Bronze Ewer with Pomegranate Finial

SKU JB.1490

9th Century AD to 10th Century AD




Central Asia

Gallery Location



Substantial, cast bronze ewer with incised decoration; body of piriform section standing upon tall foot, collared funnel neck divided by transverse ribs into three sections, the central, multi-faceted in section; flat, everted rim with integral undulated handle flanked by tangs and surmounted by pomegranate finial acting as thumb-rest; incised registers filled with arabesque and interlacing vines. Attractive variegated patina over whole; base missing and loss of decoration. An early example of a small group of ewers with pomegranate finials dating to between 9th-11th centuries. The Barakat Collection includes five examples of this ware, of which this is the largest. The vessels are united in terms of their very distinct shape yet differ in their size and decoration. The size of this piece sets it quite apart from its contemporaries. Such a hefty piece of worked metal, decorated a la mode would have no doubt commanded a lot of respect. Precious metals were costly and in all circumstances metalworking demanded great knowledge and skill. The standard of finish in this case is exceptional and there is an attractive variegated green, blue and copper patina over whole. Central Asia at this time formed part of a vast, unwieldy empire that stretched from Spain to the borders of India, through Persia and the Middle East and along the coast of North Africa. Power was divided between several powerful states and we see influence across a vast area in art. The metalwork tradition leans heavily on both Islamic and pre- Islamic traditions. Arabesque – defined as a linear pattern of scrolling and interlacing foliage, tendrils or plain lines – is used across the surface and is taken from a stock of classic Islamic non-figurative motifs. The tradition of metalwork was not something new to the Islamic world at this time. For centuries, metal objects had been among the most important items of equipment among the middle classes in Muslim society and any discerning household would have had a retinue of everyday items in metal. After AD 651 and the fall of the Sassanian Empire, Persian traditions become a shaping influence on Islamic metalwork. Both vessel shapes and decoration are imitated. In this case, the ewer’s rather distinct physiognomy has clear predecessors in Persian metalwork. The pomegranate is a recurrent theme of interest throughout the ancient civilisations of Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Persia and Egypt and would most likely have been transmitted to Islam by Sassanian artisans in Iraq and Iran following the advent of Islam. Would most likely have been used to store and pour wine and other drinks. A similar example dated 11th-12th century from Iran is currently on display in Gallery 451 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Cf. Islamic Art/The David Collection, Folsach (Copenhagen 1990), P.186, no.302; Bonhams, Islamic and Indian Art, 9th October 2009, lot 105 and 7th October 2010, lot 91

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