Tuesday, January 3, 2012


In the mid 17th century, this flask was made for a Mughal and 
decorated with a motif including emerald boteh.

A Dec. 27 Wall Street Journal story headlined "The Year's Best Arts Adventure" told me a few things I hadn't considered. There are 1,200 objects on view at the New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia that opened in November at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And that these galleries have a collection of 12,000 objects to show us over time, enough to be a museum all its own.

Approaching the museum recently, I was entranced by a huge poster photo on one of its advertising kiosks. There was this giant Mughal flask covered with rich dots of rubies and enamels, traceries of gold and yes, the most perfect emeralds carved into boteh or teardrop motifs. Once inside the exhibit, it became my focused mission to locate that flask which turned out to be maybe seven inches tall at most.

One could marvel the whole afternoon at the gentle rock crystal carved into a mango shape and detailed with the probably-impossible-to-duplicate design fit for a Mughal emperor. I wondered what the owner carried in his flask-- an essence for fragrance or for his health? A clear liquid essence might turn the magical design into a variety of patterns at each new perspective, in each kind of light. I would think that candlelight would be best. The mango shape would be soft in the hand and reminiscent of the beloved boteh, sometimes referred to as a mango motif. The museum signage places the Mughal period from 1526 to 1858 and the flask at mid 17th century.

Whoever that Mughal owner was, I am sure he was an even finer person whenever he looked at his exquisite flask, and if he was anything like Akbar The Great, (1542 to 1605), perhaps humbled by its great artistry. JP