Abbasid Engraved Glass Bottle - Lot No. 0463

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Abbasid Engraved Glass Bottle

Antiquities - Islamic

LOT 0463

GBP (£) 40,000 - 60,000
EUR (€) 44,830 - 67,250
USD ($) 51,110 - 76,670

Opening Bid: £22,500 (EUR 25,219; USD 28,752)
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9th century AD

An aubergine-coloured glass pear-shaped Mesopotamian bottle, blown and scratch-engraved; a globular body curving down to a low splayed foot and gently tapering to the neck and flared to the mouth; inscribed decoration to the body comprising seven horizontal bands; from the bottom: a ground line supporting a row of vertical scales with rounded edges; a band framed with borders two ribbons twisted into a cable on a hatched background; a large band framed by borders with five horizontal oval motifs separated by small fishes on a hatched background, each oval enclosing a branch with circular leaves; a series of upright and inverted triangles, each with a pointed leaf with three dots on a hatched background; a band of two ribbons twisted into a cable on a hatched background; and a series of triangles filled with transverse hatching. 240 grams, 24cm (9 1/2").

Very fine condition; tiny hole repaired by Richard Rooney.

Property of Dr. Mones, a medical professional, Florida, USA; formerly in an early 1980s private collection; acquired jointly with glass specialist Christopher Shepherd of Sheppard & Cooper in 1992; subsequently in the late 1990s sent to the Corning Museum of Glass for appraisal with a view to purchase by the then director David Whitehouse, the vase stayed with the Corning until David's death in 2013, and was returned to Dr. Mones in 2014 by the new director Dr. Karol Wight. Accompanied by Art Loss Register certificate number S00123379.

Cf. Carboni, S and Whitehouse, D. Glass of the Sultans: Twelve Centuries of Islamic Masterworks, New York, 2001, item 72: a fragmentary glass bottle from The al-Sabah Collection, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait National Museum, LNS 375 G.

Scratch-engraving was a prominent decorative technique typical of the early Abbasid period around the 8th to 10th centuries AD. The technique, achieved by scratching onto the glass surface with a pointed tool, can be found on Roman and Sasanian glass, but was revived by early Islamic glass-makers. Innovations were made in style, design and the use of coloured glass, making the scratched decoration more visible. From surviving vessels and fragments, a recognisable decorative style is evident, with surfaces compartmentalised into vertical or horizontal elements separated by borders to create continuous geometric patterns. Twisted ribbons, triangles, circles, ovals, leaves, flowers and birds are all common elements, filled in with emphatic use of hatching.

Whilst most scratch-engraved vessels seem to be dated to the 9th century, their place of production is less certain. It is likely that there were several centres of production in areas such as Syro-Palestine, Mesopotamia, Iran and even Egypt. Whilst production may have been limited to these part of the world, distribution was certainly not. Scratch-engraved glass has been found in Mali, Kenya and, most notably, in Shanxi Province in China, where six dishes were found buried in the 9th century crypt of the Famen temple. This find provides evidence for the dynamic trade along the Silk Route and the recognition of Islamic glass far from its home. A blue glass vessel in The al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait, dated to the same period, displays a similar shape and scratch-engraved pattern to this bottle, suggesting a shared tradition.

Tuesday 4th September 2018 to Monday 10th September 2018: Ancient Art, Antiquities & Coins

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Auction Catalogue

Auction Venue:
Stratton Street
Mayfair London, W1J 8LT

Viewing from noon Monday 3rd Sept. 2018
Champagne Reception: 6pm - 9pm

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10am : Lots 1 - 651

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Harwich, CO12 4DN

Auctions start 10am BST (Lunch 1.30 - 2pm)
Wednesday 5th Sept. 2018 (Day 2)
Lots 700 - 1361
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Lots 1362 - 2023
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Lots 2642 - 3239
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Lots 3240 - 3552
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