Islamic Art :
Islamic Metalwork : Superb, Seljuk Ewer with Oil-Lamp Spout
Superb, Seljuk Ewer with Oil-Lamp Spout - JB.1027
Origin: Central Asia
9.4" (23.9cm) high
x 5.1" (13.0cm) wide
Medium: bronze and Silver
Additional Information: doubled
Location: Great Britain
| Photo Gallery
Cast bronze ewer with chased decoration over whole
and Kufic inscription to shoulder; elegant, pear-
shaped body standing upon tall, splayed foot with
six-tier rosette in negative relief to underside; spout
in the form of a capped oil-lamp with curving spout
and tall reflector flanked by volutes and topped by
pearl; undulated handle; decoration to body consists
of roundel with harpy – bird with human head –
before ground of interlacing vines, all contained
within interlacing geometric border; smaller,
roundel filled with bird on either side and beyond
that, a sprouting floral display; above, inscription,
terminates at either end in roundel filled with foliate
vine; below, interlacing, geometric motif encircling
ground line; interlacing vine to shoulders and lamp;
interlacing, geometric motif to handle, as seen on
This piece is a splendid example of Seljuk
metalwork. The Seljuks were a Turkic-Persian
dynasty that broke away from the Abbasid caliphate
and came to govern a vast area from Hindu Kush to
Anatolia, Central Asia to Persian gulf.
Under Seljuk helm considerable advancements were
made in metalwork. For example, the process of
inlay was developed. By 11th-12th centuries, a
recognisable Seljuk style, heavily influenced by both
Islamic and pre-Islamic cultures had emerged.
Rather than ignoring the traditions of the cultures
they encountered, the Seljuks incorporated them
within their own artistic vocabulary, enriching and
enhancing existing techniques and forms.
Through expansion and trade, the Seljuks – and
empire at large – came into contact with Late
Antique and Byzantine influences in the west and
Persian influence in the east.
The spout in the form of a lamp perpetrates a
Byzantine tradition for bronze oil lamps that
similarly bear tall reflectors. The interlacing,
geometric bands also mimic Byzantine motifs.
Persian influence is somewhat more overt here.
Harpies had been depicted in art for centuries by
the time artisans appropriated the motif from the
Sassanians who fell to the Arab states in ACE 651.
The use of roundels as a key element of the
decorative formula, especially when filled with
zoomorphic representations also recalls Persian
wares. As does, the sprouting floral display.
These motifs are combined with classic elements of
the Islamic canon. For example, the arabesque
registers. A long tradition for metalwork in Islamic
world is attested by the high volume of extant
material. Metal objects were highly coveted and
commanded a great deal of respect.
While Farsi and a Turkic language were spoken by
the Seljuks, the Arabic inscription points to a desire
to emulate the Arab states.
A veritable tour de force demonstrating not only the
level of mastery reached by Seljuk artisans during
Medieval period but the spread of new influences
across the empire.