Bowl thumbnail 1
Bowl thumbnail 2
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images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Ceramics, Room 137, The Curtain Foundation Gallery

Bowl

1980-1985
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This bowl (ME.8-2016) was made by Setrag Balian and decorated by Marie Balian in the late 1970s to early 1980s. 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
The bowl is thrown on the wheel and 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
Bowl, made by Setrag Balian and painted by Marie Balian in the Palestinian pottery, Jerusalem, early 1980s.
Physical Description
Deep ceramic bowl, white ground decorated with decorations of flying birds and floral motifs against a cobalt blue ground. These completely fill the exterior and the walls of the interior. The cavetto of the interior features a flowering tree flanked by two deer.
Marks and Inscriptions
  • Balian, written on base
  • Jerusalem, on base
Credit line
Given in memory of Setrag and Marie Balian
Summary
This bowl (ME.8-2016) was made by Setrag Balian and decorated by Marie Balian in the late 1970s to early 1980s. 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.8-2016

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record createdSeptember 19, 2016
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