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SW 180
SW 180

Three Zarfs

SW 180

Switzerland, geneva

mid 19th century

SW 180

Three Zarfs

SW 180

Switzerland, geneva

mid 19th century

gilded and painted opaline glass, gold with translucent, opaque and painted enamel, seed pearls

height 5.9 cm ; overall 6.7 cm

In the Islamic lands coffee was usually served in a small cup (fincan), made of ceramic or glass, that was held in a metal holder (zarf). Frequently produced in small sets, the cup-holders could be made of base or precious metals, the latter often further decorated with enamel and jewels.

During the 19th century, the ever-enterprising Genevois goldsmiths realized the potential of this market and proceeded to manufacture substantial quantities of zarfs for export.

Constructed from a basic skeletal frame into which enameled panels, filigree-work or gems could be incorporated, most of the zarfs, although eye-catching, did not represent the pinnacle of Swiss craftsmanship. The palette of enamel colours used – in many instances strident combinations of lime green, cerulean and pink – and the decorative motifs favoured – musical instruments or military trophies and clusters of polychrome flowers – were the same as had been adopted for the snuff boxes they produced for this market.

Haydn Williams, Enamels of the World: 1700-2000 The Khalili Collections, London 2009, cat. 57, p. 105.