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HOME : Islamic Art : AS UAE : Glass Medallion with Lute Player and Inscription
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Glass Medallion with Lute Player and Inscription - AMD.73
Origin: Central Asia
Circa: 1100 AD to 1200 AD
Dimensions: 3.4" (8.6cm) wide
Collection: Islamic
Medium: Glass
Condition: Restored

Additional Information: AS

Location: UAE
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Glass medallions of this type were first discovered during excavations at the Ghaznavid palace in Old Termez in the 1930s. This site in Uzbekistan, near the border of Afghanistan, yielded about twenty examples with various subjects and colours. Since they were discovered with alabaster gratings it is assumed that they were used as window decorations. Since the 1930s about seventy complete and fragmentary examples have come to light from across Central Asia. The majority are in Kuwait in the Al-Sabah Collection and the Tariq Rajab Museum. The Islamic collection in Berlin also has a noteworthy sample. None of the medallions exceed c. 10 cm in diameter and they are nearly all slightly irregular in shape. The importance of this type of object lies partly in the presence of inscriptions, in this case in the 'naskh' script which mention rulers and amirs and help to date their production to the twelfth century.

The design on the medallion is impressed in relief. It depicts a lute player and is thus an image of royal entertainment. The motif is borrowed and adapted from Sassanian iconography. The player is viewed frontally with his legs crossed and dressed in a long robe with the folds defined. The body of the lute is unusual, shaped to resemble a petalled flower. The strings are clearly visible and the long neck bends at a sharp angle where the player holds it in his right hand. The figure appears to be bare- headed with his facial features well-defined, especially the eyebrows which meet with the line of the nose. The figure and inscription are separated by a raised circular band, which also runs around the outer edge of the piece. The medallion, like all those so far discovered, is plain on the reverse.

Other examples of this medallion exist and the inscription has been translated as: 'The Pillar of State and Religion, the Amir in Chief, Champion of the World [Jahan Pahlavan] 'Umar ibn al- Husein Nusra.' This amir has been identified with Shams al-Din Muhammad Pahlavan, a Ghurid atabeg (governor) who lived in the second half of the twelfth century.

Although this medallion has been restored, all the component pieces are present. The surface has been weathered but the details still stand out strongly. As an object of immense historical significance and artistic merit it will appeal to any serious collector of Islamic glass. (AM)

References: 'Glass From Islamic Lands: The Al- Sabah Collection,' (2001) pp. 272-278 and 'Glass of the Sultans' (2001), pp. 133-136. - (AMD.73)


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