Name of Object:

Pilgrim bottle


London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

The British Museum

About The British Museum, London

Date of Object:

Hegira third quarter 7th century / AD third quarter 13th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Enamelled and gilded glass.


Height 23 cm, length 23 cm, width 16.2 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Egypt or Syria.


A free-blown, globular-shaped glass vessel with enamel decoration. One of the wider sides and the lower half of both narrower sides are flattened. The colours of the enamel are wide-ranging: red, white, blue, pale-green, yellow, pink, mauve, and greyish black. Two applied handles sit on either side of the cylindrical neck. An eleven-pointed rosette within an eight-lobed flower containing vegetal scrolls decorates the flattened side. Decorating the curved side is a four-sided lobed motif, with a geometric shape filled-in with arabesques and surrounded by scrolls, terminating in human, animal, or bird heads. On the left of the curved side is a horseman in the act of killing an animal with a spear, he has a beard and a halo around his head and wears a conical hat with ribbons. Below this figure is a medallion with a female harp player, wearing a veil and a long tunic. On the other narrow side is a horseman under a tree killing a lion with a javelin; birds are flying overhead. He has a halo and wears a long coat and boots. In the circular medallion below him is a man sitting cross-legged, with a beaker in one hand, drinking. His tunic has decorative tiraz bands on the sleeves.
The two horsemen recall those found in Christian iconography, whereas the figures in the medallions are typical of figures depicted in Islamic art. The mixture of motifs suggests the patron was either a Muslim who was familiar with Christian imagery or a Christian who appreciated the work of Muslim craftsmen. The shape of this vessel recalls leather flasks or unglazed ceramic pilgrim bottles, rather than other glass and metal objects. Although made of glass, this flask may have been carried on journeys or pilgrimages in a leather container. It was certainly a luxury object, perhaps made specifically as a gift.

View Short Description

This enamelled glass pilgrim bottle is an interesting example of the crossover of Christian and Islamic cultures. Two of the figures decorating the vessel derive from Christian iconography of St George and the dragon, whereas the musician and drinker are found in Islamic art.

How date and origin were established:

The decoration resembles late Ayyubid and early Mamluk compositions.

How Object was obtained:

Bequeathed to the British Museum by Felix Slade in 1869.

How provenance was established:

The technique and decoration are close to other glass objects produced in the Mamluk domains of Egypt and Syria.

Selected bibliography:

Carboni, S., and Whitehouse, D., Glass of the Sultans, New York, 2001, p.247–9, cat. no. 123.
Harden, D., Painter, K., Pinder-Wilson, R., and Tait, H., Masterpieces of Glass, London, 1968, p.114–5, cat. no. 153.
Pinder-Wilson, R., "The Islamic Lands and China", in Five Thousand Years of Glass (ed. H. Tait), 1991, p.134, cat. no. 170.
Rogers, J. M., "European Inventories as a Source for the Distribution of Mamluk Enamelled Glass", in Gilded and Enamelled Glass from the Middle East, (ed. R. Ward), 1998, pp.69–73.

Citation of this web page:

Emily Shovelton "Pilgrim bottle" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2022.;ISL;uk;Mus01;22;en

Prepared by: Emily ShoveltonEmily Shovelton

Emily Shovelton is a historian of Islamic art. She studied history of art at Edinburgh University before completing an MA in Islamic and Indian art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Since graduating she has worked on a number of projects at the British Museum. Other recent work includes editing and writing for a digital database of architectural photographs at the British Library. She is currently working on a Ph.D. on “Sultanate Painting in 15th-century India and its relationship to Persian, Mamluk and Indian Painting”, to be completed at SOAS in 2006. A paper on Sultanate painting given at the Conference of European Association of South Asian Archaeologists, held in the British Museum in July 2005, is due to be published next year.

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: UK1 26


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Islamic Dynasties / Period


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