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

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Bowl with radial design

Glossary (2)

fritware, underglaze painting

  • 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).

  • underglaze painting

    Painting applied to ceramic material before a transparent, or monochrome or coloured glaze for Islamic objects, is applied. The technique was initially developed in China.


    • currently in research collection

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Publications online

  • Islamic ceramics, by James W. Allan

    Islamic Ceramics

    This bowl is of the truncated conical form with a tall, cylindrical foot, mentioned above (no. 22 [EA1978.2183]). The pigment used for underglaze black has here produced, presumably by accident, a deep brownish colour. As with the figural designs (no. 22 [EA1978.2183]), the Syrian potter preferred a much bolder approach to that of his Persian contemporaries.

    The design on the bowl is made up of stylised and simplified leaf forms, which are paired to form a ‘bracket’ motif. These brackets are arranged in concentric circles in alternating colours, but, as with brick lays, the positions of the brackets are alternated in consecutive bands to provide visual variety and interest.

    The concentric design is balanced by a radial design, painted with a much thinner brush. This radial design is made up of eight lines, with a small heart-shaped panel alternating its position – either at the end of the line or two-thirds of the way along it. The pattern is also subtly reinforced by the positioning of the blue trefoils. The result may look simple, but it provides a brilliant example of how the tensions of a circular and concave bowl shape can be reconciled and harmonised into a totally satisfying unity. Contrast the design of the bowl below [EA1978.2193], in which the centrifugal tendency has been allowed to take over, and the viewer is left completely disconcerted.

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