Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities (Medelhavsmuseet)
Hegira 5th century / AD 11th century
Earthenware; unglazed, incised.
Diameter 6.5 cm
The greyish earthenware fragment showing openwork at the centre was part of a jug with strainer. The slightly convex strainer was placed at the juncture of neck and shoulder of the vessel and was intended to protect the stored liquid from pollution and insects. Its design is inscribed in a circle and shows a quadruped passing to the left. The motif is set against a filigree background of rhombs. The major outlines of the animal, usually called a gazelle, are incised into the material. The remaining surface of the body is left plain. A striated zigzag line between two circles surrounds the quadruped.
Decorated strainers are known from excavations of sites dated to the AH 2nd–9th / AD 8th–15th century. Strainers of the Fatimid period, which was the high point of their development, show not only the most varied patterns, but also the most elaborated compositions and the finest execution. As well as gazelle-like quadrupeds, other zoomorphic motifs such as elephants, lions, hares, birds or fish are depicted on the strainers.
The strainers are only small fragments of vessels, but they call attention to themselves. One reason might be the unexpected combination of simple earthenware, mostly undecorated on the outside, with costly designs inside the neck of the jugs. Another might be that the potters created a highly aesthetic form for a simple utilitarian object. The complex patterns of the openwork carried out within small areas reveal the skills of the craftsmen.
Earthenware fragment which was integrated in a vessel as a strainer. The latticework displays a quadruped, possibly a gazelle, passing to the left. The strainer was placed at the juncture of neck and shoulder of the earthenware vessel to protect the stored liquid from insects and pollution.
A strainer also showing a gazelle was excavated at al-Fustat and dated according to numismatic evidence of undisturbed loci to the 5th / 11th century.
Purchased from the collection of the Swedish art dealer and art historian F. R. Martin in 1921.
Similar strainers were excavated at al-Fustat and their place of manufacture ascribed to the city. According to F. R. Martin, this strainer comes from excavations at al-Fustat.
Olmer, P., Catalogue Général du Musée Arabe du Caire: Les Filtres de Gargoulettes, Cairo, 1932.
Scanlon, G. T., Fustat Expedition Final Report. Vol. 1: Catalogue of Filters, Winona Lake, 1986.
Wittkowski, G., “Arabic Filters from the Collection of the Cracow Archaeological Museum”, Materialy Archeologiczne XXX, 1997, 41–55.
Friederike Voigt "Strainer" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;se;Mus01;50;en
Prepared by: Friederike VoigtFriederike Voigt
Friederike Voigt has an MA in Iranian studies, history of art and social science and is currently working on her doctoral thesis on wall tiles in architectural decoration of Qajar Iran. Since 2004 she has been a project-related curator at the Museum for Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm for Museum With No Frontiers. She studied at Humboldt University in Berlin, at the University of Tehran and archaeology at the University of Halle-Wittenberg. She taught Persian language at several universities in Germany. She was an assistant curator at the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Cultures at the Museum of Ethnology, State Museums of Berlin. Her main fields of interest are the material culture of Iran, especially of the Qajar period, and contemporary Iranian art.
Copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: SE 60