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Gallery Text

Following the Prophet Muhammad’s example, the Islamic polity, or caliphate, was ruled by a political and religious leader titled the caliph, or “successor” to the Prophet. Muslims eventually developed a monarchic system for controlling the succession of caliphs. The four centuries of the early Islamic era witnessed the establishment—and unraveling—of the universal caliphates of the Umayyad (661–750) and Abbasid (750–1258) dynasties.

The range of the objects in this case illustrates the Islamic empire’s rapid expansion and the assimilation of peoples and artistic practices. A hot-worked glass vessel and a green-glazed pottery cup demonstrate continuity with late Roman traditions, while the figural imagery and inscriptions on tenth-century polychrome pottery vessels from eastern Iran underscore the continued vitality of pre-Islamic cultural traditions there. The creation of coinage bearing only inscriptions at the turn of the seventh century signals the unprecedented stature that Arabic

Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.91
Title
Jug with Kufic Inscription
Classification
Vessels
Work Type
vessel
Date
9th-10th century
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran or Uzbekistan, Nishapur or Samarkand
Period
Samanid period
Culture
Persian
Location
Level 2, Room 2550, Art from Islamic Lands, The Middle East and North Africa
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Physical Descriptions
Medium
Reddish earthenware covered in white slip and painted with black (manganese and iron) under clear lead glaze
Technique
Underglazed, painted
Dimensions
with handle: H. 10.6 x W. 12.2 x D. 9.4 cm (4 3/16 x 4 13/16 x 3 11/16 in.)
Diam. of rim: 8.8 cm (3 7/16 in.)
Provenance
[Galerie für Griechische, Römische und Byzantinische Kunst, Frankfurt, 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
2002.50.91
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
Among the most impressive ceramics produced during the reign of the Samanids are the epigraphic wares, so called because their sole or main decoration consists of stately Kufic script. An austere Arabic inscription, which may be read as “The noblest thing is the well-being of my guest” (ashraf al-shay nuzli al-muna), lends surprising majesty to this small jug. Written in black, four words are evenly spaced around the bulbous body, with an almond-shaped lozenge marking the end of the phrase. The tall ascending letters curve gently to the left. The intersection of the neck and body is ringed by a black line, which breaks into a looping motif at the front of the jug, opposite the handle. The black slip is raised slightly above the white surface; a carving tool has been used to sharpen its contours. The jug has been reassembled from thirteen fragments; small losses filled with plaster have been painted white. The reddish earthenware body, including the flat base, is covered entirely in white slip and a slightly yellowish clear glaze.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
9

Jug with inscription
Probably Uzbekistan, Samarkand,
Samanid period, late 9th–10th century[1]
Reddish earthenware covered in white slip and painted with black (manganese and iron) under clear lead glaze
Body: 10.6 × 9.8 cm. (4 3/16 × 3 7/8 in).
Handle and rim: 12.2 cm (4 13/16 in.)
2002.50.91

Published: McWilliams 2004, 11.

Among the most impressive ceramics produced during the reign of the Samanids are the epigraphic wares, so called because their sole or main decoration consists of stately Kufic script. An austere Arabic inscription, which may be read as “The noblest thing is the well-being of my guest” (ashraf al-shay nuzlī al-munā), lends surprising majesty to this small jug. Written in black, four words are evenly spaced around the bulbous body, with an almond-shaped lozenge marking the end of the phrase. The tall ascending letters curve gently to the left. The intersection of the neck and body is ringed by a black line, which breaks into a looping motif at the front of the jug, opposite the handle. The black slip is raised slightly above the white surface; a carving tool has been used to sharpen its contours. The jug has been reassembled from thirteen fragments; small losses filled with plaster have been painted white. The reddish earthenware body, including the flat base, is covered entirely in white slip and a slightly yellowish clear glaze.

Mary McWilliams

[1] This jug is of “ancient origin,” according to the results of thermoluminescence analysis carried out by the Research Laboratory of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 1973.

Publication History

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), p. 175, cat. 9, 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, 11/01/2014

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