Historical Reference

Mamluk blue and white Armorial Albarello Damascus Syria Early 15th

Mamluk blue and white Armorial Albarello Damascus Syria Early 15th

Sale: L06220 | Location: London
Auction Dates: Session 1: Wed, 05 Apr 06 10:30 AM
LOT 108
15,000—20,000 GBP
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 96,000 GBP

measurements note
30.7cm. height 17cm. max. diam.
of slightly waisted cylindrical form with sloping shoulder and short waisted neck with everted rim, on a broad short foot, decorated in underglaze cobalt blue with some black outline under a transparent glaze, the body with a broad frieze with three shield cartouches enclosing the armorial device of the city of Florence reserved on a blue ground, each shield regularly spaced and separated by a floral scroll with a flying bird between double line borders with minor bands of meandering floral scroll above and below, the shoulder and lower body with a narrow band of classic scroll design, the neck with a further floral scroll including lotus blossoms and rosettes

This and the following lot are extremely rare examples of a type of Mamuk pottery produced in Damascus primarily for the European market. In this case the inclusion of an armorial shield that strongly resembles that of the Medici family and of the city of Florence suggests that these were part of a specific commission for an apothecary in the Tuscan capital. Only one other example of this kind is recorded, in the Musée des arts décoratifs in Paris (see Lane 1957, pl.15, and Soustiel 1985, p.233, no.266).

Waisted jars of this type, known in Italy as albarelli, were a specialised product of Syria in the Mamluk period and are believed to have been used to store and transport substances for medicinal and pharmaceutical purposes. Many found their way to Europe, especially after 1344, with the lifting of the papal embargo on trade with the Mamluk empire (see Ashtor, E., "Europäischer Handel in spätmittelalterlichen Palästina", in B. Kedar, ed., East-West Trade in the Medieval Mediterranean, London, 1986, pp.107-126).

There are references in French, Spanish and Italian inventories of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries to ceramic vessels de domas, a la domasquina (Lane 1957, p.17), da Domasco and alla damaschina (Spallanzani, M., and G. Bertela, Libro d'inventario dei beni di Lorenzo il Magnifico, Florence, 1992). There are even personal records of ownership: for instance, we know from the Medici archive in Florence that Piero di Cosimo de Medici owned three alberegli domaschini. It is tempting, though highly tenuous, to speculate that the present examples, which were discovered recently in Italy, may conceivably have numbered amongst them.

For a fuller discussion of Mamluk pottery, see Gibbs, E., "Mamluk Pottery", Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, 63, 1998-9.

Seen on www.Sothebys.com

ref. Guide to Mamluk Art and Iznik Tile and Plates the O'Connell Guide