VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Beaker
Inv. no. 2378
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

This beaker is the most important Mamluk glass vessel from the Gulbenkian Collection not only for its exquisite and unique decoration in enamelled glass but also for being the largest known beaker. Its iconography includes a mixture of Chinese and Near Eastern elements. At the top a mythological phoenix with brilliant plumage and a vulture fly above the other birds. A small red cloud of Chinese shape symbolizes the sky. The other freely-drawn birds, a hawk attacking a duck, parrots, hoopoes, magpies and flying insects are indigenous to the Middle East. Mamluk glass not only reflected the extraordinary internationalism of the time but had also a great reputation abroad. It was held in high esteem in Europe and the Far East as this beaker acquired in China bears witness.

History of the Object
This beaker is decorated with mythical and natural birds flying over a blue stream with rolling waves in blue and green.The birds painted in the opposite side of the vessel can be seen through the glass creating the effect of a flock of spectacular birds soaring through the air. The composition suggests an imposed or implied hierarchy of birds, with the Chinese phoenix and vulture represented at a larger scale and in a superior position to the other birds. One possible interpretation is that the assembly of birds reflects a royal menagerie. In fact exotic birds and animals were often kept in palaces for the amusement of rulers and their courts.

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Type
Decorative Art 
Materials
Gilded and enamelled glass 
Measurements
Diam. base: 15cmDiam. rim: 20cm 
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Syria; (?) 
Geography
Syria 
Time period
AD 14th century ~ AD 14th century 
Creation date
14th Century; first half 
Function
Ceremonial function or an object of prestige and display. 
Acquisition
Formerly in the collection of George Eumorfopoulus, who acquired it from China in or just before 1918. Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian through Giraud-Badin at the Eumorfopoulus Sale, held at Sotheby’s in 5th or 6th June, 1940. 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation 
Museum
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum 
Credit line
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation/Calouste Gulbenkian Museum 

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