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

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Islamic Ceramics

A select catalogue of the Ashmolean's collection of ceramics from the Islamic world from the 9th to 18th century, by James Allen (published Oxford, 1991).

Islamic ceramics, by James W. Allan

Publications online: 46 objects

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Bowl with vegetal and epigraphic decoration

  • Literature notes

    The precise origins of the medieval Syrian lustre industry are uncertain, though it probably derives from the Fatimid Egyptian tradition. One school, associated with Tell Minis in northern Syria, is often characterised by figural designs; that associated with the city of Raqqa on the Euphrates, of which the two opposite are examples, tends towards vegetal patterns or calligraphy. In the latter case the lustre is often rather chocolate in tone. On these two bowls, the artists (or perhaps artist?) have taken the Arabic word al-surr, ‘happiness’ and, combining brush strokes and imagination, have created two very similar, bold designs, each of which strongly suggests a peacock. The contrast between the two is quite marked, however, the one [EA1978.2175] being tightly controlled and static in impact, the other [EAX.3068] far more fluid and fluent, almost with a life of its own.
  • Description

    The significance of medieval ceramic production in Syria is not yet fully understood. The production of lustrewares, however, is amongst the most widely documented in the region, and the decorative glaze effects display a distinctive style when compared to Egypt or Syria. This bowl’s decoration of a single, central epigraphic motif, placed against rich foliage is found in several examples attributed to the two most prominent Syrian centres, Raqqa and Tell Minis.

  • Details

    Associated place
    Asia Syria (place of creation)
    Date
    1st half of the 13th century
    Material and technique
    fritware, with overglaze painting in lustre
    Dimensions
    10.9 cm (height)
    22 cm (diameter)
    at foot 7.5 cm (diameter)
    Material index
    Technique index
    coveredcoated glazed,
    Object type index
    No. of items
    1
    Credit line
    Gift of Gerald Reitlinger, 1978.
    Accession no.
    EA1978.2175
  • Further reading

    Allan, James W., Islamic Ceramics, Ashmolean-Christie's Handbooks (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1991), no. 23 on p. 40, illus. p. 41

    Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 18 July-13 September 1981, and London: Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1981, Eastern Ceramics and Other Works of Art from the Collection of Gerald Reitlinger: Catalogue of the Memorial Exhibition, Deborah Willis, ed. (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum and London: Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1981), no. 370 on p. 128, illus. p. 128

    Porter, Venetia, Medieval Syrian Pottery (Raqqa Ware) (Oxford: Asmolean Museum, 1981), illus. p. 27 pl. XVIII

    London: Hayward Gallery, 8 April-4 July 1976, The Arts of Islam, Dalu Jones and George Michell, eds (London: Arts Council of Great Britian, 1976), no. 304 on p. 230

Glossary (3)

fritware, glaze, lustre

  • fritware

    Ceramic material composed of ground quartz and small quantities of clay and finely ground frit (frit is obtained by pouring molten glass into water).

  • glaze

    Vitreous coating applied to the surface of a ceramic to make it impermeable or for decorative effect.

  • lustre

    Metallic sheen obtained by applying a mixture of metallic oxides onto an already glazed ceramic that is refired at a reduced atmosphere.

Location

    • First floor | Room 31 | Islamic Middle East

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Publications online

  • Islamic ceramics, by James W. Allan

    Islamic Ceramics

    The precise origins of the medieval Syrian lustre industry are uncertain, though it probably derives from the Fatimid Egyptian tradition. One school, associated with Tell Minis in northern Syria, is often characterised by figural designs; that associated with the city of Raqqa on the Euphrates, of which the two opposite are examples, tends towards vegetal patterns or calligraphy. In the latter case the lustre is often rather chocolate in tone. On these two bowls, the artists (or perhaps artist?) have taken the Arabic word al-surr, ‘happiness’ and, combining brush strokes and imagination, have created two very similar, bold designs, each of which strongly suggests a peacock. The contrast between the two is quite marked, however, the one [EA1978.2175] being tightly controlled and static in impact, the other [EAX.3068] far more fluid and fluent, almost with a life of its own.
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