Height: 11.000 cm
Diameter: 7.100 cm
ME OA 1879.5-22.68
Room 34: The Islamic world
Glass beaker with gold and red enamel
Mamluk dynasty, AD 1300-20
From Cairo, Egypt
Fish and eels
Glass vessels with enamelled and gilded decoration were among the most sought after products of Mamluk craftsmen. Many bear the official titles and blazon of the Sultan or one of his officers. Others were decorated in a less specific style and sold to wealthy Egyptians or exported across the world - to China, Europe, the Middle East, Arabia and other parts of Africa.
Delicate glass beakers such as this provided a luxurious alternative to heavy, thick-walled, pottery drinking vessels. Filled with red wine, they are held by sultans and courtiers in contemporary paintings, sometimes with a matching glass decanter placed nearby. Fish often feature in the decoration of these beakers as a pun on their function. Eels are rarer; they may have been intended to add a note of local realism as eels are plentiful in the Nile. The sight of fish and eels frolicking in red wine would have reminded the drinker of the aquatic life visible through the muddy waters of the Nile.
H. Tait, The golden age of Venetian gla, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1979)