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Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Ewer with Birds and Animals

Object Name:
Ewer
Date:
10th century
Geography:
Attributed to probably Iran. Excavated in Iran, Nishapur
Medium:
Glass, colorless; blown, folded foot, applied handle, cut
Dimensions:
H. 5 3/4 in. (14.5 cm), max. diam. 4 in. (10.2 cm), Diam. (at rim) 3 5/8 in. (9.1 cm) Diam. (belly) 4 in. (10.2 cm) Diam. (base) 2 15/16 in. (7.5 cm)
Classification:
Glass
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1939
Accession Number:
39.40.101
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 453
This ewer decorated with quadrupeds and birds in roundels, probably made in Nishapur, is one of the best examples of glass vessels with wheel-cut designs. The two roundels on either side of the handle show long-tailed birds, and the third bears a crouching lion. While this was the only glass vessel found at Nishapur with a pattern of roundels around its body, the decoration type is known from other examples of Sasanian and Islamic metalwork, textiles, ceramics, and glass. Broken when excavated, it has been reassembled from approximately twenty pieces and its surface retains slight traces of iridescence.
Made from transparent yellowish colorless glass, this jug has a rounded body narrowed at the base of the neck and a flared opening. It stands on a low foot ring with a pontil mark at the base, and a handle with a thumb rest is attached at the rim and body. Broken when excavated, it has been reassembled from approximately twenty pieces, and its surface retains slight traces of iridescence. The entire surface is decorated with wheel-cut motifs that stand in relief against the ground and provide the principal decoration on the body—three roundels separated by geometric and vegetal designs. The two roundels on either side of the handle show long-tailed birds, and the third bears a crouching lion, all facing left. This was the only glass vessel found at Nishapur with a pattern of roundels around its body, a type of decoration known from other examples of Sasanian and Islamic metalwork, textiles, ceramics, and glass.[1]
In addition to carved stucco architectural elements, extensive wall paintings, coins, high-quality ceramics, and metalwork, a total of 115 glass vessels or fragments were found at the site of Tepe Madrasa.[2] None of the glass finds were from the mosque itself; many were from rooms in different parts of the complex, with a concentration in what may have been a residential quarter, and many others came from the wells, drains, and latrines, indicating that they had probably been discarded. This jug was in a drain on the lower level of the site. Although no glassmaking kilns were found at Nishapur, the number and range of finds point to a flourishing and highly developed industry in the ninth and tenth centuries.
Qamar Adanjee in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
Footnotes:
1. See Kroger 1995 and Carboni et al 2001, p. 157, for a detailed list of comparative examples.
2. Kroger 1995, p. 14.

This jug has a globular body, a funnel-shaped neck, and a plain rim with the lip thinned by grinding. The neck tapers, and the wall curves down, out, and in. The base has a foot ring made by folding and a kick. There is a pontil mark. The handle, which is oval in cross section, was dropped onto the upper wall, then drawn up and in before being attached to the top of the neck; its circular thumb rest was made by tooling.

The jug has slant-cut decoration on the neck and wall. The decoration on the neck consists of continuous horizontal bands of curvilinear V-shaped elements. The wall has a broad band of ornament framed by two incised grooves at the top and one groove at the bottom. The band, which is interrupted by the handle attachment, contains three roundels, each defined by two concentric grooves. Every roundel contains a bird or animal: long-tailed birds on the roundels at either side of the handle and a lion running to the left on the roundel opposite the handle. The spaces between the roundels are filled with vegetal and geometric motifs. The handle is decorated with transverse cuts.

The principal ornament here, a band of unconnected roundels surrounded by vegetal and geometric motifs, is familiar from Sasanian and early Islamic metalwork (Orbeli and Trever 1935, pl. 29; Baer 1983, fig. 230; Atil et al. 1985, no. 10), as well as from other examples of Islamic cut glass. A relief-cut glass bowl, excavated at Fustat and apparently datable to the ninth century, has a series of roundels containing birds (Pinder-Wilson and Scanlon 1973, p. 26, no. 20 ). Another bowl, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, has a bird in the center of the floor and a concentric band of roundels containing animals on the wall (SPA 1938-77, vol. 6 [ 1939], pl. 1440c; Charleston 1942, p. 215, pl. II, A, C). A bottle at Corning (64.1.15) is decorated with a band of slant-cut roundels containing quatrefoils. Jens Kröger (1995, p. 175) compared the present object with a tenth-century gold ewer in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (Lowry 1989).

David Whitehouse in [Carboni and Whitehouse 2001]

References:

Esin Atil, W. T. Chase, and Paul Jett. Islamic Metalwork in the Freer Gallery of Art. Exh. cat. Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution. Washington, D.C., 1985.

Eva Baer. Metalwork in Medieval Islamic Art. Albany, N.Y., 1983.

Robert J. Charleston. "A Group of Near Eastern Glasses." Burlington Magazine 81 (September 1942), pp. 212–18.

Jens Kröger . Nishapur: Glass of the Early Islamic Period. New York. 1995.

Glenn D. Lowry. "On the Gold Jug Inscribed to Abu Mansur al-Amir Bakhtiyar ibn Mu'izz al-Dawla in the Freer Gallery of Art." Ars Orientalis 19 (1989), pp. 103–15.

I. A. Orbeli and K. V. Trever. Sasanidskii metall: Khudozhestvennye predmety iz zolota, serebra i bronzy/Orfivrerie sasanide: Objets en or, argent et bronze. Moscow and Leningrad, 1935.

Ralph H. Pinder-Wilson and George T. Scanlon. "Glass Finds from Fustat: 1964-71." Journal of Glass Studies 15 (1973), pp. 12–30.
1938, excavated at Tepe Madrasa in Nishapur, Iran by the Metropolitan Museum of Art's expedition; 1939, acquired by the Museum in the division of finds

Corning, NY. Corning Museum of Glass. "Glass of the Sultans," May 24, 2001–September 3, 2001, no. 97.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Glass of the Sultans," October 2, 2001–January 13, 2002, no. 97.

Athens, Greece. Benaki Museum. "Glass of the Sultans," February 20, 2002–May 15, 2002, no. 97.

Paris. Musée du Louvre. "Louvre Long Term Loan," April 28, 2004–April 27, 2006, no catalogue.

"The Museum's Excavations at Nishapur." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 37, no. 4 (1942). p. 111, ill. fig. 35 (b/w).

McAllister, Hannah, Maurice S. Dimand, Charles K. Wilkinson, and Walter Hauser. "Excavations of the Iranian Expedition in the Kanat Teppeh, Nishapur." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, old series, vol. 37 (1942). pp. 106, 111, ill. fig. 35 (b/w).

Kröger, Jens. Nishapur: Glass of the Early Islamic Period. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1995. no. 228, pp. 174-5, ill. (b/w).

Carboni, Stefano, David Whitehouse, Robert H. Brill, and William Gudenrath. Glass of the Sultans. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. no. 97, pp. 192-93, ill. p. 192 (color).

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. 82, p. 126, ill. p. 126 (color).



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