Name of Object:

Fragment of a glass vessel


Cairo, Egypt

Holding Museum:

Museum of Islamic Art

About Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo

Date of Object:

Hegira 5th century / AH 11th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Glass decorated with metallic lustre.


Diameter 11.5 cm

Period / Dynasty:





Part of the base of a transparent glass vessel decorated with brown metallic lustre. Its ornamentation consists of the depiction of a mountain-goat or deer with two long horns. The animal is seen running towards the right, and carrying in its mouth a branch that ends in a heart-shaped leaf; branches similar to that being carried by the animal adorn the background. The depiction reveals details of the torso and the shanks of the animal in a naturalistic style.
Glass decorated with metallic lustre is considered to have been an innovation known in Egypt since the AH 2nd / AD 8th century which flourished during the Fatimid period, where paintings of animals, birds and plants were produced on glass, in the same style as those used on ceramics with metallic lustre. At the Benaki Museum in Athens, there are pieces of glass, which carry the signature of 'Sa'ad', a Fatimid ceramist who was famous during the latter half of the AH 5th / AD 11th century and the beginning of the AH 6th / AD 12th century. Fatimid ceramists had, therefore, transferred styles of decoration in metallic lustre on ceramics to glass.
In addition to decorating glass with metallic lustre, Egypt was known for other kinds of decoration on glass such as ornamentation with thin glass filaments, which were added and then pressed around the vessel; cut-glass decorations in high relief; stamped decoration and a method of glass-appliqué in high relief. Thick glass, which closely resembles rock-crystal, was also popular and was decorated by cutting the design into the glass in deep recesses.

View Short Description

A piece from the base of a transparent glass vessel decorated in metallic lustre, a new technique that became known in Egypt at the beginning of the Islamic era in imitation of lustre ceramics and which flourished under the Fatimids.

How date and origin were established:

This piece was dated by comparison of its decorative style with that used in the decoration of ceramics with metallic lustre during the Fatimid period.

How Object was obtained:

The glass fragment was bought by the Museum from an antiquities dealer, Tano, in 1940.

How provenance was established:

An Egyptian provenance is certain as metallic-lustre glass is known to have flourished in Egypt during the Fatimid period.

Selected bibliography:

Bierman, I. A., Writing Signs: The Fatimid Public Text, Berkeley, CA, 1998.
Contadini, A., Fatimid Art in the Victoria and Albert Museum, Coventry, 1998.
Carboni, S., and Whitehouse, D., Glass of the Sultans, New York, 2001.
Carboni, Stefanos, Glass from Islamic Lands, New York, 2001.
___________,. Trèsors Fatimides du Caire, exhibition catalogue, Institut du monde Arab, Paris, 1998.
Grabar, O., “Imperial and Urban Art in Islam: The Subject Matter of Fatimid Art”, in Colloque International sur l'Histoire du Caire, 1969, Cairo, 1972, pp.173–89.
Grübe, E., Cobalt and Lustre: The First Centuries of Islamic Pottery, London, 1994.
Hassan, Z. M. Kunuz al-Fatimiyyin [Treasures of the Fatimids], Beirut, 1981.
Romberg, H., The Fatimid Treasury: Function and Content, unpublished MPhil thesis, Oxford University, 1985.
Sanders, P., Ritual, Politics and the City in Fatimid Cairo, New York, 1984.

Citation of this web page:

Muhammad Abbas Muhammad Selim "Fragment of a glass vessel" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018.;ISL;eg;Mus01;23;en

Prepared by: Muhammad Abbas Muhammad SelimMuhammad Abbas Muhammad Selim

He graduated from the Faculty of Archaeology, Cairo University in 1974 and received an MA on Abbasid Tiraz textiles from the same university in 1995. He has worked at the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo since 1975. He attended a textile conservation course in Vienna while studying different collections at Austrian museums for five months. He co-authored the first catalogue of the Abegg Foundation in Bern in 1995, the catalogue of the Islamic Art Museum in Cairo and the forthcoming catalogue of the Egyptian Textile Museum. He lectured on Fatimid Art in Switzerland in 1997 and at the Ismaili Centre for Islamic Studies in London in 2003. He has classified and studied the Islamic collection at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London, and is currently preparing to publish its catalogues.

Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: ET 40


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