Gallery Text

The works in this case were produced during the reigns of two dynasties that forged empires in the Iranian region: the Timurids (1370–1506) and the Safavids (1501–1722). The Central Asian warlord Timur concentrated in his capital city of Samarkand artists gathered from a vast empire stretching from Syria to India. Timur’s descendants ruled over a greatly reduced realm—parts of Iran and Afghanistan—but gained renown as patrons of the arts. The Timurid system of organizing artists into workshops in which designs were developed for the book arts and for dissemination into other media was emulated by later dynasties, notably the Safavids and Ottomans. Arising in northwestern Iran, the Safavids united all of greater Iran under their rule and established Shiʿi Islam as the state religion, as distinct from the Sunni branch practiced in the surrounding states.

Cultural exchange and industrial competition increased in these centuries, both across and beyond Islamic lands. Responding to the courts’ avid consumption of Chinese blue-and-white wares, Persian potters appropriated Chinese shapes, compositions, and motifs in their own works. In contrast, the colorful dish with scale patterns probably reflects the highly successful products of the Ottoman kilns to the west, in Iznik.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.66
Title
Dish with Peonies
Classification
Vessels
Work Type
vessel
Date
c.1475
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Nishapur
Period
Timurid period
Culture
Persian
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/165492
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 blue (cobalt) under clear alkali glaze
Technique
Underglazed, painted
Dimensions
7.8 x 43 cm (3 1/16 x 16 15/16 in.)
Provenance
Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (by 1978-2002), 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
2002.50.66
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.
Descriptions
Description
If the cobalt used to decorate Yuan and early Ming blue-and- white porcelains was initially imported from Iran, then Chinese potters more than repaid the favor in the form of exported decorative motifs. Avidly collected in Islamic lands, Chinese blue-and- white porcelain wares exerted enormous influence on Muslim potters of the fifteenth through the seventeenth century. Produced in northeastern Iran in the second half of the fifteenth century, this impressive dish combines decorative solutions developed during the reign of two dynasties in China. Antecedents for the “wave and crest” motif along the rim and the “double scroll” on the outside wall can be found in Yuan (1271–1368) blue-and- white wares, while the fleshy peonies in the center derive from Ming (1368–1644) prototypes. The curiously restless and asymmetrical nature of the interior composition results from the zones of the circle being divided into odd and even units—three peonies in the center, eight floral sprays along the wall, and six wave-and-crest motifs on the rim. Although the glaze has deteriorated somewhat, this dish is overall in fine condition. Put back together from a few large fragments, it has minimal losses.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
42

Dish with peonies
Iran, Nishapur, Timurid period, c. 1475
Fritware painted with blue (cobalt) under clear alkali glaze
7.8 × 43 cm (3 1/16 × 16 15/16 in.)
2002.50.66

Published: McWilliams 2004, 6, 11, fig. 8.

If the cobalt used to decorate Yuan and early Ming blue-and-white porcelains was initially imported from Iran, then Chinese potters more than repaid the favor in the form of exported decorative motifs.[1] Avidly collected in Islamic lands, Chinese blue-and-white porcelain wares exerted enormous influence on Muslim potters of the fifteenth through the seventeenth century.

Produced in northeastern Iran in the second half of the fifteenth century, this impressive dish combines decorative solutions developed during the reign of two dynasties in China.[2] Antecedents for the “wave and crest” motif along the rim and the “double scroll” on the outside wall can be found in Yuan (1271–1368) blue-and-white wares, while the fleshy peonies in the center derive from Ming (1368–1644) prototypes. The curiously restless and asymmetrical nature of the interior composition results from the zones of the circle being divided into odd and even units—three peonies in the center, eight floral sprays along the wall, and six wave-and-crest motifs on the rim.[3]

Although the glaze has deteriorated somewhat, this dish is overall in fine condition. Put back together from a few large fragments, it has minimal losses.

Mary McWilliams

[1] Golombek et al. 1996, 7.
[2] The attribution of this large dish to Nishapur, circa 1475, follows suggestions put forth in Golombek et al. 1996. It has not been sampled for petrographic analysis but belongs stylistically to the “Peony” subgroup of their “Double-scroll” group.
[3] The same proportions are used in a Nishapur “Peony” dish in the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg (VG.728), illustrated in Golombek et al. 1996, 197, pl. 38. In contrast, a similar bowl in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1972.8), which Calderwood would have known well, employs units of three throughout, as does a closely related dish in the Keir Collection (C45ii, now in the Museum für Islamische Kunst, Berlin), illustrated in Golombek et al. 1996, 196, pl. 37.

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), pp. 161-162, ill.; p. 197, cat. 42, 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

Re-View: S228-230 Arts of Asia, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 05/31/2008 - 06/01/2013

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

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

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