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Gallery Text

As central control weakened in the Abbasid Empire, regional dynasties arose to support, challenge, or redefine the authority of the caliph in Baghdad. The arts flourished in many centers, and wealthy merchant and professional classes emerged. A dramatic increase in productivity and innovation and an unprecedented expansion of figural decoration characterize the arts of this period.

A transforming event was the influx of Turkic and Mongol peoples from Central and Inner Asia. Most of the objects in this case were created in lands ruled by the most important of the Turkic dynasties, the Great Seljuks (1038–1157), and their immediate successors, the Atabegs. The Mongol invasions into Islamic lands began in the early 1200s and culminated in the 1258 sack of Baghdad. Eventually, the Mongols established their rule as the Yuan dynasty in China, the Chagatay Khanate in Central Asia, the Golden Horde Khanate in southern Russia, and the Ilkhanid dynasty (1256–1335) in greater Iran. The integration of a vast Eurasian territory into the Mongol Empire facilitated commerce and communication, bringing fresh Chinese inspiration into Islamic art.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.103
Title
Bowl with Radial Foliate Design
Classification
Vessels
Work Type
vessel
Date
12th-13th century
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Kashan
Period
Seljuk-Atabeg period
Culture
Persian
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/148154
Location
Level 2, Room 2550, Art from Islamic Lands, The Middle East and North Africa
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Fritware painted with luster (copper and silver) over white lead alkali glaze opacified with tin
Technique
Lusterware
Dimensions
9 x 21.7 cm (3 9/16 x 8 9/16 in.)
Provenance
[Hadji Baba Rabbi House of Antiquities, Teheran,1972], sold; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, Massachusetts, (1972-2002), gift; to the Harvard Art Museums, 2002.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
Accession Year
2002
Object Number
2002.50.103
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
The interior of this bowl is divided into eight equal sections by lines, embellished with dots and twining tendrils, that spring from triangular arabesques and terminate with pairs of small, silhouetted birds toward the rim. Each section contains a palmette-filled pendant. Around the rim runs an angular pseudo-inscription. Paired lines divide the exterior of the bowl into sections, which are filled with loosely painted scrolls. The twining tendrils and the palmette-enclosing pendants on the interior of this bowl are very common in Persian lusterwares.
The bowl is intact, and the quality of its luster is remarkable. The white glaze does not cover the foot, which the potter would have held when dipping the vessel into the glazing compound before firing.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
29

Bowl with radial foliate design
Iran, Seljuk-Atabeg period, 12th–13th century[1]
Fritware painted with luster (copper and silver) over white lead alkali glaze opacified with tin
9 × 21.7 cm (3 9/16 × 8 9/16 in.)
2002.50.103

Published: McWilliams 2002b, 44, fig. 4; McWilliams 2003, 243–44, fig. 23.

Luster painting on ceramics provided a metallic golden sheen, first on earthenware from ninth-and tenth-century Iraq (see cats. 4–7) and later on fritware from Iran, where it was used to great effect from the twelfth to the fourteenth century. The luster, applied after the first firing of a glazed tile or vessel, consisted of oxides of copper and silver. Different concentrations of these metals, in addition to variations in the reducing atmosphere of the kiln during the second firing, resulted in tones ranging from reddish to yellowish. In Iran, specifically in Kashan,[2] generations of potters produced exquisite ceramics in the luster technique. Due to the predominance of copper, the luster of these ceramics appears reddish.

The interior of this bowl is divided into eight equal sections by lines, embellished with dots and twining tendrils, that spring 189 from triangular arabesques and terminate with pairs of small, silhouetted birds toward the rim. Each section contains a palmette-filled pendant. Around the rim runs an angular pseudo-inscription. Paired lines divide the exterior of the bowl into sections, which are filled with loosely painted scrolls.

The twining tendrils and the palmette-enclosing pendants on the interior of this bowl are very common in Persian lusterwares. The bowl is intact, and the quality of its luster is remarkable. The white glaze does not cover the foot, which the potter would have held when dipping the vessel into the glazing compound before firing.

Ayşin Yoltar-Yıldırım

[1] The bowl was last fired between 600 and 1000 years ago, according to the results of thermoluminescence analysis carried out by Oxford Authentication Ltd. in 2003.
[2] For the attribution of Seljuk-Atabeg Persian lusterware to Kashan, see Watson 1985, 37–44; Mason 2004, 140, 164.

Publication History

Mary McWilliams, "Islamic Ceramic Traditions", The Studio Potter, ed. Gerry Williams (New Hampshire, December 2002), vol. 31, no.1, pp44, fig. 4

Holly Salmon, "A Comparative Analysis of Lusterware from the Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, June 2003), Unpublished, pp. 1-54 passim

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), pp. 188-189, cat. 29, 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

32Q: 2550 Islamic, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

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