Bird-shaped Vessel

Bird-shaped Vessel


Iran, Seljuq period


Bronze, cast, with chased and chiseled decoration; eyes inlaid with blue glass

Overall: 17.5 x 9.5 cm (6 7/8 x 3 3/4 in.)

Weight: 780 g (1.72 lbs.)

Edward L. Whittemore Fund 1948.458



Art of the Islamic World (Islamic art rotation)


This bird-shaped vessel may have been used as a medieval water vessel (aquamanile) for pouring water used in handwashing—an important element of secular and sacred rituals. In this piece, water could have been placed in the vessel through a hole in the bird’s chest and then poured out through the hinged beak. Birds in Islamic art often represented messengers and protectors, or symbolized freedom of the spirit and soaring of the soul. Possibly the blue-green eyes were considered good luck charms to protect the owner from the evil eye and to ward off misfortune.

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