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A green ceramic cup with a small, circular handle and carved floral details along its side. The cup’s walls come inward like waves. There is wear throughout the piece to show tan clay.

A green ceramic cup shown standing on a grey background with its handle facing the right. The cup has a small, circular handle near the top lip. The body has carved floral details along its side. The cup’s walls come inward like waves. It has a small foot with little bumps on the bottom. There is wear throughout the piece to show tan clay.

Gallery Text

Following the Prophet Muhammad’s example, the Islamic polity, or caliphate, was ruled by a political and religious leader titled the caliph, or “successor” to the Prophet. Muslims eventually developed a monarchic system for controlling the succession of caliphs. The four centuries of the early Islamic era witnessed the establishment—and unraveling—of the universal caliphates of the Umayyad (661–750) and Abbasid (750–1258) dynasties.

The range of the objects in this case illustrates the Islamic empire’s rapid expansion and the assimilation of peoples and artistic practices. A hot-worked glass vessel and a green-glazed pottery cup demonstrate continuity with late Roman traditions, while the figural imagery and inscriptions on tenth-century polychrome pottery vessels from eastern Iran underscore the continued vitality of pre-Islamic cultural traditions there. The creation of coinage bearing only inscriptions at the turn of the seventh century signals the unprecedented stature that Arabic calligraphy acquired, as the script itself became a symbol of the faith. Arabic inscriptions decorating ceramics produced in Central Asia proclaim the owner’s literacy and Muslim identity.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Lobed Cup with Handle
Work Type
8th century
Creation Place: Middle East, Iraq or Iran
Umayyad period
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2550, Art from Islamic Lands, The Middle East and North Africa
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Physical Descriptions

Earthenware, molded under monochrome lead glaze
H. 7.9 x W. 17.5 cm (3 1/8 x 6 7/8 in.)
without thumb rest: Diam. 14 cm (5 1/2 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
John J. Herrmann Jr. and Annewies van den Hoek, (by 1979), gift; to Harvard University Art Museums, 2007.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of John J. Herrmann, Jr. and Annewies van den Hoek in memory of Richard Ettinghausen
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Early Islamic period, probably Iraq or Iran. The lobes of the cup bear well-defined palmettes and foliate scrolls, and are outlined with beaded borders.
Label text from exhibition “Re-View,” an overview of objects drawn from the collections of Harvard Art Museums, 26 April 2008 – 1 July 2013; label text written by Mary McWilliams, Norma Jean Calderwood Curator of Islamic and Later Indian Art, Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art:

Lobed Cup with Handle
Probably Iraq, Umayyad dynasty, 8th century
Earthenware with molded relief and monochrome glaze
Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of John J. Herrmann, Jr. and Annewies van den Hoek in memory of Richard Ettinghausen, 2007.264

With relief decoration under a lead-fluxed green glaze, this cup continues a very long-lived and wide¬spread Roman tradition of fine ceramics. Wares of this type have been excavated from early Islamic sites in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. The finely delineated palmettes and beaded borders recall Sasanian decorative motifs, suggesting an origin for this cup in the eastern lands of the early Islamic realm.

Publication History

  • Harvard Art Museum, Harvard Art Museum Annual Report, ed. Thomas W. Lentz (Cambridge, 2007-2008), p. 50

Exhibition History

  • Re-View: Arts of India & the Islamic Lands, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/26/2008 - 06/01/2013
  • 32Q: 2550 Islamic, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at