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Top Section of a Water Jug

Arts of the Islamic World

This remarkable object is the top half of a habb, or water jug. The unglazed ceramic body allowed for the cooling of water stored inside; for this reason, habbs have been used in Mesopotamia since pre-Islamic times. Surviving early examples vary in their degree of decoration. This habb is elaborately embellished, with a depiction of a ruler seated on a carpet and flanked by armed attendants and harpies (mythical birds possessing the head of a woman) with tails that terminate in dragon heads. A background of scrolling vines inhabited by birds is pierced into the vessel’s body. Overall, such figural decoration is typical of the courtly imagery popular in the eastern Islamic world during the medieval period, as is evident from both architectural decoration and manuscript painting of the time.
MEDIUM Ceramic; earthenware, pierced decoration
  • Possible place made: Iraq
  • Possible place made: Syria
DATES late 12th-early 13th century
DYNASTY Possibly Seljuq
PERIOD Seljuq Period (possibly)
DIMENSIONS 11 1/2 x 13 1/2 in. (29.2 x 34.3 cm)  (show scale)
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CREDIT LINE Gift of The Roebling Society
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CAPTION Top Section of a Water Jug, late 12th-early 13th century. Ceramic; earthenware, pierced decoration, 11 1/2 x 13 1/2 in. (29.2 x 34.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of The Roebling Society, 73.30.6. Creative Commons-BY
IMAGE overall, CUR.73.30.6_view2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2008
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Top of a large water cistern or cooler of porous clay. It has an elaborate molded and incised ornament of human and animal figures in vegetative motifs in ogival panels, which constitute a decorative screen for an air space 1 1/4" thick. Center motif is of a seated figure on a throne with a cup, a symbol of office in his left hand, perhaps in the manner of a Seljuk sultan. He is dressed in a long embroidered robe, riding boots and a conical fur brimmed hat from which 2 pigtails dangle. Surrounding the seated figure is an open-work intertwined arabesque ornament. Surmounting this are two confronting birds with heads turned towards their tails. Flanking the seated figure to right and left are standing guards dressed in early 13th century Seljuk fashion, one of whom carries a sword. The standing figure on the right is faceless and probably was also carrying a sword, but it is absent. Next to the guards are crowned, winged sphinxes with tails terminating in a dragon head. The handle emerges from a straight piece is jagged with several missing sections.
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