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Ewer

  • Place of origin:

    Khurasan (probably, made)

  • Date:

    8th century-10th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cast bronze

  • Museum number:

    434-1906

  • Gallery location:

    Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery, case 1W

A striking feature of this ewer is its dramatic sinous handle. Its visual impact is enhanced by the bold thumb-rest in the form of a palmette or stylised tree.

Ewers with pear-shaped bodies, as here, were produced in Iran in the centuries following the Islamic conquest in the 7th century. They continued the general form of metal ewers made by Iranian metalworkers under the Sasanian dynasty (ruled about AD 224 to 631) that preceded the Islamic conquest.

Physical description

The ewer is cast in bronze and has a ovoid-shaped body on a low slanting foot. The waisted neck is separated from the main body by a thick rib halfway up. There is engraved decoration sparsely inlaid with copper. Heads of mythical birds encircle the neck, that had copper discs for eyes. Ewer has crozier shaped handle, the side facing the body is flat and decorated with five hemishperical beads. A palmette-shaped thumb-rest rises from the upper part of the handle. The neck is slightly ribbed. Engraved double arches with lotus-buds at their interstices form two bands at the top and bottom of these ribs. Overall patina dull olive yellow.

Place of Origin

Khurasan (probably, made)

Date

8th century-10th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Cast bronze

Dimensions

Height: 44 cm, Height: 36 cm without handle, Diameter: 18.4 cm body, Diameter: 11.9 cm underside (maximum)

Historical context note

By its elegant form, this pear-shaped bronze ewer with a large thumb-rest in the shape of a palmette relates to a group of less than seven pieces, which combine the Byzantine and Sasanian traditions. These ewers are all thought to have been made in the first centuries of Islam. The only one with an inscription is in the Museum of Tbilisi, in Georgia: it mentions the name of the artisan (Yazid) and the place of production (Basra), and the date, which has been read by some as 688-689, and by others as 882-883. Previously it had been assumed that such ewers were made in Khurasan or Central Asia, but on the basis of this inscription it likely that they should be reattributed to Abbasid Iraq. Ewers made in Al-Andalus (Islamic Spain) in the 10th and 11th centuries have a foreshortened version of the shape of these early ewers, and were perhaps modelled on imports that originated in the Abbasid world.

Descriptive line

Cast brass ewer with a palmette thumb-rest, Iran (Khorasan), 8th-10th century.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Melikian-Chirvani, A.S. Islamic Metalwork from the Iranian World, London: HMSO, 1982. p40. ISBN 0 11 290252 9
Pinder-Wilson,R. 'An Islamic ewer in Sasanian style', British Museum Quarterly, XXII 3/4. 1960. p90.
Les Andalousies de Damas à Cordoue. Exhibition catalogue, Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris, 2000: cat.no.15, p.33
Tim Stanley ed., with Mariam Rosser-Owen and Stephen Vernoit, Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, V&A Publications, 2004; pp. 20, 31, plate 24

Labels and date

EWER
Cast iron with remains of copper inlay
PERSIAN (Khorasan); 8th century
From a small group of ewers of which one example in the Historical Museum at Tbilissi is dated 686 or 688. [Used until 10/2002]
Ewer with Palmette Thumb-Rest
Iran
700-1000

Ewers with pear-shaped bodies were produced in Iran in the centuries following the Islamic conquest in the 7th century. They continued the general form of metal ewers of the pre-Islamic Sasanian period. The visual impact of this example is enhanced by its bold thumb-rest in the form of a palmette or stylised tree.

Cast brass, with incised decoration under the base and copper inlaid around the neck

Museum no. 434-1906 [Jameel Gallery]

Materials

Bronze

Categories

Islam; Metalwork

Collection

Middle East Section

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