Bronze Ewer with Pomegranate Finial

SKU JB.1221
Circa

9th Century AD to 10th Century AD

Dimensions

11.5″ (29.2cm) high x 5.9″ (15.0cm) wide

Medium

Bronze

Origin

Central Asia

Gallery Location

UK


 

Cast bronze ewer with chased and incised decoration; wide-shouldered, rotund body tapers to integral foot-ring; collared, funnel neck with everted flattened rim; integral undulated handle, ribbed for grip, flanked by tangs and surmounted by pomegranate finial acting as thumb-rest; two bands of inscription, the upper, reading: ?? ??????? ??? ? ?????? “Say, “The [decision concerning] bounties is for Allah and the Messenger;” the lower, now unintelligible; decoration includes both figurative and non- figurative elements. 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 piece displays the richest level of decoration. The vessels are united in terms of their very distinct shape yet differ in their decoration. The high level of ornamentation in this case sets this piece apart and propels it into a higher artistic class. The decoration is well-executed and laid out according to a very specific formula that leans heavily on Islam’s favoured principles of geometry. In terms of motifs, figurative and non-figurative elements pertaining to both Islamic and pre- Islamic tradition have been chosen. The lobed cartouche on the body is filled with a bird against arabesque. While the former derives from Persian metalwork, arabesque – defined as a linear pattern of scrolling and interlacing foliage, tendrils or plain lines – is taken from a stock of classical Islamic non-figural motifs. The inscription is taken from the Quran and refers to the bounties of war. Calligraphy was considered the noblest of art forms lending to a desire to adorn everyday items with inscriptions. Both calligraphy and the geometric elements we see at the neck pertain to the non-figurative lexicon. 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 shortly before the fall of the last Persian Empire and advent of Islam in AD 651. Furthermore, the vessel’s rather distinct physiognomy has clear predecessors in Persian metalwork and is mimicked in Islamic pottery. The tradition of metalwork was not something new to the Islamic world. 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. Precious metals were costly and in all circumstances metalworking demanded great knowledge and skill. This vessel, with its well-executed decoration and exceptional standard of finish would no doubt have commanded a lot of attention. 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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