Understand Syria's role in Roman history, £25.00
Height: 23.000 cm
Width: 21.300 cm
Bequeathed by Felix Slade
ME OA 1869.1-20.3
Room 34: The Islamic world
From Syria, AD 1330-50
Decorated with horsemen, musicians, animated scrolls and arabesques
The shape of this bottle, flat on one side and rounded on the other, recalls leather flasks or unglazed ceramic bottles, rather than other glass and metal objects. Although made of glass, it may have been carried on journeys or pilgrimages in a leather container.
It was certainly a luxury object, perhaps made specifically as a gift.
The colours of the enamel decoration include red, white, blue, pale-green, yellow, pink, mauve, and greyish black. An 11-pointed rosette within an eight-lobed flower containing vegetal scrolls decorates the flattened side.
On the curved side, there is a four-sided lobed motif with a geometric shape filled-in with arabesques and surrounded by scrolls, terminating in human, animal, or bird heads. On the left of the curved side there is a horseman in the act of killing an animal with a spear. He has a beard and a halo around his head and wears a conical hat with ribbons. Below this figure there is a medallion with a female harp player, wearing a veil and a long tunic.
On the other narrow side a horseman under a tree is shown killing a lion with a spear. He has a halo and wears a long coat and boots. In a circular medallion below him a man is sitting cross-legged, with a beaker in one hand, drinking. His tunic has decorative tiraz bands on the sleeves.
The two horsemen recall those found in Christian iconography, whereas the figures in the medallions are typical of figures depicted in Islamic art.
The mixture of motifs suggests the patron was either a Muslim who was familiar with Christian imagery or a Christian who appreciated the work of Muslim craftsmen.
R. Ward (ed.), Gilded and enamelled glass fro (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)