Name of Object:
Also known as:
The Blacas Ewer
London, England, United Kingdom
The British Museum
Date of Object:
Hegira 629 / AD 1232
Artist(s) / Craftsperson(s):
Shuja’ ibn Mana al-Mawsili.
Museum Inventory Number:
Material(s) / Technique(s):
Brass engraved and inlaid with silver and copper.
Height 30.4 cm, width 22 cm, depth 21.5 cm
Period / Dynasty:
Atabeg / Ayyubid
A ewer with missing foot and spout, inlaid with silver and copper. The delicate inlay decoration covering the body and neck is exceptionally fine. A remarkable range of figurative scenes of contemporary court life is depicted in a series of medallions. The medallions are surrounded by a geometric pattern alternating with bands of inscriptions and figures. Men have covered heads and wear tunics with straight sleeves. Their costumes reflect the Turkish origin of the Zangid dynasty. The princes have ornamental tiraz bands around the sleeves of their robes. Soldiers have swords with straight blades and round buckles. Two noble women are depicted: one is shown looking in a mirror accompanied by an attendant; another is riding on a camel in a camel litter with a servant. A lute-player has the bottom of her face veiled. Other medallions depict a hunting scene with a man shooting an arrow at his prey; another hunter with a cheetah on the back of his horse; musicians, dancers and drinking revellers. There is even a scene from the Persian epic poem the Shahnama representing Bahram Gur shooting an arrow while Azadeh plays the harp on the back of his horse. Given the outstanding quality of the decoration and the scenes of courtly life the ewer was probably intended for use at court. The patron may have been Badr al-Din Lu'lu', who ruled Mosul (AH 629–59 / AD 1232–59), or a member of his court. A number of objects inscribed with his name reveal that he commissioned a number of metalwork objects. Although the technique of inlaid metalwork originated in Iran, new shapes were introduced in Mosul often inspired by Byzantine forms. Ibn Said, a Spanish Muslim, travelled all over Syria, Mesopotamia and Iraq in AH 648 / AD 1250. In his book, Geography, he mentions inlaid brass vessels made in Mosul that were exported and presented to various rulers. Therefore, Mosul metalwork with its glittering inlay had clearly gained sufficient status to compete with gold and silver.
View Short Description
The craftsman of this exceptional ewer has signed his work stating he is from Mosul. Made from brass inlaid with silver, it is covered with figures performing many different activities that include playing music, drinking and hunting.
How date and origin were established:
The ewer is inscribed with the date 629 (1232).
How Object was obtained:
The ewer is named after the Duc de Blacas whose collection was acquired by the British Museum in 1866.
How provenance was established:
An inscription describes the craftsman as 'Shuja ibn Mana al-Mawsili' (Shuja, son of Mana of Mosul). Therefore he was from Mosul where there was an active metalwork industry in the early 7th century / 13th century.
L'Orient de Saladin au temps des Ayyoubides; exhibition catalogue, Paris, 2001, cat. no. 122, p.146.
Citation of this web page:
Emily Shovelton "Ewer" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus01;12;en
Prepared by: Emily Shovelton