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HOME : Islamic Art : AS Collection 4 : Small Glass Jar
Small Glass Jar - LO.902
Origin: Syria, Palestine
Circa: 7th th Century AD to 8th th Century AD
Dimensions: 2" (5.1cm) high x 1.7" (4.3cm) wide
Collection: Islamic Art
Medium: Glass

Additional Information: AS
Location: Great Britain
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Although the development from the pre-Islamic period to the middle of the ninth century is very recognizable in architecture, including works in stone, plaster and wood, it becomes quite blurred on other media such as metalwork and pottery. Between the 5th and the 8th century glass production seems unchanged, although the surviving objects would still point to an industry that persisted and thrived, almost careless of the political and religious turmoils of the Ummayad era, including the death of the prophet Muhammad. Perhaps, the diffusion of glass- blowing and the consequent paucity of high quality glass after the crumbling of the Roman Empire might have hampered the rulers' sponsorship of glassmaking, yet during this period glass became more accessible for mundane use and thus, by loosing its status value, less attractive to affluent patrons.

Late Roman glass made along the coasts of modern Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt that is usually classified as 'eastern Mediterranean” thus kept on being produced during the early Islamic period. Its features include the decoration with applied trails that could be pulled either from the same glass batch or from a different one. Applied trails were also used functionally as handles and feet; commonly the thread was patterned in zigzags or simple spirals. When trails of the same colour were used, they were manipulated with a pointed tool or a fine pincher after they were applied to the vessel. While weathering due to burial often prevents a full appreciation of the chromatic as well as the sculptural appeal of a glass vessel many have survived in excellent conditions and still convey a playful charm.

Plastic decoration also included patches of glass of different shapes applied at regular intervals to the surface of the vessel. Globular bottles and vases, small flasks and ewers were the favoured shapes during the Islamic period. The decorative patches took either regular circular forms (discs, roundels, ovals, prunts) or irregular geometrical shapes (triangles, six-pointed star, composite figures) that have sometimes been interpreted as animal hides or masks. The majority of such vessels were decorated with patches of the same colour since the shape and distribution on the surface would be sufficient to emphasize the ornamental pattern.

This small translucent aubergine glass bottle features a large flared neck pulled from the almost spherical body. A ring was applied at the base to form the foot. The body is decorated with two applied coiled discs, a type of decoration consistent to small globular bottles with a relatively large mouth like the one featured here. Globular bottles such as this one, which never exceeded a height of 10 cm, are more common than cylindrical flasks. The absence of a handle would suggest its use as a sprinkler or a container for pharmaceutical products.

Such decorated vessels were once dated exclusively to the pre-Islamic period. However, a dating to the proto-islamic period (7th -8th century) seems more appropriate, since these objects do not have an immediate parallel with known late Roman pieces. On the other hand they were certainly produced before the codification of shapes and decorative patterns that occurred in the 9th century.

For comparable bottles see S. Carboni, Glass from Islamic Lands, 2001: pp.26-27, pls. 5a-5b. . LO. 902: Small jar, free-blown brownish-green glass with applied discs. The globular body has a short widely opening neck and rests on an attached ring. The body is decorated with four applied discs in relief. Syria or Palestine, 7th – 8th century. Ht. 5.1cm; Top diam. 3cm; Base diam. 2.3cm Comparative material: similar bottle, but without trailed decoration is illustrated by Israeli,, p.336 and another in Carboni- Whitehouse, no.34, p.115. The relief flat discs or facets reveal relationship to Sasanian glass, dating between the 4th and 7th centuries. Cf. Fukai, op.cit., nos. 11- 13. Prof. Geza Fehervari Prof. Geoffrey King - (LO.902)


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