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Gallery Text

As central control weakened in the Abbasid Empire, regional dynasties arose to support, challenge, or redefine the authority of the caliph in Baghdad. The arts flourished in many centers, and wealthy merchant and professional classes emerged. A dramatic increase in productivity and innovation and an unprecedented expansion of figural decoration characterize the arts of this period.

A transforming event was the influx of Turkic and Mongol peoples from Central and Inner Asia. Most of the objects in this case were created in lands ruled by the most important of the Turkic dynasties, the Great Seljuks (1038–1157), and their immediate successors, the Atabegs. The Mongol invasions into Islamic lands began in the early 1200s and culminated in the 1258 sack of Baghdad. Eventually, the Mongols established their rule as the Yuan dynasty in China, the Chagatay Khanate in Central Asia, the Golden Horde Khanate in southern Russia, and the Ilkhanid dynasty (1256–1335) in greater Iran. The integration of a vast Eurasian territory into the Mongol Empire facilitated commerce and communication, bringing fresh Chinese inspiration into Islamic art.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.87
Title
Ewer with Peacocks
Classification
Vessels
Work Type
vessel
Date
12th century
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran
Period
Seljuk-Atabeg period
Culture
Persian
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/165497
Location
Level 2, Room 2550, Art from Islamic Lands, The Middle East and North Africa
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Physical Descriptions
Medium
Fritware with molded decoration under purplish-brown (manganese) transparent alkali glaze
Technique
Mold-made
Dimensions
H: 24.3 x Diam: 15.5 cm (9 9/16 x 6 1/8 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
2002.50.87
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
This purple-glazed ewer has a bulbous body and a tapering neck with a wide, flaring mouth. Its relief decoration features a broad band of confronting peacocks, their necks intertwined, alternating with pear-shaped floral motifs. Above this main band is a narrower one with scrolling vines. The foot of the ewer has been left unglazed. On one section of the peacock band the glaze has pooled, perhaps due to an error in the firing process. The vessel has been repaired, especially in the area of the mouth.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
22

Ewer with peacocks
Iran, Seljuk-Atabeg period, 12th century[1]
Fritware with molded decoration under purplish-brown (manganese) transparent alkali glaze
24.3 cm × 15.5 cm (9 9/16 × 6 1/8 in.)
2002.50.87

Published: McWilliams 2003, 239, fig. 16.

This purple-glazed ewer has a bulbous body and a tapering neck with a wide, flaring mouth. Its relief decoration features a broad band of confronting peacocks, their necks intertwined, alternating with pear-shaped floral motifs. Above this main band is a narrower one with scrolling vines. The foot of the ewer has been left unglazed. On one section of the peacock band the glaze has pooled, perhaps due to an error in the firing process. The vessel has been repaired, especially in the area of the mouth.

Monochrome-glazed and luster ewers of this shape are relatively common.[2] Although peacocks are often represented on ceramics and other forms of Islamic art, their entwined stance on this ewer is unusual.

Ayşin Yoltar-Yıldırım

[1] The ewer was last fired between 600 and 1000 years ago, according to the results of thermoluminescence analysis carried out by Oxford Authentication Ltd. in 2011.
[2] Grube 1994, 171, 176, cats. 161, 162, 171. For a lusterware ewer very similar in shape (Hetjens Museum, Düsseldorf, 1963/26), see Hetjens Museum 1973, 101.

Publication History

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), p. 184, cat. 22, 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

32Q: 2550 Islamic, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

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