29 January 2012

Small Fatimid Cup, a Modern interpretation: Material Culture 21: A&S 50 Challenge

Small Fatimid Cup, a Modern Interpretation
Painted beaker in the Fatimid style
A&S 50 Challenge, Material Culture 21
Sayyeda Samia al-Kaslaania
 Written January 29, 2012. Revised and Presented at Boar's Head 2012.
Edited September 2018

Obtaining a period-appropriate drinking cup is something that newcomers are encouraged to have fun seeking out. It’s not too difficult to find something “not modern” in which to conceal your favorite acid-green soda, but it’s nerdy fun to find something that matches what you see in period images or extant pieces!

Participants with Middle Eastern personas have several great sources to explore for re-creating drinkware. A beaker,visually similar to those carried by illustrations of Fatimid women, can be obtained from SCA artists like Ash and Griffin Pottery www.facebook.com/pages/Ash-and-Griffin-Pottery/ .

Fatimid or Ayyubid glass beaker at the British Museum. Source: [http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus01;9;en&cp]

The extant cup (bottom left), held by the National Museum of Damascus, item ع 16021, is dated to the 9th century as an Abbasid piece (the Fatimid period is 10th to 12th centuries). I was tickled by the two inscriptions reading “drink and be filled with delight” and “made in Damascus”.

The undecorated glass I selected  for making a period influenced re-creation was found at a local retailer. The shape is similar to other truncated cone-shaped glassware from the period, seen upper left. While researching techniques to decorate pottery, I learned about Pebeo Vitrea 160 Glass Paint and was able to purchase it from the art supply store Wet Paint as felt-tip pens and jars of paint. I found the pens to be difficult to work with, so changed to the jars of paint, applying it with brushes. Keeping cotton balls and cotton swabs handy with a bottle of rubbing alcohol for removing mistakes, applying the designs was not difficult. Once completed, the pieces are baked in a home oven to set the paint.

Being a member of the order of the Pyxis in the SCA Kingdom of Northshield, I used the Pyxis order motif. I copied the text on the extant cup, including “made in Damascus”. There are extant examples of textiles which bear inscriptions of “made in X,” however chemical and technical analysis indicates this is patently false (R.B. Serjeant, Islamic Textiles. Lebanon: Libraire du Liban, 1972, p. 46, fn.56.).

That inscription, like modern branding, is believed to have made the textile more valuable in period. I changed the orientation of the text to follow the rim, inspired by the bowl pictured below on the right. The colors were based on extant examples. Of painted glass, I have only found pieces that have browns and gold as colors. I don't yet know if this is a factor of age, firing, or choice. Update- In visiting with the proprietor of Historical Glassworks, I am excited to have learned that this coloring is silver after being fired.

"Bowl [Probably Egypt] (1974.74)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000 ndash;. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ho/07/nfe/ho_1974.74.htm (October 2006)

Emily Shovelton "Beaker" in Discover Islamic Art. Place: Museum With No Frontiers, 2010.  http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;uk;Mus01;9;en


  1. How lovely!
    Did it take long for the paint to dry? And once dry is it now safe for the dishwasher or do you wash it by hand with a gentle soap?

    1. Once it's dried for 24 hours, the directions say to bake in an oven for a few hours at a certain temp. That is supposed to make it dishwasher safe. http://en.pebeo.com/Creative-leisure/Decorate-surfaces/Vitrea-160

  2. A fellow enthusiast shared these links as well:



    Please feel free to post others!