Name of Object:



Cairo, Egypt

Holding Museum:

Museum of Islamic Art

 About Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo

Date of Object:

Hegira 709–41 / AD 1309–40

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Copper inlaid with silver.


Height 40 cm, diameter (of base) 15 cm; diameter (of mouth) 10 cm

Period / Dynasty:





A ewer made of copper and inlaid with silver. Decorated with ornamentation and inscriptions in naskhi script; the text reads: 'The honourable Excellency, Tabtaq. Glory to his triumph'. Blazons decorate the surface of the ewer, bearing depictions of a goblet, thereby alluding to the position of cupbearer. Adorning the upper section of the ewer's body is a decorative band featuring a series of prominent roundels inside each of which is depicted a pair of confronting birds. The mouth is decorated with vegetal motifs and is equipped with a two-hinge cover and a strainer, which sits inside the mouth. The spout of the ewer has three decorative bands: the middle one carries propagandistic inscriptions in the naskhi script, while the other two are adorned with diamond-shaped units filled with vegetal motifs. The name on the ewer dates back to Amir Tabtaq, one of the elite officers of al-Malik al-Ashraf Khalil, who ruled from AH 689–93 / AD 1290–4. Tabtaq was Governor of the City of Qus in Upper Egypt during the third reign of the Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun (r. A.H. 709–41 / AD 1309–40).
The crafting of ewers was an industry that flourished in Iran; it then transferred to Iraq and from there to Egypt, during the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods. The different forms of ewers and the roles that they played were manifold; they were used to pour water for bathing, for hand-washing, or for wudu (obligatory ablutions before prayer). However, ornamental ewers were used to decorate the palaces and houses of amirs and sultans.

View Short Description

The importance of this ewer stems from its fine decoration. It bears the name of Amir Tabtaq, a follower of Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad, and a cup blazon, the emblem of his post as cupbearer. Ewers came to Egypt and Iraq from Persia and took many shapes. They were used in palaces and houses for bathing, hand-washing and obligatory ablutions.

How date and origin were established:

The ewer is dated based on the name that it carries: Amir Tabtaq, who was one of the officers of al-Malik al-Ashraf Khalil, and the Governor of the City of Qus, during the third reign of the Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun (r. A.H. 709–41 / AD 1309–40).

How Object was obtained:

This piece was uncovered during the course of archaeological excavations in the City of Qus in Egypt in 1966.

How provenance was established:

The ewer was crafted in Egypt, specifically for Amir Tabtaq, a fact verified by the inscription. Furthermore it was uncovered during an archaeological excavation in the Egyptian City of Qus. Likewise, the technique of inlay used is typical of the style that flourished in Egypt during the Mamluk period.

Selected bibliography:

Abd al-Razzaq, A., “Al-Runuq ala 'asr Salateen al-Mamalik [Blazons in the Period of the Mamluk Sultans], Mijala al-Jam'iya al-Tarikhiya [Journal of the Historical Association], 21, Cairo, 1974.
Atil, E., Renaissance of Islam: Art of the Mamluks, Washington D.C., 1987.
______, et al, Islamic Metalwork in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 1985.
Musilhi, S., Adawat wawani al-Matbakh al-Ma'adaniya fi 'Asr al-Mamluki [Metal Implements and Tools of the Kitchen During the Mamluk Period], thesis, University of Cairo, 1983.
Stierlin, H., and Stierlin A., Splendours of the Islamic World: Mamluk Art in Cairo (1250–1517), London, New York, 1997.

Citation of this web page:

Muhammad Abbas Muhammad Selim "Ewer" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;eg;Mus01;14;en

Prepared by: Muhammad Abbas Muhammad Selim
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: ET 24