A fragmentary ruby lustre glass Dish Fatimid or Abbasid
Lot 45
A very rare Abbasid fragmentary ruby lustre glass Dish Iraq, 8th/9th Century
Sold for £34,850 (US$ 59,202) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
A very rare Abbasid fragmentary ruby lustre glass Dish
Iraq, 8th/9th Century
restored from a series of fragments which make up over three quarters of the dish, heavily irridesced, the design which is visible comprising a series of small circles in red enclosing dots within a larger roundel surrounded by swags on a deep orange ground, the swags of the repeating pattern are visible
33 cm. diam. max

Footnotes

  • This is an extremely rare dish in both its form and its decoration. A group of cobalt blue engraved dishes of the same shape and of comparable size are in the Khalili Collection, London and the Al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait dated by Kroger to the 8th-9th century and to Syria. The shape of both ours and the Khalili example is a shallow dish with thick walls and a prominant bulge at the centre, the latter caused by the pontil rod. The outside rim is thick, and fashioned according to Kroger by cutting off and folding the glass (Goldstein, S. ed. Glass, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, London, 2005, no. 168). Another of these large dishes was sold at Sotheby's, Arts of the Islamic World, 13 October 2004, lot 32.

    Lustre first appears in the Islamic period in any quantity on glass and tiles excavated from the Samarra palace complex in Iraq from the 9th century. Lustre made during this period was intended for courts and courtiers and seldom appeared in any other setting. Lustred glass was likely used for serving wine and small delicacies. The red colour present in this dish would have required a more intense reduction than the silver-based colours.

    The design of our dish is related to designs on lustre-painted pottery of the Abbasid period. The use of the swag band is present on many bowls of this period and the peacock-eye is perhaps the most well known decorative element of Abbasid pottery. A pottery bowl in the Al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait (see O. Watson, Ceramics from Islamic Lands, London 2004, Cat. E3) decorated in a red lustre contains what must be a similar design to ours in its original state. As Watson points out, the copper-rich red and ruby lustres on pottery were very difficult to control and were largely abandoned in the 9th century and one may assume the same for glass as there are very few comparable examples.

    The closest parallel for our bowl in lustre-painted glass is a jug attributed to Iraq and the 9th-10th century in the Corning Museum of Glass (illustrated in Carboni, Glass of the Sultans, New York 2001, no. 106, inv. 79.1.33). The decoration includes vegetal patterns drawn in a dark red stain, likely composed of a copper-enriched material, applied over a yellow-orange or "pumpkin" colour, very similar in colour and design to ours. Richard Ettinghausen speculates that artists from Basra trained in the technique of lustre painting on glass and pottery may have moved from the 'Abbasid capital of Samarra to Egypt in the Tulunid period, assigning this red-and-orange stained glass to Iraq rather than to Egypt.
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