Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.116
Title
Small Bowl of "Gambroon ware"
Classification
Vessels
Work Type
vessel
Date
late 17th-early 18th century
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran
Period
Safavid period
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/160278
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Fritware pierced and painted with blue (cobalt) and black (chromium) under clear alkali glaze
Technique
Pierced
Dimensions
6.7 x 18.5 cm (2 5/8 x 7 5/16 in.)
Provenance
[Mansour Gallery, London, 1976], sold; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (1976-2002), gift; to 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
2002.50.116
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
With its exceptionally thin potting and near-translucent, pure white fabric, this small bowl belongs to a category of fine ceramics popularly known as “Gombroon wares.” The bowl has rounded walls, a slightly everted rim, and a low foot ring glazed in the center. A small depression inside the foot ring perfectly fits the middle finger, ensuring that the bowl balances easily in the user’s hand. On the interior of the bowl, this depression forms a small boss, on or around which the underglaze painting is applied. The delicate potting is emphasized by openwork patterns pierced through the walls and filled with clear glaze, reviving a technique practiced in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The designation “Gombroon wares” reflects the impact of European trade in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These vessels were exported to Europe from an Iranian port town at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, Bandar Abbas, which was known to the European trading companies as Gombroon, Gamrun, or Gamru. From European primary sources and a handful of dated objects, it can be deduced that the production period for Gombroon wares stretched from at least the 1690s into the early 1800s. Bandar Abbas served as the terminal point of trade routes originating at Yazd and Kirman to the north and Lar, Shiraz, and Isfahan to the northwest. It has been suggested that the production site for these wares was Nain (a small town due east of Isfahan), where a similar highly vitrified fritware was made in the nineteenth century.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
46, 47, 48

Three small bowls of “Gombroon ware”
Iran, Safavid period, late 17th–early 18th century
Fritware pierced and painted with blue (cobalt) and black (chromium) under clear alkali glaze
6.7 × 18.5 cm (2 5/8 × 7 5/16 in.)
2002.50.116

Fritware pierced and painted with black (chromium) under clear alkali glaze
4.5 × 14.1 cm (1 3/4 × 5 9/16 in.)
2002.50.117

Fritware pierced and painted with black (chromium) under clear alkali glaze
4.2 × 12.6 cm (1 5/8 × 4 15/16 in.)
2002.50.118

With their exceptionally thin potting and near-translucent, pure white fabric, these three small bowls belong to a category of fine ceramics popularly known as “Gombroon wares.” Each bowl has rounded walls, a slightly everted rim, and a low foot ring glazed in the center. A small depression inside the foot ring perfectly fits the middle finger, ensuring that the bowl balances easily in the user’s hand. On the interior of the bowl, this depression forms a small boss, on or around which the underglaze painting is applied. The delicate potting is emphasized by openwork patterns pierced through the walls and filled with clear glaze, reviving a technique practiced in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries (and see also cat. 139).[1]

The two smaller bowls were broken and have been put back together, with small plaster fills in the walls. The designation “Gombroon wares” reflects the impact of European trade in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These vessels were exported to Europe from an Iranian port town at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, Bandar Abbas, which was known to the European trading companies as Gombroon, Gamrun, or Gamru.[2] From European primary sources and a handful of dated objects, it can be deduced that the production period for Gombroon wares stretched from at least the 1690s into the early 1800s.[3]

Bandar Abbas served as the terminal point of trade routes originating at Yazd and Kirman to the north and Lar, Shiraz, and Isfahan to the northwest.[4] It has been suggested that the production site for these wares was Nain (a small town due east of Isfahan), where a similar highly vitrified fritware was made in the nineteenth century.[5]

Mary McWilliams

[1] For an early discussion of what is often called “rice-grain” patterning and its relationship to Islamic, Chinese, and Japanese ceramics, see Hobson 1907, 84, 89.
[2] Lane 1957, 109–11. More exacting, Lane termed these ceramics “unidentified fine white wares.”
[3] Fehérvári 2000, 292; Lane 1957, 122–23. Hobson 1907, 89, does not, however, associate these wares with Gombroon.
[4] Lockhart 1960.
[5] This was proposed by Géza Fehérvári (see Fehérvári 2000, 292).

Publication History

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

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), pp. 200-201, cat. 46, 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

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

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