This silver ewer was made between the 6th-7th century C.E. in Iran, or Sasanian ruled Persia. Many ewers of this time period were pear shaped, and gilt with gold. The dancers on the ewer have symbolic meaning, dancing with cups and grapes, representing the cult of Dionysus, the Roman cult which spread over the Mediterranean and Middle East. The size of the ewer is 35.5 cm by 16.9 cm by 14 cm. The item is currently in the Freer and Sackler Museum, Accession number S1987.117.
This vase is also pear shaped silver with gilt gold. There are four dancers appearing on it, one with fruit and a falcon, another with a cup and a dog by her side, the third with a staff covered in vines or ivy. Repeated is the symbolism of the Dionysian cult, but also the symbolism of the cult of Anahita. The measurements are 15.24 cm (height) by 10.8 cm (diametre) by 5.4 cm (base). It is currently in the Los Angeles Museum of Art, Acession number AC1992.152.82.
This silver bowl, gilt with gold is decorated on the outside with three dancers and three musicians.
The animal on the base is a combination of boar and The Simurgh, which is tied back to the Zoroastrian belief of Verethragna. The bowl was sold by The Saleroom in 2015.
This picture is 17th century Persian, although originally found in Turkey. It is a leaf from a manuscript, 11 cm by 19.1 cm. The dancer is holding a vina, which is an Indian instrument. The picture is currently in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Recommended reading about Indian music
Saṅgītaśiromaṇi: A Medieval Handbook of Indian Music edited by Emmie Te Nijenhuis. Via Google Books.
Musical Instruments of the Indian Subcontinent by Allen Roda. Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.
History of Indian music by P. Sambamoorthy. Via Internet Archive.
Aisha Ali, who is well known for her folkloric dances. She is dancing in the style of the women of the Ouled Nail, a tribe from the north of Africa. Unfortunately there is not much information out there about the Ouled Nail dancers in period, as their work did involve prostitution and erotic dances. However, there is quite a bit written about them by foreign travellers out of the Medieval period which only enhanced the licentious reputation. This video is from 1938, showing a woman dancing with a man and her daughter.
This dance was done by
If you have any information on the Ouled Nail, I would love to see it!
The Ouled Nail of Algeria by Jasmin Jahal.
The Ouled Nail by Maggie McNeill on the Honest Courtesan Blog.
Earning Power, Ethnology, and Happily Ever After by Andrea Deagon, Ph.D. Article in the Gilded Serpent.
Danse du Ventre: A Fresh Appraisal by Leona Wood and Anthony Shay. JStor article.
The Lost Berber Villages of Eastern Morocco and Western Algeria by Richard I. Lawless. JStor article.
Cutthroats and Casbah Dancers, Muezzins and Timeless Sands: Musical Images of the Middle East by Ralph P. Locke. JStor article.
Exploring Algeria 1944: Barbaric Beauty by Starlight by Sgt Len Scott RAPC. A first hand account of Algeria during WWII.
This is an ornamental shoulder band, made in Byzantine Egypt, in the first half of the 7th century. It is a linen base with wool tapestry weaving. It is 5.45 cm high and 60.65 cm wide, using indigo and kermes dyes. Currently in the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Sorry, this is the largest picture I could find. It is two naked dancers, woven in silk. Thought to have been made in the Ummayad or Abbasid period of the 8th century, it decorated a tunic. The dimensions are 15.5cm x 14cm, the fabric is a weft-faced plain weave with inner warps. The dancers are holding pomegranates and branches. From the AMICA Library.
Both of these textiles are from Egypt.
Both of these tiles were made between 1600-1640, in Isfahan, Iran to decorate the bathroom of the Harem. The tiles are fritware, with enamel colours, length 26.7cm and width 15.9cm. Both are currently in the Victoria & Albert Museum.
I am not sure why they are described as dancers, as they just seem to be women bathing. If you have an idea why, please post. I find it interesting that they are wearing quite a bit of jewellery, such as anklets on both ankles, bracelets, necklace and earrings. The hands are a solid henna dye, very dark showing that these are women of wealth. Interestingly the feet have been left undecorated.
This is a 7th century Sassinid plate, currently in the British Museum. I was thinking that the standing figure near the middle of the plate is a dancer with crossed arms, as there are two musicians also on the plate playing. Please let me know if you agree or disagree.
Picture taken from Wikimedia Commons.
This ivory is from Egypt, 11th-12th century or Fatimid Egypt. The boy is dancing with veils in front of a man drinking. This ivory still has some paint on it, showing it would have been coloured.
Currently in the Louvre.
I found this picture on Tribe.net but it unfortunately doesn’t have much information as where the object is, let alone a good picture. It is on the cover of a book called Women and the Fatimids in the World of Islam by Delia Cortese and Simonetta Calderini. I will be borrowing the book as soon as I can, as it is available in a University library I have access to. However, I have found a similar picture in a JStor article helpfully put up on Scribd.
This gives the information that the item is in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello. It is quite likely both pieces are in the same museum and while the Bargello has a good site, there are very little pictures. Hopefully more will go up soon. The article on Scribd is called Music and Musicians in Islamic Art by Walter Denny. It can be read on Scribd or downloaded from JStor. If you have any information or even better pictures, please let me know.
The Human Figure in Early Islmaic Art by Eva Baer. Via Google Docs.
Five Essays on Islamic Art by Terry Allen.
A Study on Islamic Human Figure Representation in Light of a Dancing Scene by Hanaa M. Adly. Via Google Docs.
Both of these painting were done in 1590-1595, in a work called the Akbarnama, or Book Of Akbar. Meant as an official record of his reign, Abu’l Fath Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar was the third emperor of the Mughal Empire. A full English translation by Colonel H.S. Jarret (translated out of Persian in 1884) can be read and downloaded here on the Internet Archive. The Akbarnama had at least 49 artists of the Mughal Painting School. The picture above was done by La’l and Banwali Khord. An opaque watercolour with gold on paper, the height is 32 cm and the width is 18.9 cm. It is currently in the Victoria & Albert Museum.
The painting above was done to show Akbar’s victory in Malwa, over Baz Bahadur. The romance of Baz Bahadur and Rupmati is still well known in the region today. The dancers are dressed in a style completely different to other dancers in the Akbarnama. They are wearing a combination of tight pants and layered short skirts. The artists who did the work were Kesav Kalan and Dharmdas, the height is 32.9 cm and the width is 25 cm and also made out of watercolour on paper with gold. Also in the Victoria & Albert Museum.
This is the pillowcase of Berengaria of Castile. However, it is a Coptic embroidery of two dancers. It is currently in the Museo de Burgos, or Medieval Cloth Museum in Spain.
The dancers are surrounded by an Arabic inscription, but I can not find a translation of it.
Arab painting: text and image in illustrated Arabic manuscripts by Anna Contadini. Via Google Books.
Silk Economics and Cross-Cultural Artistic Interaction: Byzantium, the Muslim World, and the Christian West by David Jacoby. JStor article.