Name of Object:

Storage jar


London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Victoria and Albert Museum

About Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Date of Object:

Hegira 8th / AD 14th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Glazed and painted ceramic.


Height 37 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Egypt or Syria.


A large ceramic storage jar decorated with blue and black underglaze painting. The jar is decorated all over with pseudo-calligraphic motifs of various sizes, including narrow bands around the shoulder and just above the base. The most prominent 'inscription' occupies the greater part of the jar; it consists mainly of dramatic verticals punctuated at nearly regular intervals with the letter waw. In this inscription, unlike the smaller ones above and below it, the letters have been left in relief to stand out against the dark-blue and black background, in which the spaces between the verticals are filled with scrolling vegetal ornament. The neck of the jar features a frieze of bird-silhouettes rendered in blue, with simple arabesque-like designs painted over them in black. Bold calligraphic inscriptions are a hallmark of Mamluk art, and examples like this jar show how that aesthetic made itself felt even in humble wares used for storage.

View Short Description

A large ceramic storage jar, decorated in blue and black on a white ground. The decoration consists largely of pseudo-calligraphic inscriptions. This is a good example of how the Mamluk aesthetic extended even to humble wares used for storage.

How date and origin were established:

Comparison with similar wares from the Mamluk period.

How Object was obtained:

Purchased by the Museum in 1864.

How provenance was established:

Egypt and Syria were both Mamluk domains.

Selected bibliography:

Ayers, J., Oriental Art in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1983, p.114.

Stanley, T., with Rosser-Owen, M. and Vernoit, S., Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, 2004, pp.34–35.

Citation of this web page:

Barry Wood "Storage jar" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018.;ISL;uk;Mus02;17;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 18


 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period


On display in

Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)

The Mamluks | Everyday life in the Mamluk Sultanate

MWNF Galleries


See also


As PDF (including images) As Word (text only)