Ewer

ca. 1220-1240 (made)
Ewer thumbnail 1
Ewer thumbnail 2
+2
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This ewer has a complex, angular form and cheerful decoration in silver. The good wishes in Arabic on the shoulder are in a bizarre style of script in which each upright ends in a human face. The figures between are four musicians. Those on the sides represent the moon.

In Islamic art, objects made from base materials were often transformed by sophisticated forms of decoration. Brassware, such as this ewer, was decorated with inlaid surface ornament.

For larger motifs, metalworkers chiselled out small areas of brass and filled them with thin sheets of silver, gold and copper. They added details by chasing the surface of the softer metals and contrast by using a black filler.

The inlay technique first became popular in eastern Iran in the mid 12th century. It then spread westwards and by 1250 was in use across the Middle East. Its popularity declined after 1500.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Brass, hammered and welded; engraved decoration partly inlaid with silver and black composition
Brief Description
Brass ewer inlaid with silver, featuring 'animated' inscriptions and musician- and moon-figures, Iran, 1220-40.
Physical Description
Ewer (aftabe). Brass, sheet, inlaid with silver. Now with a patina of dark olive brown turning black. Decorated with poetic and benedictory inscriptions, in several different types of script, groups of flying birds, musicians, and seated female figures holding up huge crescent moons. These are probably traditional Persian representations of the 'Planet' Moon. Western Iran, 13th century.
Dimensions
  • Height: 43.7cm
  • Up to pouring lip height: 40.2cm
  • Circle enclosing faceted body at its widest diameter: 20.5cm
  • Waisted foot diameter: 15.2cm
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
  • (Persian; Kufic; upper inscription at the base of the neck is "undeciphered".; engraved)
  • (animated naskhi i.e with faces; main inscription on the shoulder)
  • (kufic; at the bottom between the shoulder and the sides.)
  • (naskhi; fifth inscription on the waisted foot)
  • (name engraved on the underside)
Gallery Label
  • Jameel Gallery Ewer with Silver Inlay Western Iran 1220-40 This later ewer is of a completely different type. It has a complex, angular form and cheerful decoration in silver. The good wishes in Arabic on the shoulder are in a bizarre style of script in which each upright ends in a human face. The figures between are four musicians, while those on the sides represent the moon. Brass inlaid with silver and a black composition Museum no. 381-1897(Jameel Gallery)
  • EWER Worked sheet brass, with engraved decoration and silver inlay WESTERN PERSIA; 13th century The inscriptions consist of conventional blessings, sometimes in abreviated or garbled form. The same owners name is found as on the candlestick shown close by, suggesting the two pieces were made in the same workshop.(Used until 10/2002)
Object history
Purchased on behalf of the South Kensington Museum (today the V&A) in 1897 from Edgar and Alice Whitaker, executors for the Istanbul estate of William Henry Wrench (1836-96), British Consul to Ottoman Turkey. During his diplomatic career, Wrench had assembled a private art collection of paintings, ceramics, metalwork, arms, textiles, carpets and other furnishings. These were well-known to curators at South Kensington: in 1892, the Museum purchased a set of four photographs, recording how Wrench had displayed the collection in his home in Pera, Istanbul.
Summary
This ewer has a complex, angular form and cheerful decoration in silver. The good wishes in Arabic on the shoulder are in a bizarre style of script in which each upright ends in a human face. The figures between are four musicians. Those on the sides represent the moon.



In Islamic art, objects made from base materials were often transformed by sophisticated forms of decoration. Brassware, such as this ewer, was decorated with inlaid surface ornament.



For larger motifs, metalworkers chiselled out small areas of brass and filled them with thin sheets of silver, gold and copper. They added details by chasing the surface of the softer metals and contrast by using a black filler.



The inlay technique first became popular in eastern Iran in the mid 12th century. It then spread westwards and by 1250 was in use across the Middle East. Its popularity declined after 1500.
Bibliographic References
  • Melikian-Chirvani, A.S. Islamic Metalwork from the Iranian World, London:HMSO, 1982, p169-173, ISBN 0 11 290252 9
  • Survey, pl.1327.
  • Robinson, B. 50 Masterpieces of Metalwork, London, 1951, no.43, pp 88-9; illustrated and dated to the 'early years of the thirteenth century'.
  • Scerrato, V. Metalli Islamici, Milan, 1966, pl.45, p104; caption p.102 as 'Ilkhanid period, 13th c'
  • Tim Stanley (ed.), with Mariam Rosser-Owen and Stephen Vernoit, Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, V&A Publications, 2004pp.34, 97
Collection
Accession Number
381-1897

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdMarch 18, 2003
Record URL