Qantara Qantara

Goblet with griffon decoration

  • Title/name : Goblet with griffon decoration
  • Production place : Venice, Italy
  • Date / period : End thirteenth - beginning fourteenth century
  • Materials and techniques : Colourless blown glass; enamel decoration
  • Dimensions : H. 11.3 cm; D. max: 9.5 cm
  • Conservation town : Frankfurt-am-Main
  • Conservation place : Museum für Angewandte Kunst
  • Inventory number : 6770
  • Inscription :

    « Ave Maria Gratia Plena »

This piece is associated to a suite of goblets in enamelled glass, sometimes gilded, produced in Venice between the end of the thirteenth and the middle of the fifteenth century and strongly inspired by Ayyubid and Mamluk productions. They are grouped under the denomination “Aldrevandrin goblets”, in reference to the Venetian archives mentioning painters on glass including a certain Aldrevandinus, “goblet maker”. His signature appears on a goblet preserved in the British Museum[1].

The discovery of many pieces of this group in Europe, mainly in the north of the continent, has led in the past to suggest that these objects were of Syrian production destined for a Frankish clientele, present on the Levantine coasts until the expulsion of the Crusaders from the Holy Land in 1291. The most recent research concludes that it was of Venetian production, strongly influenced by the Orient.

With a slender profile, the goblet, with a base that rests on a torus flares upwards. Its relative narrowness, compared to other pieces or the group which are much wider and squatter[2], leads to its association with oriental pieces[3]. The glass, slightly pink in colour, is painted with yellow, red, green, black and white enamel on the outside. The main register occupied by a griffon is framed by two decorative strips. The lower one, made up of a band of little white dots and a yellow line encircled in red, is repeated on the upper level, where it is enriched with a Christian inscription: “Hail Mary, full of grace”.

Technically, the goblet is very comparable to Islamic goblets. The importation of cullet and the raw materials necessary for glass production from the Orient[4] and the resemblance in chemical composition between Oriental and Venetian glass suggest that there were very close exchanges between the two cultural areas. The division of the decoration between two decorative strips, the upper one carrying an inscription, makes a clear reference to Islamic pieces[5]. The white dots are inherited from the decoration of Ayyubid glass from the first half of the thirteenth century, of which the so-called “Charlemagne” goblet[6] is a famous example. The application of these droplets of enamel lasted a considerable amount of time in Venetian decoration, for example on the cesendelli (hanging lamps)[7] of the sixteenth century. The Latin inscription perhaps indicates the use of the goblets in Christian ceremonies, a supposition which is backed up by the fact that several goblets of the same group were discovered in European churches[8]. The griffon, a hybrid half-lion half-eagle animal from the antique bestiary which is very often used in Islamic art, is reinterpreted here: eagles’ claws replace the leonine front paws. The inspiration is more European than oriental[9]. It is this iconography which prevailed in mediaeval Europe. As for the position of the animal, it recalls the dynamism of animal representations often adopted by Islamic art[10].

This object, like the other pieces in the Aldrevandin group of goblets, is emblematic of the movement of technical and artistic influences from the Orient to the Occident which occurred until the end of the thirteenth century in the field of glass arts, which Venetian craftsmen remain the masters of until today. These goblets sold throughout northern Europe reveal the pivotal role which the Republic of Venice occupied in the distribution of savoir-faire and artistic styles originating in the Orient.


[1] Goblet, enamelled and gilded glass, Italy, Venice, end thirteenth- beg fourteenth century, London, British Museum,  inv. MME 1876.11-04.0003.

[2] Like the goblet in enamelled glass decorated with a haloed figure under the arcades, Venice, end thirteenth–beginning fourteenth century, Switzerland, Domchatz Chur.

[3] Cf. the shape of the goblet with epigraphic decoration discovered in the Hama digs, second half of thirteenth century, Syria, Damascus Museum, inv.A.3886.

[4] Evidenced in Venice from 1280 by historical sources.

[5] Goblet with polo game scene decoration, Syria, mid. thiteenth century, Paris, musée du Louvre, Islamic Arts department, inv. OA 6131.

[6] Syria, 1st half of the thirteenth century, Chartres, musée des Beaux-Arts, inv. 5144.

[7] Hanging lamp, Venice, end fifteenth – beg sixteenth century, Murano, Museo Vetrario, inv. CI.VI, n°2.

[8] Cf. note no. 1.

[9] On this, see the griffons represented in mosaics of the pavement of the church Santa Maria e Donato de Murano (Italy), eleventh century.

[10] An Egyptian plate background from the eighth-ninth century preserved in the musée du Louvre in Paris (Islamic Arts department, inv. MAO 337) displays a griffon in a comparable position.


Venise et l’Orient, 828-1797, (exh. cat., Paris, Institut du monde arabe, 2006), Paris, 2006, Institut du monde arabe, Gallimard, p. 258 et 341.


Carboni, S., « Ogetti decorati a smalto di influsso islamico nella vetraria muranese : tecnica e forma », in Arte veneziana e arte islamica, Venise, 1986, p. 147-165.

L’étrange et le merveilleux en terres d’Islam, (exh. cat., Paris, musée du Louvre, 2000), Paris, 2000, RMN, p. 134-137.

L’Orient de Saladin, (exh. cat., Paris, Institut du monde arabe, 2001), Paris, 2001, Institut du monde arabe, Gallimard, p. 137-139, 189-193.

Transversal sheets
Western Europe
Western Europe
Animal patterns / bestiary
Animal patterns / bestiary
Shapes and patterns
Shapes and patterns