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  • Place of origin:

    Iran (made)

  • Date:

    late 17th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Fritware, underglaze and lustre decoration

  • Credit Line:

    Salting Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery, case WN9

The decoration on this bowl is a combination of dense lustre applied over clear and cobalt blue glazes. This is a feature of many lustre wares produced in Iran during the period 1650-1700.

Around 1650, a group of Iranian potters revived the technique of lustre decoration. First the potter made a glazed vessel or tile with little or no decoration in the normal way. When the piece had cooled, the potter painted a design over the glaze in metallic compounds. The pot or tile was then fired again, this time with a restricted supply of oxygen. In these conditions, the metallic compounds broke down, and a thin deposit of copper or silver was left on the surface of the glaze. When polished, this surface layer reflected the light.

This technique had not been used on any scale in Iran for three centuries. We do not know how the technique was revived, or where the potters produced their distinctive wares.

Physical description

Reddish-brown lustre dish on cream glaze. In the centre is a peacock, surrounded by flowers. Around the rim is a rope style pattern and a more abstract geometric design.

Place of Origin

Iran (made)


late 17th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Fritware, underglaze and lustre decoration


Diameter: 18.1 cm, Height: 7.8 cm

Historical context note

The designs of Safavid lustre owe nothing to the Chinese, but are purely Iranian. Their source is not precisely identifiable, the motifs are a mixture of the sort of decoration found in contemporary manuscript illumination, see Pope (1939; pls 892-93, 896-98. 974-75 etc.) and designs developed specifically for ceramics, such as the arabesques and floral designs found on slip-painted wares (cat. U.25.U26). The relationship ends there though. The range of shapes, the materials and details of making indicate that it is a separate production.

Descriptive line

Lustre bowl with a depiction of a peacock in the centre, Iran, late 17th century.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Caiger-Smith, Alan Lustre Pottery: Technique, Tradition and Innovation in Islam and the Western World, London, 1985, p. 197.

Labels and date

Jameel Gallery

Safavid Lustre
About 1650, a group of Safavid potters revived the technique of lustre decoration. This had not been used on any scale in Iran for three centuries. It is not known how the technique was revived, or where the potters produced their distinctive wares.

The 17th-century lustre ware included a wide range of small vessels. The dense lustre decoration was applied over clear or cobalt blue glazes. The two are often combined on the same piece.

22–26 Lustre Bowl, Goblet, Bottle, Pot and Ewer
Fritware with lustre over clear and coloured glazes
Museum nos. C.1965-1910, Bequest of George Salting; 557-1889; C.59-1952, Purchased with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund and the Bryan Bequest; 561-1889; 924-1876




Middle East Section

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