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Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

Ashmolean − Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

Islamic Ceramics trail

Explore over one thousand years of development in Islamic ceramics through our extensive collection.

Detail from bowl with seated figures by a stream, Iran, probably Kashan, 1211-1212 (Museum number: EA1956.33)
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After the Mongol Invasions

The Mongol invasions in the second quarter of the 13th century had a severe impact on manufacture and trade in the Middle East. Ceramics production in Iran, and probably Syria, was greatly disrupted, and only resumed fully in the second half of the century. By this time the establishment of Mongol rule had restored political stability, and had begun to develop extensive contacts and trade throughout Asia.

Decorative development

The pottery made in Iran from the second half of the 13th century, although following earlier traditions, is distinctive in its robust shapes and often sombre colouring. Far Eastern patterns, such as lotuses, dragons, and phoenixes, were copied from luxury goods traded to the Middle East and introduced in the decorative repertoire of all arts, including tiles and ceramic vessels. Lustre painting, which had thrived in Iran and Syria in the 12th and early-13th centuries, resumed with a new focus on the production of tiles.

Bowl with vegetal decoration and central rosette (EA1978.1640) Bowl with vegetal decoration and central rosette (EA1978.1640)   Star tile with vegetal and calligraphic decoration (EAX.289.a) Star tile with vegetal and calligraphic decoration (EAX.289.a)

The technique of overglaze enamel painting carried on into the 14th century. Unlike minai ware, however, these later enamelled ceramics primarily featured geometric and vegetal decoration. This was often painted over a dark blue glaze which caused them to be known as lajvardina ware, from the Persian word lajvard (lapis lazuli).

Jug with floral and geometric decoration (EA1956.54) Jug with floral and geometric decoration (EA1956.54)   Tile with Qur'anic inscription (EAX.3208) Tile with Qur'anic inscription (EAX.3208)

At the same time, the import of Chinese greenware (commonly known as celadon) stimulated the production of a new category of vessels with moulded decoration under a monochrome glaze, which copied the shapes and patterns distinctive of the Chinese pieces.

Bowl with three fish (EA1978.1647) Bowl with three fish (EA1978.1647)

Underglaze painting continued to flourish in Iran, Syria, and Egypt and a new concentric panel pattern became widely used. A distinct class of ware made in Iran, Sultanabad ware, is distinguished by a thick foliate pattern used in backgrounds, painted either in blue, turquoise, and black on white, or in white slip and black on a solid grey-brown background.

Dish with panel decoration (EA1978.1609) Dish with panel decoration (EA1978.1609)   Albarello, or storage jar, with vegetal and epigraphic decoration (EA1978.1683) Albarello, or storage jar, with vegetal and epigraphic decoration (EA1978.1683)   Bowl with foliate decoration (EA1978.1633) Bowl with foliate decoration (EA1978.1633)   Bowl with flying phoenixes against a foliate background (EA1978.1637) Bowl with flying phoenixes against a foliate background (EA1978.1637)

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