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Bowl

  • Place of origin:

    Kashan (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1220 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Fritware, with lustre decoration

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mr C. N. Ades MBE in memory of his wife Andrée Ades

  • Museum number:

    C.162-1977

  • Gallery location:

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

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 playing polo.

In the poetry recited at such entertainments, the gazelle was often a metaphor for elusive beauty. Appropriately, the gazelle on this bowl is surrounded by Persian verses.

Physical description

Fritware bowl with decoration in lustre highlighted with cobalt. The center of the bowl features a long-legged gazelle by a stream inhabited by two fish, while the cavetto has verses inscribed in lustre on a white background and the rim features verses in white on a lustre ground.

Place of Origin

Kashan (made)

Date

ca. 1220 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Fritware, with lustre decoration

Marks and inscriptions

Persian quatrain
The Nu'man tulip takes its colour from your cheek!
The speaking parrot learns to take the sugar from your two ruby-coloured lips.
Jealous of the splendour of your face, the full-moon of the fourteenth night bites its finger.
Inscription in cavetto

Signature
Blessings for the owner, written by Muhammad b. Muhammad al-Nishapuri, dwelling at Kashan.
Part of inscription in cavetto

Dimensions

Diameter: 22.6 cm

Object history note

This vessel was part of a hoard that was deliberately buried by its owner, probably a merchant who lived in Jurjan in north-east Iran, or who was passing through the city. In 1220, Jurjan was threatened by a Mongol invasion. The merchant packed the vessels in sand inside large storage jars and buried them for safekeeping. Soon afterwards, Jurjan was completely destroyed by the Mongols, and the owner never returned to recover the hoard.As a result, the vessels in this hoard survived together for almost 800 years, and in relatively good condition. The probable date of their burial also gives us a good indication of when the vessels in the hoard were made, as well as showing the wide variety of types of decoration that were used to make Iranian pottery at this time.

Clement Ades gave a large number of objects found in the Jurjan hoard to the Victoria and Albert Museum at different times. Their object numbers are C.152 to 171-1977, and C.35 to 49-1978.

Historical context note

This bowl was found at Jurjan, in north-east Iran, but was certainly made in Kashan. It feature many of the diagnostic elements of the fully-developed ‘Kashan style’, in which wares made throughout the thirteenth century were decorated. These include its conical shape and the use of underglaze blue for details. However, it also bears the signature of the potter Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Nishapuri (from Nishapur), “residing at Kashan”. The main decoration features a long-legged gazelle by a stream, which is surrounded by two concentric bands containing quatrains of Persian poetry on the theme of love.

Descriptive line

Bowl with lustre-painted representation of a gazelle by a stream surrounded by Persian verses, Iran (Kashan), ca. 1220.

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

Watson, Oliver. Persian Lustre Ware. London: Faber and Faber, 1985. ISBN 0-571-13235-9. Colour Plate G, pp. 41, 43, 93, 98, 104, 108, 181
Tim Stanley ed., with Mariam Rosser-Owen and Stephen Vernoit, Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Middle East, London, V&A Publications, 2004; pp. 83, 88, 91, 92, 122, plate 102
Mehdi Bahrami, Gurgan Faiences, Cairo, 1949, p. 127 no. 3.
Watson, O. A Syrian Bull,Apollo,Feb. 1981 (in object file)

Labels and date

BOWL
White earthenware painted in lustre.
Inscribed: "Written by Muhammad, a man of Nishapur, residing at Kashan".
Found at Jurjan.
PERSIAN (Kashan); early 13th century.
Given by Mr.C.N.Ades MBE in memory of his wife Andree Ades. [Old label]
13-16 Four Vessels
Iran, Kashan
1180-1220

The bowl on the left shows a young prince surrounded by companions. They play the lute, drink wine and sing or declaim poetry. The vase depicts an older participant at such a party, wine glass in hand.

In the poetry recited at such entertainments, the gazelle was often a metaphor for elusive
beauty. Appropriately, the gazelle on the second bowl is surrounded by Persian verses.

Verses are also found on the bottle. This was modelled on similar containers made of
precious metal, which were used for wine drunk at court revelries.

13 Fritware with enamels and gilding over the glaze
Museum no. C.52-1952
Purchased with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund and the Bryan Bequest

14 Fritware with colour in and lustre over the glaze
Ades Family Collection

15-16 Fritware with lustre over and (bowl only) colour in the glaze. Bowl signed by Muhammad son of Muhammad Nishapuri in Kashan
Museum nos. C.162, 165-1977
Given by Mr C.N. Ades, MBE, in memory of his wife, Andrée Ades [Jameel Gallery]

Materials

Fritware

Techniques

Lustre-painted

Subjects depicted

Fish; Gazelle; Streams; Animals

Categories

Ceramics; Islam

Collection

Middle East Section

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