The Syria of today offers tourists as much a cultural experience as a sightseeing one, where ancient history provides a fascinating backdrop to everyday life on the streets                          

 


ISLAMIC ARAB GLASS

A historical glance of development of glass making :

The art of glass making flourished in Syria before Islam.

Its chief centers were Sidon , Tyre and Antioch. The industry continued to develop during the Islamic-Arab periods where other important centers arose at Ar-Raqqah . Aleppo and Damascus . The industry then maintained the conventional methods :

  1. Glassblowing , i.e. the method known in Syria since the Roman Period.
  2. Ornamentation of glass with thin or thick glass threads and sometimes with cords forming animal motifs.
  3. Ornamentauon of glass with discs and additional protuberances.
  4. Revival of the old technique used before the discovery of blowing ( glass decorated with threads sunk inside the glass). The technique is summed up as follows: The glassworker prepares a mould from wet sand pressed on a certain form. An adhesive substance may be poured on it to secure its cohesion. The mould is then dipped in the fused glass by means of a rod fixed at its tip. Sometimes the fused glass is poured on the mould until a layer of glass covers it and in that manner the vessel is formed . The vessel is decorated with a thread of soft glass to be wound round it before putting it back into the furnace. when the vessel is taken out of the furnace, the thread is drawn by a tongs to create the festoons. After that the vessel is reheated and rolled on a solid object so that the festoon should penetrate the body of the vessel.
  5. Blowing of glass in mould ornamented with motifs in relief.
  6. Incision of the vessel surface to create various motifs.
  7. Filling the surface of the thick or crystalline vessel to create motifs by means of cutting go get uneven surfaces. This method is usually executed on crystal and is considered the most important industry of glass. Egypt was famous of this industry during the Fatimid Period. The pieces of this variety are considered the most important Islamic masterpiece.
  8. Ornamentation of glass with decorations having golden luster : This industry started in the Abbasid Age. The glass-worker prepared a coat formed of the silver oxide with which he decorated the glass vessels. Ar-Raqqah and Fustat were famous of this particular industry which was not known in Damascus. However I have deciphered these words on a cup found at ar-Raqqah " Made in Damascus ". I have pointed out this point in my commentary on the glass of ar-Raqqah.
  9. Gilding of glass : by mixing the powder of gold with mercury. The vessel is coated with this mixture and put in a furnace. The mercury is burnt and the gold remains fast. This method was not known before Islam: The Byzantines used to apply a layer of gold to the glass. This art was current in the Abbasid Age : Al-Washha mentions that " Aliyyah, daughter of al-Mahdi " used to write verses in gold on the cups. If this is true, it means that gilding existed in the second century of al-Hijra. In fact we have not recognized any gilded piece of this Age. There is only one of the 5th C.A.H. = 11 A.D. which we will refer to duly.
  10. Overlaying of glass with gold and enamel : Opaque glass substance mixed with lead, to be crushed well and mixed with the oxides of colored metals, and is being melted a little in water. The decorations are overlaid with it before being put in the furnace .

It is noteworthy that the art of enameling on glass is the most important achievement of the Arabs and Muslims in the 6th century A.H. = 12 A.D. The archaeologists have been able to distinguish three centers for the art of enameling : The oldest of which is ar-Raqqah, the second is Aleppo and the third is Damascus. Three types of glass are attributed to the above noted centers : ar-Raqqah type (6 - 7 A.H.). The first type of Aleppo (6 - 7 A.H.). Both dates correspond with. the Ayyubid Period. The second type of Aleppo (7 - 8 A.H. ) and the type of Damascus ( 7 - 9 A.H.). Both dates correspond with the Mamluk Period.

Mosque lamp overlayed with enamel and gold
7-8 century A.H. = 13-14 A.D.
Found at Hems

 
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