National Museum of Damascus
Hegira 6th–7th century / AD 12th–13th century
Earthenware painted with polychrome underglaze.
Height 10 cm, diameter 20.4 cm
Raqqa region, Syria.
An example of underglaze polychrome lustre-ware, specifically the type renowned in the area of Raqqa and neighbouring Rusafa during the AH 6th / AD 12th century. Stylistically this type of ceramic follows the trend in Persian mina'i ware that is characterised by prominent colours and gilding applied over the glaze. As Syrian potters were not familiar with the technique of applying overglaze enamels, they used their habitual underglaze method while adopting the iconography and style of mina'i.
The piece is a semi-spherical bowl with a tall base. Its interior is decorated with an illustration of a person – either a man or a woman, it is difficult to tell – who wears a small hat, has a halo surrounding her Turkoman moon-like face and a beauty spot on her left cheek. She carries in her right hand a cup. The clothing is decorated with embroidery consisting of stylised vegetal patterns; similar vegetal decorations also surround the figure.
Along the inside rim of the vessel are stylised geometric designs. The outer surface of the vessel is decorated with a band of almond-shaped motifs. The whole decorative scheme has been executed in blue, black, red, green and brown on a background of ivory-beige; a light-green transparent glaze covers the vessel overall.
The westwards movement of the Seljuqs from Central Asia brought a fashion for Iranian iconography. Syrian potters used their local method of underglaze polychrome painting while executing Eastern-inspired figurative images.
The bowl is dated by comparative analysis of similar finds from Raqqa believed to be of the Ayyubid period (6th–7th / 12th–13th centuries). Production of ceramics ended after the Mongol invasion and destruction of the city in 656–7/ 1258–9.
Purchased in 1947.
Raqqa and Rusafa were known as centres for the production of wares of this type, specifically polychrome ware with underglaze painting in five or six colours and figural representation showing strong Persian or Central Asian influence.
Abu al-Faraj al-Ush, M., A Concise Guide to the National Museum of Damascus, Damascus, 1969, p.231.
Delpont, E., L'Orient de Saladin l'art des Ayyoubides, Paris, 2001, p.51; fig. 44.
Porter, V., Medieval Syrian Pottery, Oxford, 1981.
Soustiel, J., and Kiefer, C., La céramique islamique, Fribourg, 1985.
Watson, O., Ceramics from Islamic Lands, London, 2004.
Mona al-Moadin "Bowl" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;sy;Mus01;27;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 38
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)Figurative Art | Human Representation
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