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Gallery Text

The works in this case were produced during the reigns of two dynasties that forged empires in the Iranian region: the Timurids (1370–1506) and the Safavids (1501–1722). The Central Asian warlord Timur concentrated in his capital city of Samarkand artists gathered from a vast empire stretching from Syria to India. Timur’s descendants ruled over a greatly reduced realm—parts of Iran and Afghanistan—but gained renown as patrons of the arts. The Timurid system of organizing artists into workshops in which designs were developed for the book arts and for dissemination into other media was emulated by later dynasties, notably the Safavids and Ottomans. Arising in northwestern Iran, the Safavids united all of greater Iran under their rule and established Shiʿi Islam as the state religion, as distinct from the Sunni branch practiced in the surrounding states.

Cultural exchange and industrial competition increased in these centuries, both across and beyond Islamic lands. Responding to the courts’ avid consumption of Chinese blue-and-white wares, Persian potters appropriated Chinese shapes, compositions, and motifs in their own works. In contrast, the colorful dish with scale patterns probably reflects the highly successful products of the Ottoman kilns to the west, in Iznik.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Large Dish with Flying Cranes
Work Type
c. 1620
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran
Safavid period
Level 2, Room 2550, Art from Islamic Lands, The Middle East and North Africa
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Physical Descriptions
Fritware with molded decoration and underglaze painting in cobalt blue
Underglazed, painted
7.5 x 41.7 cm (2 15/16 x 16 7/16 in.)
Private collection, London. [Irene Momtaz, Momtaz Islamic Art, London, 2005], sold; to Harvard University Art Museums, 2005.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gweneth Knight Memorial Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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This is a large dish with upturned rim, fluted cavetto, and low, hollow foot ring. The center is painted in under-glaze cobalt blue with a design of four cranes amid clouds. There are three shades of blue, with the darkest used for outlines and stippling. The exterior or underside is sparely decorated with a peach spray. In the center of the foot ring is a faint "tassel mark."
Publication History

Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums Annual Report 2004-2005 (Cambridge, MA, 2005), p. 14

Jessica Chloros, "An Investigation of Cobalt Pigment on Islamic Ceramics at the Harvard Art Museums" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, 2008), Unpublished, pp. 1-41 passim

Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), p. 85

Exhibition History

Re-View: Arts of India & the Islamic Lands, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/26/2008 - 06/01/2013

32Q: 2550 Islamic, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Google Art Project

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu