© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.53
Title
Bowl with Enthroned Ruler and Courtiers
Classification
Vessels
Work Type
vessel
Date
late 12th-early 13th century
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Kashan
Period
Seljuk-Atabeg period
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/165466
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Fritware painted with black (chromium), turquoise (copper), blue (cobalt), brownish-red (iron), and pink (iron and tin) over white lead alkali glaze opacified with tin, and gilded.
Dimensions
8.2 x 19.1 cm (3 1/4 x 7 1/2 in.)
Provenance
[Hadji Baba Rabbi House of Antiquities, Teheran, 1974], sold; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (1974-2002), 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
2002.50.53
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
An enthroned ruler with attendants occupies the center of this bowl. Pairs of birds are positioned above and below the group. On the walls of the vessel, encircling the central scene, are seated figures, also in pairs (the single individual results from a modern repair with an alien sherd). The interior rim of the bowl is decorated with a repeating pseudo-inscription in Kufic script, and the plain white walls of the exterior with a cursive inscription, large portions of which are overpainted restoration. The bowl has been assembled from several fragments, with painted plaster used to fill in the losses.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
27

Bowl with enthroned ruler and courtiers
Iran, Seljuk-Atabeg period, late 12th–early 13th century
Fritware painted with black (chromium), turquoise (copper), blue (cobalt), brownish-red (iron), and pink (iron and tin) over white lead alkali glaze opacified with tin, and gilded.
8.2 × 19.1 cm (3 1/4 × 7 1/2 in.)
2002.50.53

Published: McWilliams 2003, 243, 245, fig. 27; McWilliams 2004, 5, fig. 5.

An enthroned ruler with attendants occupies the center of this bowl. Pairs of birds are positioned above and below the group. On the walls of the vessel, encircling the central scene, are seated figures, also in pairs (the single individual results from a modern repair with an alien sherd). Parts of their headgear extend horizontally outward, as if lifted by a breeze.

Although birds are commonly shown near thrones on mīnāʾī wares,[1] the combination of birds, enthroned ruler, and windblown spectators on this bowl suggests a popular story from the great epic poem of Persian literature, the Shāhnāma. According to the tale, the foolish king Kay Kavus wished to fly through the air, so he attached to his throne hungry eagles and, just beyond their reach, legs of lamb. In their effort to get at the meat, the powerful birds managed to lift the throne and its occupant into the air, but as soon as they tired, the whole contrivance fell back to earth. To the great astonishment of the spectators, the king escaped injury.[2]

The interior rim of the bowl is decorated with a repeating pseudo-inscription in Kufic script, and the plain white walls of the exterior with a cursive inscription, large portions of which are overpainted restoration, as can be seen in the profile view.[3] Supplementing the red, green, and blue mīnāʾī colors of the composition, gilding is used to highlight details such as the throne and the observers’ armbands. The bowl has been assembled from several fragments, with painted plaster used to fill in the losses.

Ayşin Yoltar-Yıldırım

[1] For a more conventional depiction on mīnāʾī ware of a seated ruler with attendants and birds above and under the throne, see Pancaroğlu 2007, 109, cat. 67.
[2] Swietochowski and Carboni 1994, 91, cat. 15.
[3] Even on the authentic part of the bowl, the surface and consistency of the black color over the deteriorated glaze suggest that the inscription has been heavily restored.

Publication History

Mary McWilliams, Closely Focused, Intensely Felt: Selections from the Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, brochure, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2004)

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), p. 158, ill.; p. 187, cat. 27, 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

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