Name of Object:



London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

Victoria and Albert Museum

About Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Date of Object:

About hegira 390–415 / AD 1000–1025

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Painted glazed ceramic.


Height 31.9 cm, diameter 24.4 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Probably Cairo, Egypt.


A virtually undamaged jar with a swelling body and a narrow neck with an everted rim. Except for the foot-ring the whole jar is glazed and decorated with lustre painting. The lustre decoration begins about a third of the way up from the foot and is divided into horizontal bands. The bottom band features interlaced ribbons painted in reserve; above them, a wider band has heart-shaped palmettes. At the top is a band which displays five fish, their scales and other details scratched through the lustre to appear in white. The neck is decorated with a band of triangles and dots. The jar’s decoration is reminiscent of Coptic art: fish are a traditionally Christian motif, and motifs using repeated fish (and birds) are found in early Coptic textiles.

View Short Description

A large vase with extensive decoration in lustre, including a band of prominent fish around the shoulder. The presence of the fish may indicate that the vase was made for use in the Coptic Christian community, as early Coptic textiles feature similar repetitions of fish-motifs.

How date and origin were established:

A very similar jar (although with no figural decoration) was found in Fustat in 1966 and was dated to the first quarter of the 11th century.

How Object was obtained:

In 1910 the art collector Dikran Garabed Kelekian placed his collection of Islamic ceramics on loan to the V&A. Fifteen of the finest pieces, including this jar, were purchased by the Museum (with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund) after Kelekian’s death.

How provenance was established:

The object was found at Fustat (old Cairo).

Selected bibliography:

Contadini, A., Fatimid Art at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1998, pp.86–7.

Soustiel, J., La céramique islamique, Fribourg, 1985, p.133, no. 147.

Citation of this web page:

Barry Wood "Jar" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018.;ISL;uk;Mus02;2;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 02


 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period


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