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Ewer

  • Place of origin:

    Kashan (made)

  • Date:

    1200-1220 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Fritware painted under a coloured glaze

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mr C.N. Ades MBE, in memory of his wife Andrée Ades

  • Museum number:

    C.170-1977

  • Gallery location:

    Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery, case 2W

This striking fritware ewer was made in Kashan in Iran around 1200–1220, when this city was producing some of the most striking Islamic ceramics. The body was produced using an impressively accomplished double-shell technique. The plain inner shell – the container for the liquid – was formed, given a monochrome turquoise glaze, and fired in the normal manner. The perforated outer shell was then made around the turquoise centre and decorated in black. Parts of the decoration, including the inscriptions above and below the openwork area, were scratched through this black paint. The outer shell was then glazed in turquoise to match the inner shell, and the whole piece was fired again.

The mouth of the ewer was moulded in the form of a cock’s head, and the handle as tail feathers, with details added in black. Such bird- and animal-shaped elements had been a common feature of metalwork ewers since the beginning of the Islamic period, and the double-shell technique, too, may have been inspired by metalwork with openwork decoration.

Physical description

Double shell ceramic ewer shaped as a rooster. Body composed of off-white paste with a transparent turquoise glaze decorated with underglaze painted in black and blue, the outer shell reticulated. Sketchily executed willow reeds decorate the area above the foot. The body of the ewer is in two shells with the outer shell composed of floral motifs and pierced. Two inscription bands which contain verses from a Persian poem encircle the lower portion of the body and the neck. The spout is in the form of rooster's head and the handle is composed of the animal's tail.

Place of Origin

Kashan (made)

Date

1200-1220 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Fritware painted under a coloured glaze

Marks and inscriptions

Verses from a Persian poem
Persian; Naskh?; Encircling base and neck

Dimensions

Height: 29.1 cm, Width: 16.1 cm

Object history note

This vessel was part of a hoard that was deliberately buried by its owner, probably a merchant who lived in Jurjan in north-east Iran, or who was passing through the city. In 1220, Jurjan was threatened by a Mongol invasion. The merchant packed the vessels in sand inside large storage jars and buried them for safekeeping. Soon afterwards, Jurjan was completely destroyed by the Mongols, and the owner never returned to recover the hoard.As a result, the vessels in this hoard survived together for almost 800 years, and in relatively good condition.The probable date of their burial also gives us a good indication of when the vessels in the hoard were made, as well as showing the wide variety of types of decoration that were used to make Iranian pottery at this time.

Clement Ades gave a large number of objects found in the Jurjan hoard to the Victoria and Albert Museum at different times. Their object numbers are C.152 to 171-1977, and C.35 to 49-1978.

The double-shell technique, the glaze and the motifs, particularly the loosely painted willow reeds in the area above the foot suggest that this piece was produced in Kashan. There are two other reticulated vessels which help to determine the date. The "Macy" jug in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York is dated 1215 and a vessel formerly in the collection of Ali Ibrahim Pasha in Cairo, attributed to 1167 by Gaston Weit and revised to 1259 by Mehdi Bahrami. Undated ewers which have been published include an example formerly in the Sambon collection in Paris (H. Riviere, La Ceramique dans l'Art Musulman, Paris, 1913, vol. II, pl. 64), a second was exhibited in London (E. Grube, Islamic Pottery, 1976, no. 137) and others are in the Louvre, Paris (Arts de l'Islam, no. 48), in Cairo (Bahrami, pl. XIX), in the Frank Brangwyn collection in London (Ettinghausen, "Evidence for the Identification...", Ars Islamica, III [1936], fig. 32), in the Archaeological Museum of Tehran (Mikami, vol. I, pl. 178) and in a Japanese collection (Ibid., vol. II, pl. 170).

The shaping of the spout of a ewer into that of a rooster or cockerel's head, with a high-standing crest and pointed beak can be found from pre-Islamic times, on Sasanian silver vessels and in Chinese porcelains of the Tang and Song periods. A considerable amount of cockeral-headed ewers have survived, not all reticulated. Monochrome examples are rare (Cobalt and Lustre, Khalili Collection, vol. IX, no. 149) though some plain white examples exist in the Tehran Bastan Museum (Bagherzadeh, Saurat & Sato, 1981, ill. no. 123) and in the Berlin Museum fur Islamische Kunst (acc. no. I.2298, see Erdmann, 1967, no. 41). The majority, however, are decorated in lustre (C.160-1928; Collection of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, Ceramiques Islamiques dans les Collections Genevoises, 1981, no. 73) or painted in underglaze, usually either in black under a green glaze (David Collection, Copenhagen, acc. no. Isl.23) or with blue and white stripes (David Collection, Copenhagen acc. no. 8/1970).

Descriptive line

Cock's-head ewer, Iran (Kashan), about 1220.

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

E.Atil, Ceramics from the world of Islam, 1973, no. 23
Cobalt and Lustre, Khalili Collection, vol. IX, no. 149
E. Grube, Islamic Pottery, 1976, nos. 137,138
Arts of Islam, 1976, no. 358
Tim Stanley ed., with Mariam Rosser-Owen and Stephen Vernoit, Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, V&A Publications, 2004; p. 49, plate 56

Labels and date

EWER
White earthenware painted in black and blue under a turquoise glaze.
Found at Jurjan.
PERSIAN (Kashan); early 13th century.
Given by Mr. C.N. Ades MBE in memory of his wife, Andree Ades. [Used until 11/2003]
Cock's-Head Ewer
Iran, Kashan
About 1220

This complex ewer has a perforated outer shell enclosing a solid inner flask - the container for the liquid. A cock's tail feathers form the handle and its head the ewer's mouth. Inscriptions were scratched through black bands above and below the perforated design.

Fritware painted under a turquoise glaze

Museum no. C.170-1977. Given by Mr C.N. Ades, MBE, in memory of his wife, Andrée Ades [Jameel Gallery]

Materials

Glaze; Fritware

Techniques

Firing; Glazing; Painting

Categories

Islam

Collection

Middle East Section

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