Published: April 26, 2011
A rare jade tankard inlaid with gold and studded with rubies and emeralds has been acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) and is now on display in the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art.
This rare tankard was originally made for an Ottoman sultan in the late Sixteenth Century, in the imperial capital of Istanbul. A limited number of these objects were produced and this is the first example to enter a British national collection.
The tankard was offered to the V&A partly through the Acceptance in Lieu scheme with additional funding, including major grants from the Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation).
The tankard is a spectacular example of how the Ottoman court borrowed forms from everyday life and turned them into luxury items. Its shape is based on the indigenous drinking vessels used for a variety of beverages, including boza, the fermented millet drink still popular in Anatolia and the Balkans. Instead of wood or leather, however, it is made from jade, which had to be imported at high cost, over a great distance from Central Asia.
This particular tankard has a distinctive swelling form, pot-bellied in front and flat at the back, which suggests it had a leather prototype. It is decorated with a gold wire inlay and gemstone settings, arranged in a pattern of floral sprays, with a vase motif on the front.
It was the custom to set objects of all kinds with rubies and other gemstones to mark them out as court objects. Around 1800, the tankard was further embellished with gold fittings in the rococo style, consisting of gem-set gold mounts around the foot, the rim and the lid and the distinctive curved handle.
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