This bird-shaped vessel may have been used as a medieval water vessel (<em>aquamanile</em>) for pouring water used in handwashing—an important element of secular and sacred rituals. In this piece, water could have been placed in the vessel through a hole in the bird’s chest and then poured out through the hinged beak. Birds in Islamic art often represented messengers and protectors, or symbolized freedom of the spirit and soaring of the soul. Possibly the blue-green eyes were considered good luck charms to protect the owner from the evil eye and to ward off misfortune.

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  • Title: Bird-shaped Vessel
  • Date Created: 1100s
  • Physical Dimensions: Overall: 17.5 x 9.5 cm (6 7/8 x 3 3/4 in.)
  • Provenance: (Heeramaneck Galleries, New York, NY, sold to the Cleveland Museum of Art), The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
  • Type: Metalwork
  • Rights: CC0
  • External Link: https://clevelandart.org/art/1948.458
  • Medium: bronze, cast, with chased and chiseled decoration; eyes inlaid with blue glass
  • Inscriptions: Kufic inscription above tail feathers, undeciphered, possibly pseudo-inscription
  • Fun Fact: There is an undeciphered Kufic inscription above the bird's tail feathers.
  • Department: Islamic Art
  • Culture: Iran, Seljuq period (1037–1194)
  • Credit Line: Edward L. Whittemore Fund
  • Collection: Islamic Art
  • Accession Number: 1948.458

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