The Corning Ewer
Listen as former curator David Whitehouse describes the Corning Ewer, an outstanding example of Islamic relief-cut cameo glass. A layer of transparent light green glass was applied to a layer of colorless glass. Most of the outer layer was then cut away, leaving the decoration in relief. Although the Romans made cameo glass, scholars believe that this technique did not continue into the Islamic period. It was probably rediscovered in Western Asia or Egypt in the ninth century. The decoration of the Corning Ewer shows two opposed horned animals with crossed forelegs, each of which has a bird of prey perched on its rump and pecking at the back of its neck. At the edges of the panel are two parrot-like birds standing on foliage. What makes this design of unparalleled elegance and subtlety even more distinctive, is that it was accomplished on walls of eggshell thinness.