Name of Object:



London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

The British Museum

About The British Museum, London

Date of Object:

Hegira 5th–6th / AD 11th–12th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Mould-blown, stained glass.


Height 8.5 cm, diameter 10.9 cm

Period / Dynasty:





An intact aquamarine-coloured glass bowl with a short flared neck, stained with dark-brown silver that resembles lustre painting. Blown in a mould with 15 vertical ribs, the glass is thick with numerous small bubbles. The decoration consists of vertical lines radiating from the base and a frieze of curling motifs just below the neck, between two horizontal bands. A further band runs around the rim of the bowl. When viewed from below the ribs and rays create a solar design, suggesting that this object may have been used as a lamp, suspended from the neck. The radial pattern recalls earlier glassware, whereas the curling motif is a common type of decoration on stained-glass from this period. Glassmakers in Egypt were particularly prolific during the Fatimid period, using skills inherited from the glass workshops of the Roman period.

View Short Description

This bowl is remarkable: despite being made of finely moulded glass some 900 yeas ago, it remains completely intact. Lustre-painted glass was one of the many luxury objects that were prized during the Fatimid era.

How date and origin were established:

Restrained designs painted with stains are usually attributed to the Fatimid period.

How Object was obtained:

Purchased by the Museum in 1902.

How provenance was established:

The technique and decoration resemble other Fatimid glassware produced in Egypt. Furthermore, the bowl was found in Atfih in Egypt.

Selected bibliography:

Carboni, S., and Whitehouse, D., Glass of the Sultans, New Haven and London, 2001, cat. no. 109, pp.220–1.

Harden, D. B., and others, The British Museum: masterpieces of glass, a selection, London, 1968, p.112, no. 150.

Lamm, C. J., Mittelalterliche Gläser und Steinschnittarbeiten aus dem Nahen Osten, 2 vols. Forschungen zur islamischen Kunst, 5, Berlin, 1929–30, plate 37:9.

Citation of this web page:

Emily Shovelton "Bowl" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018.;ISL;uk;Mus01;3;en

Prepared by: Emily ShoveltonEmily Shovelton

Emily Shovelton is a historian of Islamic art. She studied history of art at Edinburgh University before completing an MA in Islamic and Indian art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Since graduating she has worked on a number of projects at the British Museum. Other recent work includes editing and writing for a digital database of architectural photographs at the British Library. She is currently working on a Ph.D. on “Sultanate Painting in 15th-century India and its relationship to Persian, Mamluk and Indian Painting”, to be completed at SOAS in 2006. A paper on Sultanate painting given at the Conference of European Association of South Asian Archaeologists, held in the British Museum in July 2005, is due to be published next year.

Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: UK1 05


 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period


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The Fatimids | The Decorative Arts

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