Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Ceramics, Room 137, The Curtain Foundation Gallery

Ewer

1630-65, 1800-70 (mounting)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Ewer, fritware, with a bulbous body identified as a qalian, painted on one side with a robed servant with a serving tray and a seated courtier, the other with a bare-legged standing figure drinking from a glass flask, beside a female figure playing the ud seated on a stool, trees in underglaze blue with black outline; mounted with engraved brass handle, spout, neck and lid of later date. Imitation Chinese square mark in black.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Fritware, underglaze painted, with brass mounts
Brief Description
Ewer for ice water, formed from a qalian, fritware, of pear shape (the neck and spout missing), underglaze painted in blue and black with courtiers and servants in a landscape; Iran, 1630-65: later converted into a ewer for iced water with brass mounts, pierced and engraved; Iran, 1800-70.
Physical Description
Ewer, fritware, with a bulbous body identified as a qalian, painted on one side with a robed servant with a serving tray and a seated courtier, the other with a bare-legged standing figure drinking from a glass flask, beside a female figure playing the ud seated on a stool, trees in underglaze blue with black outline; mounted with engraved brass handle, spout, neck and lid of later date. Imitation Chinese square mark in black.
Dimensions
  • Height: 35.2cm
  • Diameter: 18.4cm
Style
Object history
Ewers of this type were used for serving chilled water to passers-by as a pious act. This form of charity is practised in other parts of the Islamic world, but in Iran it commemorates the selfless actions of 'Abbas ibn 'Ali at the battle of Karbala' in AD 680, as related by Shi'ite tradition. The battle occurred when the forces of the Umayyad caliph Yazid attacked the third imam, Husayn ibn 'Ali, and his followers, who included Husayn's half-brother, 'Abbas ibn 'Ali. Yazid's forces deliberately cut Husayn's party off from the River Euphrates, the only source of water. To relieve the thirst of Husayn's family, 'Abbas forced his way through to the river to fill a water skin but was killed during his return journey.



Other ewers of this type in the V&A include 476-1876, 1123-1876, 555-1878, 637-1889, C.217- 1912 and C.220-1912.



This object was purchased in Tehran in 1873 by Robert Murdoch Smith, acting for the South Kensington Museum (today the V&A). It was part of Smith's first purchases for the Museum, which he described as "a considerable collection". They consisted of over 100 examples of metalwork, ceramic, inlaid woodwork and textile from different local sources, including French diplomat Emile Charles Bernay and four art-dealers: Nasrollah Dallal, Abo'l-Hasan Dallal, Abdo'l-Hosayn and Reza Kashi of Tehran.
Production
Register
Subjects depicted
Bibliographic Reference
Crowe, Yolande, Persia and China: Safavid Blue and White Ceramics in the Victoria & Albert Museum (1501-1738) (London : Thames and Hudson, 2002): cat. no. 243, p.154.
Collection
Accession Number
468-1874

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record createdMarch 10, 2009
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