This beaker shows a very interesting combination of features that are very rare to find together in Mamluk glass. The form of the beaker is well-known, and example of form C as defined by Summer Kenneson ('Islamic enamelled beakers, a new chronology', in Rachel Ward (ed.), Gilded and Enamelled Glass from the Middle East, London, 1998, p.46). There the type is dated between 1250 and 1310, although the methodology as explained there seems possibly a little simplistic. The present beaker shows a highly unusual feature to find in a small drinking vessel. There are two bands of red painted on the inside of the glass wall which can then serve as a background for the two bands of yellow rope-motifs. Areas of colour painted on the interior walls are known in a number of mosque lamps. One other beaker dated to the late 13th or early 14th century, now in the Islamic Art Museum, Berlin, has the same feature, but in that instance the meander design they are behind is a dark red (Andrea Becker and Jens Kröger (eds), Vorsicht Glas, exhibition catalogue, Berlin, 2010, no.49, pp.160-161).
One of the most impressive and well-known beakers of type C is one in the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon (Stefano Carboni, Glass of the Sultans, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2001, no.128, pp.258-260). Its decoration consists of a broad band of birds, and a narrower band of water-design. There are no inscriptions. This description exactly matches the decoration seen on our beaker here, although here the birds lack the extraordinary variety seen on the Gulbenkian beaker, and the water here is around the rim rather than, as in the Lisbon example, around the vessel near the base. This water design is however a very rare feature and it is very interesting that in both instances it is combined with a design of birds. Unfortunately today we do not know the symbolism that underlies this.
In our case the birds appear at first to be simurghs. Such birds are found in bands around the necks of various Mamluk enamelled glass vessels including the vase in the al-Sabah Collection (Carboni, Glass from Islamic Lands, op.cit., cat.98a, pp.356-358) and the famous large bottle in the Metropolitan Museum with huntsmen around the belly (Stefano Carboni, Glass of the Sultans, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2001, no.126, p.254). However a close examination shows that the heads do not have the cresting, the wings are pointed backwards, rather than being spread out, and, most noticeably, the tail curls upwards rather than issuing the long trailing feathers that are so typical of a simurgh. There are various features of the bird that suggest an ostrich, which was well known as bird to residents of Egypt, but it is more probable that it is another composite mythical bird, a bit like the simurgh.