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Gallery Text

As central control weakened in the Abbasid Empire, regional dynasties arose to support, challenge, or redefine the authority of the caliph in Baghdad. The arts flourished in many centers, and wealthy merchant and professional classes emerged. A dramatic increase in productivity and innovation and an unprecedented expansion of figural decoration characterize the arts of this period.

A transforming event was the influx of Turkic and Mongol peoples from Central and Inner Asia. Most of the objects in this case were created in lands ruled by the most important of the Turkic dynasties, the Great Seljuks (1038–1157), and their immediate successors, the Atabegs. The Mongol invasions into Islamic lands began in the early 1200s and culminated in the 1258 sack of Baghdad. Eventually, the Mongols established their rule as the Yuan dynasty in China, the Chagatay Khanate in Central Asia, the Golden Horde Khanate in southern Russia, and the Ilkhanid dynasty (1256–1335) in greater Iran. The integration of a vast Eurasian territory into the Mongol Empire facilitated commerce and communication, bringing fresh Chinese inspiration into Islamic art.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Animal head pitcher
Work Type
11th-12th century
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran
Seljuk-Atabeg period
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2550, Art from Islamic Lands, The Middle East and North Africa
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Fritware with molded decoration under monochrome blue glaze
H: 25 x Diam: 16.2 cm (9 13/16 x 6 3/8 in.)
Ann B. Goodman and Arthur B. Pardee, Cambridge, MA, (by 2003), gift; to Harvard University Art Museums, 2003.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Ann B. Goodman and Arthur B. Pardee
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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This ewer features a squat, high-hipped body, atop a hollow foot ring. The neck tapers to a spout in the shape of an animal head. The head is crowned by horns that curve into circles. A small handle curves from the back of the animal head to a second and simpler spout, that presumably made it easier to fill the ewer and pour from it. Surface decoration is both carved (incised lines on the horns) and molded (segment lines and arabesques on the body). Small scrolling lines within the segments echo the shape of the horns. Except for the foot ring, the ewer is covered in translucent cobalt-blue glaze.
Publication History

Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums Annual Report 2003-2004 (Cambridge, MA, 2005), p. 23

Jessica Chloros, "An Investigation of Cobalt Pigment on Islamic Ceramics at the Harvard Art Museums" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, 2008), Unpublished, pp. 1-41 passim

Exhibition History

Overlapping Realms: Arts of the Islamic World and India, 900-1900, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 12/02/2006 - 03/23/2008

32Q: 2550 Islamic, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 04/19/2018; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 04/17/2019 - 01/01/2050

Animal-Shaped Vessels from the Ancient World: Feasting with Gods, Heroes, and Kings, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/07/2018 - 01/06/2019

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at