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The Aga Khan Museum: Metalwork - Abbasid, 9th century CE  Place your mouse over the image
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Object name
Ewer With Inscriptions

Iran or Mesopotamia

Abbasid, 9th century CE


Materials and technique
Brass, engraved and punched

Height 32.8 cm

Accession number


The earliest datable metalwork from the Islamic world consists of ewers made in a variety of shapes, sometimes including spouts and sometimes without. The present example has an ovoid body, a narrow, raised foot, a narrow and short tubular spout, a wide shoulder decorated with scrolling palmettes, and a round, trumpet-shaped mouth, the latter framed almost entirely by two bodiless eagle or falcon heads. The birds’ heads appear to grow out of the join between the ewer’s mouth and a long, serpentine handle. The tail of the handle ends at the top of the bottle in a palmette-shaped thumb-rest similar to extant examples datable to the eighth–ninth century and attributed to Iraq or Iran (for examples, see Atıl, Chase, and Jett 1985, p. 14, fig. 4 and p. 63, fig. 23). An inscription invoking blessings upon the owner appears in kufic script just below the shoulder and above a pair of ten-petalled rosette medallions engraved on opposite sides of the lower body. Several metal ewers from the early Islamic period reveal shapes and decorative programmes used in the pre-Islamic Iranian world. The ones with pear-shaped bodies, no spouts, and handles ending in a palmette motif are considered to be the earliest metal wares and are believed to have been produced in Khurasan and Transoxiana in the eastern Iranian world, including modern Afghanistan and Uzbekistan (ibid., pp. 62-63). Their shapes and designs, which sometimes display engraved, carved, or repoussé real and mythical animals, reflect a close relationship to the artistic idiom seen in Sasanian metalwork, which even includes representations of single-handed pear-shaped ewers in some silver gilt plates (ibid., p. 63, figs. 23-24). This ewer, which contains a somewhat varied shape with a more angular mouth, may have been produced in the Greater Iranian world or Mesopotamia at a slightly later period.

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32 pieces found