- Place of origin:
- Materials and Techniques:
Fritware with underglaze painting
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery, case 3
The decoration of this bowl reflects the influence of Mongol rule on Iranian ceramics. Production of ceramics with decoration painted under the glaze, as here, resumed about 1260.
The sides of this bowl are divided into panels, a design copied from Chinese bowls imported at this time. In the centre are two seated men. They can be identified as Mongols from their headgear, which is topped by large owl feathers, a sign of status.
The invasions of Iran by pagan Mongols under Genghis Khan (ruled 1206–1227) brought devastation and disruption, especially in the east. But they were followed by a period of increasing prosperity, as the unification of much of Asia under Mongol rule caused a boom in international trade.
Fritware bowl with sixteen lobes in the walls, decorated with underglaze painting in blue and grey. The moulded lobed shape copies that of Chinese bowls. Decorated with four long-tailed speckled foxes are depicted in the lobes, as well as two seated Mongols wearing long loose robes and hats with a crest of owls' feathers.
Place of Origin
Materials and Techniques
Fritware with underglaze painting
Height: 9.1 cm, Diameter: 20.8 cm
Object history note
From the Sir Eldred Hitchcock (1887-1959) Collection.
Historical context note
Fritware bowl with sixteen lobes in the walls, decorated with underglaze painting in blue and grey. This bowl represents a type of ceramic ware that became very popular under the Ilkhanids. It is known as 'Sultanabad ware' after the place where it was first found, but these wares were probably made at Kashan - the main centre of pottery production in Iran before the Mongol invasions of the early 13th century, and which continued to operate during the Ilkhanid period (1256-1353).
The Mongol invasions created a close link between the Middle East and China, as both regions came to be ruled by Mongol viceroys. The Ilkhanids ruled Iran at the same time as the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) ruled China. These dynasties maintained close cultural links with each other through trade, by sea and land, along the silk route. This created a flow into the Middle East of many artistic motifs from China. The dragon, phoenix and lotus flower became particularly popular in Islamic art from this time onwards.
The moulded, lobed shape of the bowl copies Chinese bowls which were imported at this time, and the lotus flowers in some of the panels also derive from Chinese models. However, the long-tailed speckled foxes seen in four of the lobes of this bowl are a new motif on Iranian ceramics after the Mongol invasion, which do not seem to have a directly Chinese source.
Objects in this 'Sultanabad' style are sometimes decorated with depictions of the new Mongol ruling class. This bowl shows two seated Mongols, who can be identified by the costumes they wear: long loose robes and hats with a crest of owls’ feathers, which were a mark of high status in Mongol society.
Fritware bowl with two seated Mongols, Iran (probably Kashan), 1260-1350.
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Lane, Arthur. Later Islamic Pottery. London: Faber and Faber, 1957. 133p., ill. Page 13, plate 6B (ex Sir Eldred Hitchcok)
Labels and date
Bowl with Two Men
Iran, probably Kashan
Decoration painted under the glaze also resumed about 1260. The sides of this bowl show the same division into panels as the lustre bowl, but the centre has two seated men. They can be identified as Mongols from their headgear, which is topped by large owl feathers, a sign of status.
Fritware painted under the glaze
Museum no. C.10-1960 [Jameel Gallery]
BOWL, white earhtenware painted in underglaze blakc and blue with figures of Mongols.
PERSIAN (perhaps KASHAN); eartly 14th century.
From the Sir Elred Hitchcock Collection 
This type of ware is known as 'Sultanabad ware' after where it was first found, but was probably made at Kashan.
Lotus flowers; Foxes; Mongols
Middle East Section