Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.


  • Place of origin:

    Iran (made)

  • Date:

    1630-60 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Fritware with underglaze painting in blue and black

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The decoration on this bowl imitates a rare group of Chinese export bowls and dishes, of about 1600-20, with heraldic-style shields containing seven-headed monsters, including five beasts and two human portraits and latin inscriptions. The source of the original commission has not been identified. Examples appear in Lisbon where a dish is in the ceiling of the Santos Palace installed in the 1660s, a bowl appears in a Dutch still-life dated 1638 by Willem Claesz Heda (1594-c.1681) in the Hamburger Kunsthalle (JHH 2009), and there is a bowl in the British Museum (OA 1957,1216.19). As well there was a bowl available to the Iranian potter, who made this bowl. The inscription is 'SAPIENTI NIHIL NOVUM' (sic) (To the wise man nothing is new). The rest of the decoration is Chinese in character with Buddhist motifs and lotus flowers. The Iranian potter faithfully imitates the design, but the inscription is completely illegible as it was in a foreign script. The bowl is an important document in the history of international trade, evidence that a design made for one customer could be copied and sold to others of different nationalities. For an Iranian variation on this design see 2911-1876.

Physical description

Bowl of fritware, painted in blue outlined with black under a clear glaze. On the outside four panels are reserve-painted with a winged hydra and its five heads surrounding a couple of busts. Lateral bands simulate the original motto: Sapienti nihil novum. The rest of the surface is painted with ribbons, jewelled strings, pairs of books, lozenges, tassels and flowering branches with finials. Inside are divided into eight panels each with a leafy branch and two flowers rising from a rock. A central medallion with a bald-headed rider on a mule amidst flames. The design is of European origin, with inscription originally in Latin; probably copied from a Chinese bowl with this decoration. Imitation Chinese square mark in black.

Place of Origin

Iran (made)


1630-60 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Fritware with underglaze painting in blue and black


Height: 19.5 cm, Diameter: 32.5 cm

Descriptive line

Bowl, fritware, painted in underglaze blue and black, the design follows a Chinese porcelain original with Latin inscription and European heraldic shield, Iran, 1630-60

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

Crowe, Yolande. Persia and China: Safavid blue and white ceramics in the Victoria & Albert Museum 1501-1738. London: Thames and Hudson, 2002, cat. 64, p. 78.
Lane, Arthur. Later Islamic Pottery. London: Faber and Faber, 1957. Pages 98, 99, 100, 118, plate 81A.

Production Note





Painted; Glazed

Subjects depicted

Rider; Mule; Ribbon; Books; Tassel; Figures (representations); Lozenges; Flowering plant




Middle East Section

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.