Art

Bowl with Masked Dancing Figure

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Bowl with Masked Dancing Figure
Vessel
10th century
Samanid period
Creation Place: Nishapur, Iran
Reddish earthenware covered in whitish slip and painted with red (iron), black (manganese), green (copper), and yellow (stain from fine chromite particles) under clear lead glaze
8 x 26.8 cm (3 1/8 x 10 9/16 in.)
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
, 2002.50.49
Department of Islamic & Later Indian Art
,
Description
White, curving horns appear to sprout from the red head of the enigmatic figure whose outstretched arms and running legs fill the contours of this bowl. Perhaps a bull’s head is represented, but the blurring of the black pigment in the glaze has obscured the artist’s intentions here and elsewhere. The rendering of the hands is equally ambiguous, possibly meant to suggest the thumb and knuckles of a clenched fist. The hand reaching backward appears to hold a leafy branch. The space around the figure is filled with a miscellany of motifs, including a flower, a palmette, fragmentary letters in Kufic script, and a bird. Groups of four or five short lines divide the rim into five sections, colored either green or yellow.
This bowl closely resembles figural wares with buff-colored bodies reported by Charles Wilkinson to have come from excavations at Nishapur. Here, however, the off-white background is obtained from slip covering a reddish ceramic fabric, and the yellow background results from staining from fine chromite particles, rather than the more customary lead-tin or lead-antimony. The base, which is slightly concave and beveled, is only partially covered by the slip. The bowl, once broken, is in good condition, having been put back together from at least four major fragments. On the interior, overpainting is largely limited to the center: the figure’s collar and shoulders, his groin, and the upper lapels of his torso.
Provenance
[Hadji Baba Ancient Art, London,1985], sold; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (1985-2002), gift; to Harvard Art Museums, 2002.
Bibliography
Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., ed. Mary McWilliams Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), p. 24-26, cat. 19, ill.; p. 182, cat. 19, ill.

Exhibition History
Overlapping Realms: Arts of the Islamic World and India, 900-1900, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 12/02/2006 - 03/23/2008
In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2013 - 06/01/2013