Ancient Near / Middle East, Egypt or Syria, Mamluk Period, ca. end of 13th to early 14th century CE. One of my favorites! A gorgeously preserved example of a decorative enameled beaker, free blown and with a narrow body that flares outward to a wide mouth with a slightly thickened rim. Around the center is an enameled band of red and blue that is worn from age but appears to include Kufic script centered around two round bosses. Below that band are two dark red outline images of sharks, one quite well preserved and very clear. Size: 2.85" W x 5" H (7.2 cm x 12.7 cm)
From the Metropolitan Museum of Art's essay, "Enameled and Gilded Glass from Islamic Lands", the curators write: "Enameled and gilded glass developed in the twelfth century in the Syrian area and flourished during the final decades of Ayyubid power and the first of Mamluk domination in the thirteenth century. As Cairo became the capital of the empire in the fourteenth century, most enameled and gilded glass from that time may be attributed to Egyptian, rather than Syrian, workshops. The late fourteenth century saw a decline in production; by the early fifteenth century, dwindling patronage eventually caused workshops to close. By the late fifteenth century, the production of most enameled glass had shifted to Europe—to Venice, in particular."
See a nearly identical example sold at Christie's Paris on March 4-5, 2008, Lot 25 (EUR 264,250); another with a similar shark image is at the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia (EF-1357).
Provenance: ex-Boisgirard & Associates auction, France (December 2010, lot 202); ex-Christopher Sheppard collection, London, U.K., acquired in the 1980s
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Intact, with light deposits on the surface. Much of the enamel is still visible, especially one of the sharks. There is a clear pontil scar on the underside. A pontil scar or mark indicates that a vessel was free-blown, while the absence of such a mark suggests that the work was either mold-blown or that the mark was intentionally smoothed away or wore away over time.