Flask thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery

Flask

1200-1400 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This large flask with a damaged lip was reportedly found in a well in Aleppo in Syria. The Arabic inscription gives wishes for the health and well-being of the drinker.

The porous body of unglazed earthenware allowed water to evaporate through the sides, keeping the contents cool. This practical advantage meant that unglazed water vessels like this were common throughout the Middle East in both the pre-Islamic and Islamic periods. Most examples were plain. Some, like this one, were moulded with patterns and inscriptions. Here the circular decoration echoes the shape of the body of the flask.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Unglazed earthenware, moulded in relief
Brief Description
Moulded earthenware water flask, Syria (perhaps Aleppo), 1200-1400.
Physical Description
Water jug of unglazed buff-coloured earthenware, moulded in relief and decorated on each side with Arabic inscription in Naskh. Circular body with two flat sides, short neck and two loop handles. Each side is moulded with three concentric bands surrounding a rosette; the innermost contains the inscription, and the others are filled in with lattice work enclosing disks.
Dimensions
  • Height: 26cm
  • Width: 19cm
  • Depth: 11.5cm
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
(Arabic; Naskh; sides of vessel; moulded)
Gallery Label
Jameel Gallery 15 Water Flask Syria, perhaps Aleppo, 1200-1400 Moulded earthenware Museum no. 761-1902(Jameel Gallery)
Object history
Said to have been found in a well at Aleppo.
Historical context
This vessel is of a type of which there are other examples in earthenware but also in glass and metalwork and probably deriving from a leather prototype. The flask is unglazed to allow the water which it would have contained to evaporate slowly through the porous body, thus keeping the water cool. Such containers were used by pilgrims and formed part of essential military gear and were used on long treks through arid areas. Many of those used by the military contain the the owner's blazon, and the rosette decoration on either side of this flask is frequently associated with the house of Sultan Qalawun, though it may simply be decorative. The inscription is typical of those found on Mamluk objects in wishing good health on its owner. The mention of the maker, Al-'Afif, however, is unusual and also appears on four fragmentary flasks found in Hama, Syria and one intact flask in the British Museum.
Production
Said to have been found in a well at Aleppo.
Subject depicted
Summary
This large flask with a damaged lip was reportedly found in a well in Aleppo in Syria. The Arabic inscription gives wishes for the health and well-being of the drinker.



The porous body of unglazed earthenware allowed water to evaporate through the sides, keeping the contents cool. This practical advantage meant that unglazed water vessels like this were common throughout the Middle East in both the pre-Islamic and Islamic periods. Most examples were plain. Some, like this one, were moulded with patterns and inscriptions. Here the circular decoration echoes the shape of the body of the flask.
Bibliographic References
  • Atil, Esin. Renaissance of Islam. Art of the Mamluks. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C., 1981, compare nos. 96,97.
  • Lane, Arthur. Early Islamic Pottery. London: Faber and Faber, 1947. 52p., ill. Page 28, plate 37A
Collection
Accession Number
761-1902

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record createdJuly 21, 2003
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