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Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.57
Title
Bowl with Birds Circling an Inscription
Classification
Vessels
Work Type
vessel
Date
10th century
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Nishapur
Period
Samanid period
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/165476
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Reddish earthenware covered in whitish slip and painted with green (chromium) slip under clear lead glaze
Technique
Underglazed, painted
Dimensions
5.9 x 20.7 cm (2 5/16 x 8 1/8 in.)
Provenance
[Hadji Baba Rabbi House of Antiquities, Teheran, 1970], sold; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (1970-2002), 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
2002.50.57
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
Potters working during the reign of the Samanid dynasty in northeastern Iran and Central Asia produced some of the most impressive and distinctive wares in the history of Islamic art. One of their most successful decorative techniques involved the use of slips—colored clays in solution—both to envelop the reddish earthenware body of vessels and to add surface designs. The body of this bowl, for example, is covered completely in a whitish slip, with a lively design in olive green painted over it. The green color is produced by fine particles of a chromium compound. Within a rim decorated with running crescents appear two wide-eyed birds, positioned breast-to- tail, who pinwheel around an Arabic inscription in foliated Kufic that reads, “Blessing to him” (baraka lahu). On the exterior, three circles enclosing parallel diagonal lines alternate with three downward-pointing arrows. The crescents, pop-eyed animals, benevolent inscription, and circles echo designs on tenth-century monochrome lusterwares produced in Basra. Slip-painted imitations of Basra vessels seem to have been a specialty of the potters of Nishapur, in northeastern Iran. A clear glaze with a slight greenish tinge covers the interior and exterior of this bowl, including its beveled, slightly concave base. The vessel has been put back together from fragments, with painted plaster filling in losses in the wing of the inverted bird.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
8

Bowl with two birds circling an inscription
Iran, Nishapur, Samanid period, 10th century[1]
Reddish earthenware covered in whitish slip and painted with green (chromium) slip under clear lead glaze
5.9 × 20.7 cm (2 5/16 × 8 1/8 in.)
2002.50.57

Published: McWilliams 2004, 11.

Potters working during the reign of the Samanid dynasty (819–999) in northeastern Iran and Central Asia produced some of the most impressive and distinctive wares in the history of Islamic art. One of their most successful decorative techniques involved the use of slips—colored clays in solution—both to envelop the reddish earthenware body of vessels and to add surface designs.

The body of this bowl, for example, is covered completely in a whitish slip, with a lively design in olive green painted over it. The green color is produced by fine particles of a chromium compound. Within a rim decorated with running crescents appear two wide-eyed birds, positioned breast-to-tail, who pinwheel around an Arabic inscription in foliated Kufic that reads, “Blessing to him” (baraka lahu). On the exterior, three circles enclosing parallel diagonal lines alternate with three downward-pointing arrows. The crescents, pop-eyed animals, benevolent inscription, and circles echo designs on tenth-century monochrome lusterwares produced in Basra (see cats. 4–7). Slip-painted imitations of Basra vessels seem to have been a specialty of the potters of Nishapur, in northeastern Iran.[2]

A clear glaze with a slight greenish tinge covers the interior and exterior of this bowl, including its beveled, slightly concave base. The vessel has been put back together from fragments, with painted plaster filling in losses in the wing of the inverted bird.

Mary McWilliams

[1] The bowl was last fired between 800 and 1300 years ago, according to the results of thermoluminescence analysis carried out by Oxford Authentication Ltd. in 2011.
[2] Fehérvári 2000, 63.

Publication History

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), p. 174, cat. 8, 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