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  • Place of origin:

    Kashan (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1208 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Fritware with lustre decoration

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with Art Fund support and the Byran Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery, case WE7, shelf 2

The verses surrounding the polo player on this dish suggest that he represents an unattainable object of desire. One poem reads:

‘It has not been my habit, where lust is concerned,
To speak of the pain in my heart to anyone.
Despite this, I wish to say one thing:
I have died for love of you! Respond to my cry for help!’

In many Islamic societies, scenes containing humans and animals were a common type of decoration in non-religious contexts. The source of this imagery was usually poetry, the most highly esteemed form of secular literature.

Luxury copies of narrative poems were often illustrated with fine paintings, and the more familiar episodes were depicted on palace walls and objects. Love lyrics accompanied portrayals of beautiful young men and women. Odes in praise of the ruler inspired enthronement scenes. The recitation of poems at court was depicted, as were princely activities such as hunting and, as here, playing polo.

Physical description

White bowl with lustre-painted figure of a polo player on a horse, surrounded by dense ornament including conch-like leaves and birds.

Place of Origin

Kashan (probably, made)


1208 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Fritware with lustre decoration

Marks and inscriptions

amorous poetry
Persian; around outside of central composition


Diameter: 35.2 cm

Descriptive line

Dish with lustre-painted representation of a young polo player surrounded by amorous verses, Iran (probably Kashan), 1208.

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

Lane, Arthur. Early Islamic Pottery. London: Faber and Faber, 1947. 52p., ill.; pp. 39, 40, plate 62A (ex Kelekian Collection)
Watson, Oliver. Persian Lustre Ware. London: Faber and Faber, 1985. ISBN 0-571-13235-9. Colour Plate E, pp. 90, 98, 104, 108, 109, 198
pp.77, 83, 91, 122
Tim Stanley (ed.), with Mariam Rosser-Owen and Stephen Vernoit, Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, V&A Publications, 2004
Verdi, Richard. Saved!: 100 Years of the National Art Collections Fund, London, Hayward Gallery and the National Gallery, 2003

Labels and date

Jameel Gallery

10–12 Dish and Bowls
Iran, probably Kashan

On each vessel, a single image is accompanied by verses in Persian concerned with frustrated love. The figures depicted stand for those who are loved but who do not love in return.

On the lustre dish, a young prince rides out to play polo. The first bowl shows one youth offering another a glass of wine, while his companion watches.

The gazelle on the second bowl is a metaphor for elusive beauty, which flees as the huntsman approaches.

10 Fritware with lustre over the glaze
Dated 1208
Museum no. C.51-1952
Purchased with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund and the Bryan Bequest
[Jameel Gallery]
Fritware painted in gold lustre, with spots of colour, depicting a polo-player
PERSIAN (KASHAN); dated 604 A.H. (1207 A.D.) [Old label]





Subjects depicted

Leaves; Players; Horses; Birds; Polo


Ceramics; Lustre ware; Islam


Middle East Section

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