Name of Object:



Cairo, Egypt

Holding Museum:

Museum of Islamic Art

About Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo

Date of Object:

Hegira 2nd century / AD 8th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Engraved bronze.


Height 41 cm, diameter 28 cm

Period / Dynasty:



The ewer is distinguished for its fine workmanship, elegant form, harmonious proportions and its beautiful decoration. It is characterised by a low circular base, a globular shaped body, a cylindrical neck, a handle and a spout. The body of the ewer is covered by engraved high-relief decoration consisting of a series of continuous arches in the form of crescents. Enclosed in the arches are decorative rosettes and depictions of birds and other animals. As for the neck, its upper section is fashioned in open work, while the remainder is decorated with incised designs of roundels and tiny connected floral motifs. The handle in turn emerges from the body in an almost-straight form, and then coils itself from above, curving inwards towards the neck to adhere to it. It finally ends with a decorative design in the form of an acanthus leaf. The spout of the ewer takes the form of a large cock in full cry with its wings spread out in a palpable movement, derived from classical Roman styles. Likewise, the craftsman was inspired – for the greater part of the ornamentation of this ewer – by the styles and decorations of Byzantine and Sassanid art. This ewer was used to pour water for bathing, to wash the hands, or for wudu','en');" style="text-decoration: underline;">wudu (obligatory ablutions before prayer).

View Short Description

This ewer, which displays a combination of Sassanid and Islamic art, is of high artistic and archaeological importance. Makers of metal objects in the early Islamic period followed in the steps of their colleagues of the Sassanid period in Iran, where this craft had reached its peak.

How date and origin were established:

The ewer is dated based on an analysis of its decorative styles which are influenced by Byzantine and Sassanid decorative forms. This is a style that is distinctive to objects made during the Umayyad period.

How Object was obtained:

The Department of Egyptian Antiquities donated this piece when it was brought to light among the remains of a grave dated to the beginning of the Islamic era, in the district of Abu Seer al-Malak in Fayyum. The burial site was said to be that of Marwan II ibn Muhammad, the last of the Umayyad caliphs (r. 127–32 / 744–9), who it was said fled to Egypt as a fugitive from the Abbasids and was then killed and buried at this site.

Selected bibliography:

Al-Pasha, H., et al, al-Qāhira, Tarikhuha, Fūnunuha, Āthāruha [Cairo: Its History, Arts and Monuments], Cairo, 1970.
Ettinghausen, R. and Grabar, O., The Art and Architecture of Islam 650–1250, New Haven and London, 1987.
Hassan, Z. M., Al-fan al-Islami fi masr [Islamic Art in Egypt], Cairo, 1935.
Hillenbrand, R., Islamic Art and Architecture, London, 1999.
King, G. R. D., “The Architectural Motif as Ornament in IslamicArt, the Merwan II Ewer and Three Wooden Panels in the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo”, Islamic Archaeological Studies, Vol. 2, 1982.
Marzuq, Muhammad Abd al-Aziz, Al-funun al-zukhrufiya al-Islamiya fi masr qabla 'Asr al-Fatimiyyin [The Islamic Decorative Arts Before the Fatimid Period], Cairo, 1974.
Sarre, F., “Die Bronzekanne des Kalifen Marwan II, im Arabischen Museum im Kairo”, Ars Islamica, Vol. 1, 1934.

Citation of this web page:

Al-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa Hammad "Ewer" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2024.;ISL;eg;Mus01;20;en

Prepared by: Al-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa HammadAl-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa Hammad

He holds a BA in Islamic Antiquities from the Faculty of Art, Cairo University and an MA in the same field from Assiut University. He has been working at the Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo, since 1974 and attended a training course at Vienna Museum in 1977. He has supervised sections of glass and manuscripts and, currently, coins. At the Museum he has participated in preparing exhibitions at home and abroad and has been a member of several inventory committees. From 1988 to 1999 he worked as a lecturer at Om al-Qura University, Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and registered and organised the display of the acquisitions of the Civilisation Museum at the Shari'a and Islamic Studies Faculty at the University.

Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez

Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.

True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.

MWNF Working Number: ET 34


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