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Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Cup

Date:
9th–10th century
Geography:
Attributed to Egypt, Iraq or Syria
Medium:
Glass; free blown and impressed
Dimensions:
H. 3 3/8 in. (8.3 cm) W. 3 3/4 in. (9.5 cm)
Classification:
Glass
Credit Line:
Purchase, Joseph V. McMullan Gift, 1974
Accession Number:
1974.15
Not on view
The decoration on this cup consists of an impressed vertical inscription repeated eight times: baraka li-sahibihi ("Blessing upon its owner"). Large cups of squarish proportions were often decorated with standard inscriptions wishing blessings, success, and well-being.
This cylindrical cup has slightly curved walls and a flat base. The decoration consists of an inscription impressed vertically eight times around the walls. Since each end of the tong was rectangular, the inscription is framed above and below by a row of short lines that create a decorative effect, as if the surface were divided into panels spaced at regular intervals. The inscription is sunken, suggesting that the pattern was in relief on the tong itself.

Glass impressed with large rectangular tong ends belongs to the same category as that stamped with circular ends bearing the motif of the rosette or quadruped (cat. nos. 44, 45 in this volume). Many large beakers and bowls, and fragments thereof, have survived with rectangular indented marks in addition to the required pattern. Glassmakers were usually careful in making the sides of such tongs overlap, so that these marks would become part of the decoration, subdividing the surface into rectangular panels.

The inscription baraka li-sahibihi (Blessing upon its owner) is the most common on large cups of square proportions, such as the present one. A fragmentary beaker in Stockholm, found at Saveh, Iran (Lamm 1935, pl. 29c ), has the same inscription as this cup, which is among the most complete extant examples. A pitcher in Kuwait has a repeated vertical inscription, in the same type of kufic script, that exhorts ''Drink with enjoyment!" (ishrab haniyyan), thus defining the object as a container for a potable liquid, probably wine (Carboni 2001, no. 72). Pitchers and cups with similar impressed inscriptions may have belonged to matching sets, not unlike those in use today.

A precise attribution for this cup is more difficult than for the small vessels previously discussed (cat. nos. 43-45 in this volume), for which an Egyptian or Syrian origin seems likely. Since the fragment with the same inscription found in Iran may represent an accidental import, an Iranian origin is not certain. In fact, the square proportions of this cup find better parallels in the Syrian and Mesopotamian regions from the eighth century onward (see, for example, Negro Ponzi 1970–71, fig. 57, no. 51). Consequently, a definitive attribution of this type of vessel is not possible until new finds contribute to a better understanding of its origins.

Stefano Carboni in [Carboni and Whitehouse 2001]

References:

Stefano Carboni. Glass from Islamic Lands: The al-Sabah Collection. London, 2001.

Carl Johan Lamm. Glass from Iran in the National Museum, Stockholm. Stockholm and London, 1935.

Mariamaddalena Negro Ponzi. "Islamic Glassware from Seleucia." Mesopotamia 5-6 (1970–71), pp. 67–104.
Inscription: In Arabic, in Kufic script;
on exterior: "Blessing to its owner"; transliteration: "Baraka li-sahibihi"
[ John J. Klejman, New York, until 1974; sold to MMA]
Corning, NY. Corning Museum of Glass. "Glass of the Sultans," May 24, 2001–September 3, 2001, no. 46.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Glass of the Sultans," October 2, 2001–January 13, 2002, no. 46.

Athens, Greece. Benaki Museum. "Glass of the Sultans," February 20, 2002–May 15, 2002, no. 46.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Fifty Years of Collecting Islamic Art," September 23, 2013–January 26, 2014, no catalogue.

Jenkins-Madina, Marilyn. "Islamic Glass: A Brief History." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 44, no. 2 (Fall 1986). p. 20, ill. fig. 17 (b/w).

Carboni, Stefano, David Whitehouse, Robert H. Brill, and William Gudenrath. Glass of the Sultans. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. no. 46, p. 129, ill. p. 129 (color).



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