With the spread of Islam under Mohammed, a new distinct style of glass developed on the Arabian Peninsula. This era from 600 to 1200 AD is known as the “Islamic glass,“ period. It was based on existing Roman Glass Art and coincided with the establishment of mediaeval forest glass foundries in Europe, and Venice developing into Europe’s leading glass production centre.
There are 18 exhibits in the collection of Islamic glass in Wertheim Museum of Glass. The oldest piece is a hanging lamp from the east Mediterranean area. It was made between the 6th and eighth century. Lamps or mosque lamps play a large role in the Islamic faith and are therefore strongly represented in our Islamic glass collection. Their importance can be traced back to verse 35 of the 24th Quranic Sura: Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light!”
The drinking glass from Nishapur in Iran displays a unique detail: on the bottom of this glass, which dates from the eighth to the10th century there is a stem with a wider base. Drinking glasses with a stem first appeared in Italy from the 13th century onwards so Wertheim Museum of Glass has one of the very first examples of glass stemware. The eight Egyptian glass weights that were placed on a balance beam and scales are also interesting.
The influence of Islamic art on the German culture became very obvious in Jugendstil, or Art Nouveau, when decoration was apportioned a more dominant role. The 1910 exhibition of Islamic art in Munich was legendary.