Glass vessel possibly for chemistry
National Museum of Damascus
Around hegira 3rd–4th century / AD 9th–10th century
Height 22.2 cm, width (of belly) 9.6 cm
Raqqa region, Syria.
A plain, utilitarian glass vessel without ornamentation. Its unusual shape indicates specialised use, probably in a field such as chemistry. It has an oval-shaped body with a narrow and long pipe coming out of its side and curving upward almost perpendicularly. The pipe grows gradually wider near the tip and its outward-splayed lip is shaped like a little funnel. This vessel is made of thin, white, translucent glass. It is free from decoration, probably so that the progress of chemical reactions taking place within it could be observed.
The Abbasid period witnessed a cultural and scientific renaissance and archaeologists have discovered many glass finds intended for practical uses.
Skilled craftsmanship was required not just for luxury wares but for more utilitarian objects as well. This undecorated but highly sophisticated glass vessel was probably used for experiments in chemistry.
Glass production flourished in many Islamic centres in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Egypt, and throughout several eras. Similarly, shaped glass fragments have been attributed to the early 'Abbasid period. Numerous utilitarian, Abbasid-era glass objects have been found in the Raqqa region during archaeological excavations of the 'Abbasid palace complexes under the direction of Nasib Salibi during the 1950s and Michael Meinecke during the 1990s. It is possible that this vessel was produced in the early Abbasid period.
Purchased in 1919.
Numerous finds of glass in archaeological excavations at Raqqa, together with knowledge that the area was a glass-making centre, make it possible that the object was manufactured in Raqqa, a large urban city complex that flourished under the Abbasids.
Abu al-Faraj al-Ush, M., A Concise Guide to the National Museum of Damascus, Damascus, 1969, p.250.
Carboni, S., and Whitehouse, D., Glass of the Sultans, New York, 2001.
Mona al-Moadin "Glass vessel possibly for chemistry" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;sy;Mus01;15;en
Prepared by: Mona Al-Moadin
Translation by: Hilary Kalmbach (from the Arabic)
Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez
Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.
True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.
MWNF Working Number: SY 21
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Abbasids | Managing Prosperity
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