Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Bottle with Impressed Decorations

Object Name:
10th–11th century
Attributed to probably Iran
Glass, greenish yellow; blown in two parts, impressed with tongs, applied blue rim
H. 7 1/2 in. (18.5 cm) Max. Diam. 3 7/16 in. (8.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Rogers Fund, Louis E. and Theresa S. Seley Purchase Fund for Islamic Art, and Mrs. Charles D. Kelekian Gift, 1994
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 451
This bottle was created with a number of complex glass-working techniques. The piece was made in two parts that were joined at the horizontal seam. Decoration was impressed with tongs before the pieces were joined. The blue glass thread around the rim gives a spark of color to this otherwise transparent piece. The bottle’s decoration consists of repeating bulls-eyes, a pattern that was especially popular in decorating the surfaces of small bronze vessels.
A less time-consuming and inexpensive alternative to cold relief-cut vessels (see MMA 65.172 and 1974.45) was provided by objects whose surface decoration was created by using either molds or tonglike tools that made permanent impressions in the fabric of the glass. Unlike the process of cutting the glass when cold, these techniques were applied when the glass was hot, and the entire object was fashioned before it cooled down. Rather than having been created in two distinct phases that involved different skills and possibly different workshops, the final product therefore depended entirely on the concept and skill of the glassblower. Neither as sophisticated nor as detailed as their relief-cut counterparts, these hot-worked objects nonetheless find a merited place in the annals of Islamic glass production for their variety of shape, color, and decoration—as well as for the often fanciful creativity of their makers.
The decorative pattern on this bottle, whose profile and shape are strongly reminiscent of eastern Islamic metal vessels, is related to the omphalos (navel) design previously noticed on the bowl (65.172.1) and represents a survival of this popular ornamental type well into the turn of the millennium. The angularity of the cut relief is here replaced by the softer lines and curves achieved through inflating and tooling the glass, offering a different overall effect.
Most bottles—a closed shape with an elongated neck and a narrow mouth—were produced quickly with the aid of a bronze mold that carried in reverse the desired pattern: the glass gather on the blowpipe was inserted into the mold, slightly inflated to impress the pattern, extracted from the mold, and subsequently reinflated and tooled. The entire operation would have taken just a few minutes. However, in this case—and this is what makes the present object more valuable—the glassmaker deliberately complicated his task: the bottle is composed of two units (the horizontal seam between them is evident between the two omphalos rows); the decoration was created from repeated applications by tongs carrying the "navel" pattern before the two halves had been fused. The joining technique itself, known in Italian as incalmo, is deceptively simple but would have required great skill to ensure that the two halves fit together. The end result, an elegant bottle with a strong profile softened by the dark blue rim and the understated decoration, has a spontaneous feeling to it that does not reveal the complexity of its creation
Stefano Carboni in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
[ Phoenix Ancient Art S.A., Geneva, until 1994; sold to MMA]
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. 19, pp. 41-42, ill. p. 41 (color).

Related Objects

Swan-Neck Glass Bottle

Date: 19th century Medium: Glass, blue; dip-molded, blown, folded foot Accession: 17.190.829 On view in:Gallery 462

Short-necked bottle

Date: 12th–13th century Medium: Glass, colorless with brown tinge; blown, impressed with tongs, applied blue rim and decoration Accession: 1996.409 On view in:Gallery 453

Bottle with a Globular Body

Date: 19th century Medium: Glass, greenish; blown, applied decoration Accession: 91.1.1550 On view in:Gallery 462

Bottle with a Globular Body

Date: 19th century Medium: Glass, blue; free blown, folded foot, applied decoration Accession: 83.6.25 On view in:Gallery 462

Swan-neck Bottle (Ashkdan)

Date: 19th century Medium: Glass, greenish; dip-molded, blown folded foot Accession: 83.7.255 On view in:Gallery 462