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 4th century / AD 10th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Glass with cut high-relief decoration.


Height 8 cm, diameter: 12 cm

Period / Dynasty:





Half a glass vessel with a brim that slightly widens outwards. It is decorated on the outside by a layer of blue glass mounted onto a base layer of uncoloured glass. Decorations are cut into the upper layer of glass creating in high-relief the outlines of two confronting animals. Above them is a band of epigraphic decoration in kufic script, which reads: 'delight to its owner'.The bodies of the animals are ornamented with tiny circles cut into the uncoloured lower layer of the vessel itself. This method of production and decoration on a vessel with two layers of glass is considered to have a special value, for it is an extremely rare example of a style that was not prolific either in the arts of the Middle East or during the Middle Ages.

View Short Description

This is one half of a vessel formed of two layers of glass, an extremely rare example of a style of glass decoration little known in the Orient.

How date and origin were established:

The fragment is dated based on its decorative style, known to be prevalent during this period, and also by comparison with other contemporary pieces of carved rock-crystal. Furthermore Egypt acquired considerable fame for the production of this type of glass during the Fatimid period. There are also pieces extant that closely resemble this piece, some of which are still preserved in the Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo (registered nos. 3885 and 5/7023).

How Object was obtained:

This glass fragment was bought in 1955 from a dealer of antiquities, Bentazi.

How provenance was established:

This style of cut high-relief decoration reached the height of its development in Egypt during the Fatimid period when glassmakers resorted to producing decorative thick-glass vessels in an attempt to imitate contemporary rock-crystal pieces, which were extremely costly.

Selected bibliography:

Al-Pasha, H., et al, Al-Qāhira, tārikhuha, fūnunuha, Āthāruha [Cairo, Its History, Arts and Monuments], Cairo, 1970.
Carboni, S., Glass from Islamic Lands, New York, 2000.
Hassan, Z. M., Funun al-Islamiya [Islamic Arts], Cairo, 1948.
Marzuq, Muhammad Abd al-Aziz, Al-Funun al-Zukhrufiya al-Islamiya fi Masr qabl 'Asr al-Fatimiyyin [Islamic Decorative Arts Before the Fatimid Period], Cairo, 1974.
Wiet, G., Catalogue général du Musée arabe du Caire, Cairo, 1929.

Citation of this web page:

Al-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa Hammad "Fragment of a glass vessel" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018.;ISL;eg;Mus01;40;en

Prepared by: Al-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa HammadAl-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa Hammad

He holds a BA in Islamic Antiquities from the Faculty of Art, Cairo University and an MA in the same field from Assiut University. He has been working at the Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo, since 1974 and attended a training course at Vienna Museum in 1977. He has supervised sections of glass and manuscripts and, currently, coins. At the Museum he has participated in preparing exhibitions at home and abroad and has been a member of several inventory committees. From 1988 to 1999 he worked as a lecturer at Om al-Qura University, Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and registered and organised the display of the acquisitions of the Civilisation Museum at the Shari'a and Islamic Studies Faculty at the University.

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

MWNF Working Number: ET 72


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Islamic Dynasties / Period


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