Early Islamic Glass Bottle

SKU LO.911

7th th Century AD to 8th th Century AD


2.25″ (5.7cm) high x 1.8″ (4.6cm) wide





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Although the development from the pre-Islamic period to the middle of the ninth century is very recognizable in architecture, including works in stone, plaster and wood, it becomes quite blurred on other media such as metalwork and pottery. Between the 5th and the 8th century glass production seems unchanged, although the surviving objects would still point to an industry that persisted and thrived, almost careless of the political and religious turmoils of the Ummayad era, including the death of the prophet Muhammad. Perhaps, the diffusion of glass- blowing and the consequent paucity of high quality glass after the crumbling of the Roman Empire might have hampered the rulers’ sponsorship of glassmaking, yet during this period glass became more accessible for mundane use and thus, by loosing its status value, less attractive to affluent patrons.

Late Roman glass made along the coasts of modern Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt that is usually classified as ‘eastern Mediterranean� thus kept on being produced during the early Islamic period. Its features include the decoration with applied trails that could be pulled either from the same glass batch or from a different one. Applied trails were also used functionally as handles and feet; commonly the thread was patterned in zigzags or simple spirals. When trails of the same colour were used, they were manipulated with a pointed tool or a fine pincher after they were applied to the vessel. While weathering due to burial often prevents a full appreciation of the chromatic as well as the sculptural appeal of a glass vessel many have survived in excellent condition and still convey a playful charm. Plastic decoration also included patches of glass of different shapes applied at regular intervals to the surface of the vessel. Globular bottles and vases, small flasks and ewers were the favoured shapes during the Islamic period. The decorative patches took either regular circular forms (discs, roundels, ovals, prunts) or irregular geometrical shapes (triangles, six-pointed star, composite figures) that have sometimes been interpreted as animal hides or masks. The majority of such vessels were decorated with patches of the same colour since the shape and distribution on the surface would be sufficient to emphasize the ornamental pattern.

This small entirely weathered bottle features a a large flared mouth and a globular body. a ring applied at the base to allow the bottle to stand. The main decoration consists of four H-shaped six pointed figures, unevenly spaced around the body. A trail was applied around the upper part of the body and pincered all around to produce a rib-like decoration in relief. The tips of the H- shaped figures are clearly placed above the thread, thus the thread was clearly applied before the H-shaped figures. The surface is entirely weathered, resulting in a golden iridescent effect, gray pitting and heavy corrosion.

Such decorated vessels were once dated exclusively to the pre-Islamic period. However, a dating to the proto-Islamic period (7th -8th century) seems more appropriate, since these objects do not have an immediate parallel with known late Roman pieces. On the other hand they were certainly produced before the codification of shapes and decorative patterns that occurred in the 9th century.

For comparable works see S. Carboni, ‘Glass from Islamic Lands’, 2001: pp. 39, pl. 1.4a. and Y. Israeli, ‘Ancient Glass in the Israel Museum’, 2003: pl.438, p.327. LO.911: Small jar, free-blown green glass with trailed decoration. The globular body has a short and wide waisted neck with everted rolled rim and rests on an attached ring with a concave centre. The body is decorated with four trailed designs and has a trailed ribbed band running around the base of the shoulder. Syria or Palestine, 7th – 8th century. Ht. 5.7cm; Top diam. 3cm; Base diam. 3cm. Comparative material: there are several similar small jars,but with different decoration in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection, cf. Goldstein, cat. nos.14 – 15, pp.38-39; also Israeli, cat.nos.432-435, pp.334- 335; Carboni, cat.no.5b, inv.no. LNS 47 KG, pp.26- 27. Prof. Geza Fehervari Prof. Geoffrey King – (LO.911)

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