultans," February 20, 2002–May 15, 2002, no. 14.
Jenkins-Madina, Marilyn. "Islamic Glass: A Brief History." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 44, no. 2 (Fall 1986). p. 17, ill. fig.14 (b/w).
Carboni, Stefano, David Whitehouse, Robert H. Brill, and William Gudenrath. Glass of the Sultans. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. no. 14, pp. 87-88, ill. p. 87 (color).