National Museum of Damascus
Hegira 3rd century / AD 9th century
Glass decorated with a coating of metallic lustre.
Height 5.8 cm, diameter 7.5 cm
A white, translucent glass tumbler that was found in Palace B, where an inscription was found on the wall plaster thus associating the palace with the Abbasid Caliph al-Mu'tasim Billah. The glass is decorated with five vertically arranged lines of Arabic inscription that read: “drink and be filled with delight” and “made in Damascus.” It is, therefore, likely that the piece was made in Damascus and then transported to the Raqqa region. The spaces in between the inscriptions are decorated with a floral design. The object's decorative arrangement is executed in an applied coating of brown metallic lustre. It is believed that this type of lustre coating was used on glass before the technique was adapted for use on ceramics.
Raqqa, a region that lies between the Euphrates and Balikh rivers, flourished during the Abbasid period. A group of Abbasid palaces, parts of which were excavated during the 1950s and labelled with the letters A, B, C and D, are found in the region.
The application of metallic lustre was first used on glass, as evidenced by this Damascene tumbler dating to the 'Abbasid period, before it was famously applied on pottery.
Caliph al-Mu’tasim Billah (r. AH 218–27 / AD 833–42)
The tumbler is believed to be contemporary to Palace B, which has been dated to the period of Caliph al-Mu'tasim Billah (r. 218–27 / 833–42).
The tumbler was found during archaeological excavations during the 1950s undertaken by the Syrian General Directorate of Antiquities under the direction of Nasib Salibi.
The inscription on the tumbler specifies that it was made in Damascus.
Abu al-Faraj al-Ush, M., A Concise Guide to the National Museum of Damascus,
Damascus, 1969, p.161.
Carboni, S., and Whitehouse, D., Glass of the Sultans, New York, 2001.
Cluzan, S. et al (eds), Syrie: Mémoire et Civilisation, Paris, 1994.
Daiber, V., and Becker, A., Raqqa III, Mainz, 2004, p.103; fig. 20,
plates 51d, 51e.
Soustiel, J., and Kiefer, C., La céramique islamique, Fribourg, 1985, p.420.
Mona al-Moadin "Glass tumbler" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;sy;Mus01;7;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 13
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Abbasids | Al-Raqqa: Caliph Harun al-Rashid’s Capital in Syria Arabic Calligraphy | Civilisation of the Word
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