Sprinkler

1295-1296 (made)
Sprinkler thumbnail 1
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 vessel of blue glass with enamelled and gilt decoration has an inscription in Arabic around the shoulder. This shows that it was made for al-Malik al-Ashraf Abu'l-Fath 'Umar, the sultan who ruled Yemen from 1295 to 1296. The object is of high quality, and in its style it relates to the glass made in Egypt and Syria under the Mamluk sultans in the 13th and 14th centuries. It is possible that it was ordered by al-Malik al-Ashraf from Egypt, or it may have been made as a diplomatic gift from the ruler of Egypt to the ruler of Yemen.

The function of the object is not known for certain. It shares its shape with a large group of pottery vessels from the medieval Middle East. It has been suggested that these vessels might have been used as hand grenades or fire-blowers or containers for mercury or perfume. Since this luxury object was clearly not made to be hurled at an enemy or into a fire, it seems likely that it was used as a sprinkler for some precious liquid.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Glass, gilded and enamelled
Brief Description
Glass sprinkler made for the sultan of Yemen, Egypt or Syria, 1295-6.
Physical Description
Made for al-Ashraf Abu'l-Fath 'Umar, Sultan of Yemen (1295-6). The exact function is not known but the shape corresponds to a type of pottery vessel known in large numbers, usually of sturdy but rough manufacture. Many uses have been suggested, ranging from hand grenades or fire-blowers to containers for mercury. Their strength suggests that they were containers for expensive liquids. The very high quality of this glass example suggests that it was a diplomatic gift from the ruler of Egypt, rather than an item of general use. Inscription consists of a dedication to the Sultan of Yemen, Al-Ashraf Abu 'l-Fath 'Umar (1295-96). Wilfred Buckley Collection.
Dimensions
  • Height: 15.3cm
  • Maximum width: 10.7cm
Styles
Marks and Inscriptions
The inscription consists of a dedication to the Sultan of Yemen, Al-Ashraf Abu'l-Fath Umar who ruled 1295-96. (Decoration; Arabic; Naskhi; painted; enamel)
Gallery Label
Jameel Gallery Glass Sprinkler Egypt or Syria 1295-6 This vessel has a very narrow opening at the top. With care it could be filled with rose water or similar scented liquids. When shaken, the liquid came out in small drops. The inscription names al-Malik al-Ashraf, the sultan who ruled Yemen from 1295 to 1296. The sprinkler may have been a gift to him from the Mamluk ruler. Glass, enamelled and gilded Museum no. C.153-1936 Given by Mrs Wilfred Buckley in memory of her husband.(Jameel Gallery)
Credit line
Wilfred Buckley Collection
Object history
Said to have been acquired in an Egyptian port from a merchant from Yemen.
Historical context
Thought to have been made for al-Ashraf Abu'l-Fath Umar, Sultan of Yemen (1295-6). The exact function is not known but the shape corresponds to a type of pottery vessel known in large numbers, usually of sturdy but rough manufacture. Many uses have been suggested, ranging from hand-grenades or fire-blowers to containers for mercury. Their strength suggests that they were containers for expensive liquids. The very high quality of this glass example suggests that it was a diplomatic gift from the ruler of Egypt, rather than an item of general use.



The Mamluks had close diplomatic ties to the Rasulid dynasty of Yemen, principally because of trade interests. Mamluk artists are known to have created a number of inlaid metal and glass objects either as gifts or as specially commissioned items. Although this object does not bear the customary emblem of the Rasulid dynasty, it does bear a circular medallion divided into small red, white and black triangles which may be the personal emblem of al-Malik al-Ashraf.
Summary
This vessel of blue glass with enamelled and gilt decoration has an inscription in Arabic around the shoulder. This shows that it was made for al-Malik al-Ashraf Abu'l-Fath 'Umar, the sultan who ruled Yemen from 1295 to 1296. The object is of high quality, and in its style it relates to the glass made in Egypt and Syria under the Mamluk sultans in the 13th and 14th centuries. It is possible that it was ordered by al-Malik al-Ashraf from Egypt, or it may have been made as a diplomatic gift from the ruler of Egypt to the ruler of Yemen.



The function of the object is not known for certain. It shares its shape with a large group of pottery vessels from the medieval Middle East. It has been suggested that these vessels might have been used as hand grenades or fire-blowers or containers for mercury or perfume. Since this luxury object was clearly not made to be hurled at an enemy or into a fire, it seems likely that it was used as a sprinkler for some precious liquid.
Bibliographic References
  • Carboni, S., and Whitehouse, D. Glass of the Sultans, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2001pp.263-4
  • Newby, Martine S. "The Cavour Vase and Gilt and Enamelled Mamluk Coloured Glass." In Ward, Rachel, ed. Gilded and Enamelled Glass from the Middle East. London, 1998. pp35-40. fig. 10.1
  • Buckley, Wilfred. The art of glass. London, 1939. No. 92
  • Lamm, Carl Johan. "Les Verres trouvés à Suse". Syria, 12 (1931), pp. 358-367
  • cf. Louvre inventory (1971; inv.no.7448), Lamm (Le Monde Oriental XXV, 1931).
  • Tim Stanley (ed.), with Mariam Rosser-Owen and Stephen Vernoit, Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East , London, V&A Publications, 2004p.34, pl.46
  • Carboni, S., Mamluk Enamelled and Gilded Glass. Catalogue of the exhibition "Gilded and Glazed: Mamluk Glass and Iznik Pottery" held at the Sheraton Doha Hotel 2-13 March 2003; Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, 2003. Catalogue entry no.1 discusses identical motifs shared by the Doha enamelled bottle and the V&A's object.
Collection
Accession Number
C.153-1936

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record createdDecember 13, 1997
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