Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Glass Bowl

Object Name:
late 10th–early 11th century
Attributed to probably Egypt
Glass, bluish; blown, stained
H. 4 3/16 in. (10.7 cm) Max. Diam. 6 in. (15.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Rogers Fund and Gifts of Richard S. Perkins, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, Mr. and Mrs. Louis E. Seley, Walter D. Binger, Margaret Mushekian, Mrs. Mildred T. Keally, Hess Foundation, Mehdi Mahboubian and Mr. and Mrs. Bruce J. Westcott, 1974
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 454
The shape, size, and decoration of this bowl demonstrate an affinity between luster‑painted glass and ceramic lusterware. The division of the vessel walls into panels and the stylized palmette‑tree motifs frequently appear on luster‑painted bowls made in Fatimid Egypt. The Arabic inscription around the rim, in angular kufic script, has not yet been deciphered.
Few works of Islamic stained glass are as impressive as this bowl. Reconstructed from many fragments, it is almost complete, with a few minor losses. Its decoration can therefore be fully appreciated, unlike that of the great majority of similarly ornamented objects, which are fragile, thin-walled, and almost colorless. The profile and shape are also unusual, because most glass bowls have curving rather than flaring walls. A single other glass work, excavated in Syria, has been cited as proof that this shape was sometimes used,[1] but the most obvious comparative medium is luster-painted pottery from ninth- and tenth-century Iraq, as demonstrated by a bowl of almost identical profile excavated in Samarra and now in the Museum für Islamische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.[2] This artistic relationship is confirmed by the division of the surface of this bowl into circular and rectangular panels, each including a single stylized palmette tree. Such a decorative program, virtually unknown in glass vessels, is relatively common in luster-painted plates and bowls, most notably from Egypt in the early Fatimid period.[3] There is little doubt that the painter of this glass bowl had ceramic models in mind when he decorated it.
The presence of an inscription around the band that separates the rim from the decoration is extremely unusual on such glassware.[4] This text was probably copied from a familiar diwan of poetry, or was perhaps a proverb, but the chosen calligraphic style and the haste in which it was copied on the curving glass surface have unfortunately defeated any attempt to decipher it except for a few scattered words.
In both stained glass and luster-painted ceramics, silver and/or copper compounds are applied to the surface to produce a metallic sheen. After its surface is painted with a mixture containing metal oxides, the object is heated in a furnace or kiln under reducing conditions. During heating, the metal ions migrate into the glass or glaze and are subsequently reduced to the metallic state. In lusterware, unlike glass, the metallic layer lies over an opacified glaze, producing a more reflective metallic appearance.
Stefano Carboni in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. Jenkins-Madina 1986, p. 23.
2. Sarre, Friedrich, et al. Die Keramik von Samarra. Forschungen zur islamischen Kunst, 2. Die Ausgrabungen von Samarra, 2. Berlin, 1925, pl. 16, no. 2.
3. Pinder-Wilson, Ralph. "An Early Fatimid Bowl Decorated in Lustre." In Aus der Welt der islamischen Kunst: Festschrift für Ernst Kühnel zum 75. Geburtstag am 26.10.1957, edited by Richard Ettinghausen, pp. 139–43. Berlin, 1959, pl. 1; Jenkins, Marilyn. "ThePalmette Tree: A Study of the Iconography of Egyptian Lustre Painted Pottery." Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 7 (1968), pp. 119–26, pls. 1–9, figs. 2 and 21.
4. It is comparable only to an inscription on a dish in the Kuwait National Museum (no. LNS 44 G). See Carboni 2001, pp. 58–59, no. 12; and Carboni et al 2001, pp. 211–13, no. 104.
Inscription: Inscription in Arabic in kufic script around rim: [illegible]
[ Saeed Motamed, Frankfurt, until 1974; sold to MMA]
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. 108.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Glass of the Sultans," October 2, 2001–January 13, 2002, no. 108.

Athens, Greece. Benaki Museum. "Glass of the Sultans," February 20, 2002–May 15, 2002, no. 108.

Los Angeles. J. Paul Getty Museum. "The Arts of Fire: Islamic Influences on the Italian Renaissance," May 4, 2004–September 5, 2004, pl. 15.

Smith, Ray Winfield. "The Ray Winfield Smith Collection." In Glass from the Ancient World. Corning, NY: Corning Museum of Glass, 1957. p. 256, ill. pl. X, p. 519, Related work from the Corning Museum of Glass, inv. no. 59.1.120.

Ettinghausen, Richard. "Islamic Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 33, no. 1 (Spring 1975). ill. p. 4 (color).

Swietochowski, Marie, and Marilyn Jenkins-Madina. Notable Acquisitions 1965–1975 (1975). p. 146, ill. (b/w).

Jenkins-Madina, Marilyn. "Islamic Art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Arts & the Islamic World, Arts & The Islamic World, vol. 3, no. 3 (Autumn 1985). p. 52, ill. fig. 5.

Jenkins-Madina, Marilyn. "Islamic Glass: A Brief History." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 44, no. 2 (Fall 1986). p. 22, ill. fig. 20 (color).

The Glass. Japan: Shueisha, 1992. no. 155, p. 97, ill. p. 97.

Carboni, Stefano. "The al-Sabah Collection, Kuweit National Museum." In Glass from Islamic Lands. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2001. pp. 58–59.

Carboni, Stefano, David Whitehouse, Robert H. Brill, and William Gudenrath. Glass of the Sultans. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. no. 108, pp. 218-219, ill. p. 218 (color).

Hess, Catherine. "Islamic Influences on Glass and Ceramics of the Italian Renaissance." In The Arts of Fire. Los Angeles, 2004. pp. 104-105, ill. pl. 15 (color).

Bloom, Jonathan M. "Islamic Art and Architecture in Fatimid North Africa and Egypt." In Arts of the City Victorious. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007. p. 106, ill. fig. 76 (color).

Carboni, Stefano. "The Arts of the Fatimid Period at the Metropolitan Museum of Art." The Ismaili (2008). p. 8, ill. fig. 12 (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. 108, pp. 159-160, ill. p. 159 (color).

Ekhtiar, Maryam. "Shimmering Surfaces: Lustre Ceramics of the Islamic World." Arts of Asia vol. 42 (2012). p. 91, ill. fig. 1 (color).

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