This beautifully intricate and elegant piece of
glass pertains to the Islamic period, and was
made on the Levantine Coast of the Middle East.
Glass has a long and varied history in this region,
where it was originally moulded and sculpted
before the development of glass-blowing in the
first century BC. This technique gave
freedom to create new and varied forms, and
glassmaking practices were
subsequently refined by Alexandrian, Syrian,
Byzantine and Sassanian craftsmen before they
were inherited by
artists of the Islamic period. However, the
Islamic period was also one of innovation, with
the development of advanced glass cutting,
moulding, decorating, gilding, painting and
dyeing processes that went on to define
technological and stylistic parameters in the
Renaissance following the Crusades, and indeed
many subsequent glassmaking traditions.
This piece is probably an unguent pot, and would
certainly have contained something of
considerable value, intended for a prestigious
audience. It is free-blown, with a rounded,
thick-walled body and a flaring conical mouth.
The ground is amber in colour, with opaque
white and red marvered threads wound spirally
and tooled into a widely-spaced festoon pattern.
The threading pattern – while not necessarily
unique – is characteristic of stylistic traditions in
Syria, rather than the Abbasid tradition of glass
engraving, or the Mesopotamian linear intaglio
and relief cutting methods. The threads are
polychrome, with a careful ordering of
contrasting hues that lift the composition and
lend a fluidly elegant yet geometrically pleasing
effect. This is an attractive and well-executed
example of the ancient glass blowers’ skill,
which deserves a prominent place in any serious
collection of Islamic glass.
- (SP.110 (LSO))