Small Glass Jar

SKU LO.901

600 AD to 700 AD


2.625″ (6.7cm) high





Gallery Location



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 conditions 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 iridescent glass bottle features a narrow flared neck pulled from the almost spherical body. A ring was applied at the base to form the foot, and on the shoulder. The body is decorated with several applied high relief discs, a type of decoration consistent to small globular bottles with either a relatively large mouth or a small narrow neck as the one featured here. Globular bottles such as this one, which never exceeded a height of 10 cm, are more common than cylindrical flasks. The absence of a coiled handle and the narrow constricted neck would suggest its use as a sprinkler of precious liquids, perfumes.

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 material see: S. Carboni, Glass from Islamic Lands, 2001: pp. 26-27, pls. 5a- 5b.

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