Khurasan Lead Flask Inlaid with Copper

SKU GC.040
Circa

1100 AD to 1300 AD

Dimensions

17.75″ (45.1cm) high

Medium

Bronze

Origin

Central Asia

Gallery Location

UK


 

Initially the invasion of the Mongols at the beginning of the 12th century had a detrimental impact on art and artists of the region. However after a brief interlude metalworking experienced a new renaissance.

The artistic style of the applied arts in Khorassan began to change in the middle of the 11th century, as the decorative principle established its supremacy. New forms of bronze, copper and lead artefacts also began to appear from that time. By the 12th century, the surface of utilitarian objects such as this flask were engraved, and then silver or copper was inlaid in the cut-out areas to make the decorative designs more visible. Stylized animals and birds were common decorative motifs seen on objects produced in Khorassan. Engraving became the most common technique for the application of ornament, being best suited to achieving the smooth quality of pattern that was standard during this period. The shift in style affected more than just decorative techniques: the profile of the vessels also changed noticeably, developing from unprepossessing, rather bulky outlines to more elegant, smoother contours and balanced proportions.

This astounding bottle melds the skills of the metalworker in a unique form unlikely to be found in any comparable public or private collection. The inlays which carry the majority of the intricate geometric and calligraphic (untranslated) adornments are executed in copper. The long tapered neck of the bottle is adorned with semicircular incisions which give the effect of feathers such as one might find in the long slender neck of a swan. The bird theme is continued around the bottle on interspersed cartouches engraved with pretty, shy and plump little birds. The emblematic theme of the decoration is idiosyncratic- with the symbols and motifs one would expect to find in a piece of this period and provenance. In particular the graceful animated hare which appears in the cartouches around the central globular body is a renowned trademark of later 13th and 14th century wares. Geometric medallions are featured just beneath the shoulder of the body and around the cup at the mouth of the neck. The widespread use of geometric decoration and epigraphic inscriptions was an innovation. Over the course of time the inscriptions became stylized and indecipherable, transformed into a sort of ‘graphic ornament’. This is a rare and spectacular piece of Islamic art that would grace any serious collection.

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