Water Jug

1998 (painted)
Water Jug thumbnail 1
Water Jug thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Ceramics, Room 137, The Curtain Foundation Gallery
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This water jug was made by Setrag Balian at some point before his death in 1996 and decorated by Marie Balian in 1998. Setrag Balian was the main pottery maker in the Balian family workshop in Jerusalem, now known as ‘the Palestinian Pottery’. The workshop was originally founded by Setrag’s father Nishan Balian and two other Armenian potters in 1919, who had been brought from Kütahya in western Turkey on the recommendation of CR Ashbee (1863-1942), a civic advisor to the British Mandate in Palestine and a prominent figure in the British Arts and Crafts movement. The three potters established a School of Ceramics in Jerusalem, where they trained orphaned survivors of the Armenian genocide and produced pottery for retail and export, as well as street signs for the city of Jerusalem. It was also intended that they would provide tiles for the restoration of the Dome of the Rock, however this did not happen until the 1960s.

The 1960s was also the time when the families decided to separate their industries, and Setrag Balian (son of Nishan) married Marie, a French-Armenian artist who became their main painter and designer. This marked a shift in the stylistic vocabulary of the pottery, blending the traditional decoration with more local styles and motifs derived from Late Antique mosaic pavements then being uncovered through archaeological excavation. In particular Marie Balian was inspired by the mosaic in the diwan at Khirbat al-Mafjar (outside Jericho), which shows a large fruiting tree flanked by gazelles, one of which is being attacked by a lion. Birds and gazelles from these two sources thus became some of the iconic motifs of the Balian pottery, and can still be seen on wares produced by the pottery today.

Marie Balian became a significant artist in Jerusalem, well-known for making large-scale tile paintings. In 1992, an exhibition of her work (“Views of Paradise”) was shown at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and an award-winning documentary film was made about her life and art by Israeli director, Yael Katzir. The film also profiles her monumental work, “A Glimpse of Paradise” (2004), a mural composed of one thousand tiles, measuring 4 x 6m, which was installed on a public street in Jerusalem and presented by the artist to the city as an expression of hope and peace.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Main part of the jug is thrown on the wheel, with the spout thrown separately and stuck onto the main body with clay slip. The handle is extruded and also stuck onto the jug with slip. The jug is biscuit fired at 1000 degrees centigrade. The painted decoration is then applied under the glaze by hand, firstly as an outline and then with coloured oxides. The whole piece is then dipped into transparent glaze and fired for a second time to a temperature of 1000 degrees centigrade.
Brief Description
Water jug with handle, made by Setrag Balian and painted by Marie Balian in the Palestinian pottery, Jerusalem, 1998.
Physical Description
Ceramic water jug with handle, white ground decorated with large floral motifs in cobalt blue and turquoise pigments.
Marks and Inscriptions
  • Marie Setrak Balian, written on base
  • Jerusalem, on base
  • 1998, written on base
Credit line
Given in memory of Setrag and Marie Balian
Object history
Setrag Balian passed away in 1996, however he made about 50 bisque pieces that were undecorated and left in storage. After his death, Marie Balian went on to decorate these bisque pieces, usually to commemorate a special occasion that Marie and Setrag would have shared together, such as birthdays or anniversaries. This particular water jug was painted by Marie as a late gift for the birth of her grandson Setrag Balian (the donor). He was born in 1996, three months after his grandfather passed away, hence being named after him. However, due to family problems at the time, it was not until 1998 that Marie painted and presented this water jug as a gift, in honour of her grandson Setrag Balian's birth, and the name his parents had chosen for him.



Although the water jug has a signature on the base, it is rare for pieces made by Setrag and Marie Balian to be signed and dated. This water jug was signed because Marie Balian considered it to be a unique piece, and part of this special collection of pieces decorated after her husband's death.



(Taken from e-mail correspondence with Setrag Balian (the donor) on 12.12.16.)

Summary
This water jug was made by Setrag Balian at some point before his death in 1996 and decorated by Marie Balian in 1998. Setrag Balian was the main pottery maker in the Balian family workshop in Jerusalem, now known as ‘the Palestinian Pottery’. The workshop was originally founded by Setrag’s father Nishan Balian and two other Armenian potters in 1919, who had been brought from Kütahya in western Turkey on the recommendation of CR Ashbee (1863-1942), a civic advisor to the British Mandate in Palestine and a prominent figure in the British Arts and Crafts movement. The three potters established a School of Ceramics in Jerusalem, where they trained orphaned survivors of the Armenian genocide and produced pottery for retail and export, as well as street signs for the city of Jerusalem. It was also intended that they would provide tiles for the restoration of the Dome of the Rock, however this did not happen until the 1960s.



The 1960s was also the time when the families decided to separate their industries, and Setrag Balian (son of Nishan) married Marie, a French-Armenian artist who became their main painter and designer. This marked a shift in the stylistic vocabulary of the pottery, blending the traditional decoration with more local styles and motifs derived from Late Antique mosaic pavements then being uncovered through archaeological excavation. In particular Marie Balian was inspired by the mosaic in the diwan at Khirbat al-Mafjar (outside Jericho), which shows a large fruiting tree flanked by gazelles, one of which is being attacked by a lion. Birds and gazelles from these two sources thus became some of the iconic motifs of the Balian pottery, and can still be seen on wares produced by the pottery today.



Marie Balian became a significant artist in Jerusalem, well-known for making large-scale tile paintings. In 1992, an exhibition of her work (“Views of Paradise”) was shown at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and an award-winning documentary film was made about her life and art by Israeli director, Yael Katzir. The film also profiles her monumental work, “A Glimpse of Paradise” (2004), a mural composed of one thousand tiles, measuring 4 x 6m, which was installed on a public street in Jerusalem and presented by the artist to the city as an expression of hope and peace.
Collection
Accession Number
ME.7-2016

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record createdSeptember 19, 2016
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