Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.55
Title
Albarello with Inscription, Arabesques, and Figures
Classification
Vessels
Work Type
vessel
Date
20th century
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/165382
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Pink fritware covered in plaster and painted with black (chromium) under turquoise (copper) translucent lead alkali glaze
Technique
Underglazed, painted
Dimensions
25.8 cm x 12.6 cm (10 3/16 x 4 15/16 in.)
Provenance
[Mansour Gallery, London, 1972], sold; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (1972-2002), 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
2002.50.55
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
The decoration on this tall albarello, or medicine jar, is carefully painted and harmoniously composed in horizontal registers. These bands vary in width, and the backgrounds alternate between black and turquoise. The wide neck bears an inscription in tall Kufic letters, repeating the Arabic word al-mulk (sovereignty). Scrolling, leafy tendrils run along three bands. Two others are occupied by figural motifs: just below the shoulder, seven haloed sphinxes, facing left, appear on a black ground, and, below them, five figures sit cross-legged among scrolling tendrils with kidney-shaped leaves. Some of the figures are bearded and others clean shaven, but all are haloed and wear black robes patterned in reserve.
Although Calderwood acquired this albarello as a work of medieval Persian art,
it is more likely the product of a revival of traditional styles and media that took place in Iran during the Pahlavi reign (1925–79). In form and decoration, it evokes without exactly replicating ceramics from the Seljuk-Atabeg period. Had the jar been intended as a forgery, the potter would have made it of white rather than plaster-covered pink fritware. The albarello is intact, but in many places the glaze has deteriorated to a matte surface. The ceramic body is fine grained but soft.
The plaster and turquoise glaze cover the jar inside and out, stopping short of the foot ring.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
52

Albarello with inscription, arabesques, and figures
Probably Iran, 20th century[1]
Pink fritware covered in plaster and painted with black (chromium) under turquoise (copper) translucent lead alkali glaze
25.8 × 12.6 cm (10 3/16 × 4 15/16 in.)
2002.50.55

The decoration on this tall albarello, or medicine jar, is carefully painted and harmoniously composed in horizontal registers. These bands vary in width, and the backgrounds alternate between black and turquoise. The wide neck bears an inscription in tall Kufic letters, repeating the Arabic word al-mulk (sovereignty). Scrolling, leafy tendrils run along three bands. Two others are occupied by figural motifs: just below the shoulder, seven haloed sphinxes, facing left, appear on a black ground, and, below them, five figures sit cross-legged among scrolling tendrils with kidney-shaped leaves. Some of the figures are bearded and others clean shaven, but all are haloed and wear black robes patterned in reserve. Although Calderwood acquired this albarello as a work of medieval Persian art, it is more likely the product of a revival of traditional styles and media that took place in Iran during the Pahlavi reign (1925–79).[2] In form and decoration, it evokes without exactly replicating ceramics from the Seljuk-Atabeg period.[3] Had the jar been intended as a forgery, the potter would have made it of white rather than plaster-covered pink fritware.

The albarello is intact, but in many places the glaze has deteriorated to a matte surface. The ceramic body is fine grained but soft. The plaster and turquoise glaze cover the jar inside and out, stopping short of the foot ring.

Mary McWilliams

Publication History

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), pp. 204-202, cat. 52, ill.

Exhibition History

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