VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Tankard
Inv. no. 328
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

This jade jar is a masterpiece of Timurid decorative art and testifies to Ulugh Beg’s taste for exquisite objects made from precious materials. Both Mongols and Turkic people considered jade a noble stone with talismanic powers. This vessel is distinguished from the eleven or so other jade pieces executed for Ulugh Beg mainly by its dimensions as well as by its whitish colour, besides its accomplished execution.

History of the Object
This jar’s shape is similar to the Timurid metal prototypes but the dragon-shaped handle is of Chinese inspiration. The dragon is a recurrent motif in Timurid metalwork, jade, jewellery, and ceramics as well as the arts of the book. On the neck of the jar, the Arabic inscription in Thuluth Calligraphy includes the name and the tile of Ulugh Beg Kurgan besides the phrase “that the rule of the king and sultan be eternal”. Ulugh Beg an astronomer and patron of the arts governed Turkestan, Transoxiana and the capital at Samarkand from 1409 to 1449 but held the rank of sultan only from 1447 to 1449, so this inscription seems to be dedicated to the reigning sultan. The two other inscriptions were added later and belong to the Mughal emperors Jahangir and Shah Jahan. The first is carved in Taliq Script along the rim and is dated 1613. The name and titles of Sha Jahan appear below the handle and this inscription is dated 1646.

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Type
Other 
Materials
White jade (nephrite) 
Measurements
Diam. 16 cm 
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Iran; Eastern Iran (Samarqand) 
Geography
Iran 
Time period
AD 15th century ~ AD 15th century 
Creation date
15th Century; ca.1447-1449 
Function
Luxury, drinking vessel 
Acquisition
Acquired through Duveen at a Christie’s sale on 29th July 1927. 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation 
Museum
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum 
Credit line
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation/Calouste Gulbenkian Museum 

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