National Museum of Damascus
Hegira 2nd century / AD 8th century
Yahya bin Umayya.
Earthenware produced in a mould, glazed and monochrome-painted.
Height 43.6 cm, diameter 34.3 cm
Basra, Mesopotamia (Iraq).
A large, green ceramic jar with an ornamented globular body and near-cylindrical neck. It has a slightly outward-slanting lip and three handles connect the lip to the shoulder. Each handle is decorated with a finial cap coloured ivory-yellow resembling a small jar. The jar was made in a mould and the joins of the moulded pieces are deftly camouflaged by decorative motifs including interlocking circles containing scale-like patterns and medallions containing stylised vegetal and geometric motifs.
The bottom of the neck has an Arabic inscription written in an early kufic script, the text of which may be translated as follows:
“Drink in health and relaxation, and thank God for this fresh water. This was made in Basra by Yahya bin Umayya for the ruler of Hira, who is generous and good.”
The production of ceramics during the Umayyad period shows continuities with methods and styles known in previous periods in the area. This piece was most probably made during the Umayyad Dynasty and preserved at the 'Abbasid Raqqa palace B. It clearly displays an ancient pre-Islamic influence with its designs dating back to Roman moulded earthenware and Parthian pottery. Its attribution to Islamic civilisation is affirmed by its Arabic inscription in an early kufic script.
This ceramic jug with its antique shape and moulded decoration includes a band of kufic inscription that indicates it was made in the city of Basra by the craftsman Yahya bin Umayya and was dedicated to the ruler of Hira.
A ruler (amir) of Hira; a city in southeastern Mesopotamia (Iraq)
Due to its eclectic and archaic design, the jar points to the Umayyad period (2nd / 8th century). As it was found in Palace B in the Raqqa region, which is dated by an inscription to the reign of the 'Abbasid Caliph al-Mu'tasim (r. 218–27 / 833–42), the vessel continued to be used during the 'Abbasid period.
The jar was obtained during archaeological excavations undertaken in 1952 by the Syrian General Directorate of Antiquities under the direction of archaeologist Nasib Salibi.
The inscription specifies that the jar was made in Basra, a city in southern Mesopotamia (Iraq). Basra was settled by the Arabs in 1237 / 635 and continued to be an important manufacturing centre.
Abu al-Faraj al-Ush, M., A Concise Guide to the National Museum of Damascus,
Damascus, 1969, p.161.
Daiber, V., and Becker, A., Raqqa III, Mainz, 2004, p.98; fig. 15.
Ettinghausen, R., Grabar, O., and Jenkins-Madina, M., Islamic Art and
Architecture 650-1250, New Haven, 2001, p.62; fig. 90.
Rice, D. T., Islamic Art, London, 1965, p.10; fig. 2.
Soustiel, J., and Kiefer, C., La céramique islamique, Fribourg, 1985.
Mona al-Moadin "Ceramic jar" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;sy;Mus01;10;en
Prepared by: Mona Al-Moadin
Translation by: Hilary Kalmbach (from the Arabic)
Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez
Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.
True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.
MWNF Working Number: SY 16
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Abbasids | Abbasid Ceramics The Abbasids | Al-Raqqa: Caliph Harun al-Rashid’s Capital in Syria
MWNF GalleriesArchaeological Objects
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