Name of Object:



London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Victoria and Albert Museum

About Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Date of Object:

First half of the hegira 8th / AD 14th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Gilded and enamelled glass.


Height 44.5 cm, width 21.5 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Cairo or Damascus.


A large long-necked bottle with flared foot and neck-ring. Most of the surface is decorated with enamelling and gilding. The neck of the bottle has interlacing bands of blue enamelling which create compartments filled with floral decoration. Around the base of the neck are roundels featuring phoenixes in heraldic poses which alternate with striding griffins. The most prominent part of the decoration is the calligraphic inscription around the body. Written in tall blue script against a background of coiled white arabesques with highlights in red, green, and yellow, the text is a dedication to an unnamed ruler: 'Glory to our lord, the Sultan, the wise, the just, the religious warrior, the king'. The first part of this phrase is repeated above the bottle's neck-ring. The elaborate all-over decoration of this bottle recalls the heyday of glass production in Syria and Egypt in the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods. An object clearly intended for a secular purpose, it may have been used to serve drinks at court.

View Short Description

A large, long-necked glass bottle lavishly decorated with enamelling in several colours and gilding. The inscriptions, though prominent, are anonymous. The bottle was clearly made for a secular purpose and may have been used to serve wine and other drinks at court.

How date and origin were established:

The style of gilding and enamelling is typical of the glass industry in the late Ayyubid and early Mamluk periods. The figural decoration which characterises Mamluk art of the late 7th / 13th century, though, has here been reduced to a group of small roundels with phoenixes in heraldic poses. The calligraphic inscription to a (nameless) Sultan has taken over as the primary decorative motif, a focus on epigraphy which would soon characterise Mamluk art.

How Object was obtained:

Purchased by the Museum in 1900.

How provenance was established:

Cairo and Damascus were the two most important centres of art production under the Mamluks.

Selected bibliography:

Lamm, C. J., Mittelalterliche Gläser und Steinschnittarbeiten aus dem Nahen Osten, Berlin, 1930, p.404.

Stanley, T., with Rosser-Owen, M. and Vernoit, S., Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, 2004, p.34.

Watson, O., "Glass from the Islamic World", in Glass (ed. R. Liefkes), London, 1997, pp.30–31.

Citation of this web page:

Barry Wood "Bottle" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018.;ISL;uk;Mus02;15;en

Prepared by: Barry WoodBarry Wood

Barry Wood is Curator (Islamic Gallery Project) in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He studied history of art at Johns Hopkins University and history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard University, from where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at Harvard, Eastern Mediterranean University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has also worked at the Harvard University Art Museums and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He has published on topics ranging from Persian manuscripts to the history of exhibitions.

Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: UK2 15


 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period


On display in

MWNF Galleries

Calligraphy Glass

See also


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