Bowl with Inscription and Birds

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Bowl with Inscription and Birds
10th century
Samanid period
Creation Place: Nishapur, Iran
Reddish earthenware covered in white slip and painted with black (manganese and iron), red (iron), and yellow-staining black (chromium) under clear lead glaze
5.8 x 18.8 cm (2 5/16 x 7 3/8 in.)
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
, 2002.50.92
Department of Islamic & Later Indian Art
Although painted with apparent dash, the colorful decoration of this bowl is carefully composed. The design is laid out in three registers: an Arabic word meaning “harmony” occupies the middle, and above and below it are long-necked birds with outstretched wings. Like the beginning and end letters of the inscription, the birds’ heads and leaf-like wingtips terminate at the red circular boundary. Freely painted running crescents and a black line enclose the lively composition. Combining Arabic script with birds became popular among potters in the early Islamic era. On this bowl, where inscription and birds are equally stylized and animated, the decorative formula has proved especially felicitous. Most of the black decoration on the bowl is painted in a relatively inert black slip. By contrast, the contour panels are dotted with a black pigment containing chromite, which stains the surrounding glaze light yellow. To date, ceramic vessels with yellow-staining black have been excavated only in Nishapur. The outside of the bowl is undecorated except for the white slip and clear glaze, which has a slight iridescence. The flat base is lightly covered in the slip and partially glazed.
[Hadji Baba Rabbi House of Antiquites, Teheran, 1973], sold; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (1973-2002), gift; to Harvard Art Museums, 2002.
Mary McWilliams, "Baraka: Blessings in Clay", The Studio Potter, Mary Barringer (Shelburne Falls, MA, 2007), Vol. 35, No. 2, p 14-19, p. 15, fig. 2

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., ed. Mary McWilliams Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), pp. 16-17, cat. 15, ill.; pp. 179-180, cat. 15, ill.

Exhibition History
Closely Focused, Intensely Felt: Selections from the Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/07/2004 - 01/02/2005
In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2013 - 06/01/2013