Name of Object:

Round-bellied vase


Raqqada, Kairouan, Tunisia

Holding Museum:

Museum of Islamic Art

About Museum of Islamic Art, Raqqada.

Date of Object:

Hegira, last third of the 3rd century / AD 9th century

Museum Inventory Number:

C 50

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Glazed and decorated ceramic.


Height 28.5 cm, diameter 18.5 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Raqqada or Kairouan.


This vase is glazed in yellow over a white slip. The belly is rounded and it has a long narrow neck with no handles ending in a prominent lip. The vase is quite crudely made but has a pleasing shape. The green and brown decoration is elaborate, consisting of a combination of domestic fowl and geometric motifs. Two stylised birds adorn opposite sides of the vase, one with its wings wide open.
All over the rest of the vase, the artist has drawn wildly imaginative patterns; chequer-work, diamonds, circles and dots. Berber in inspiration, this decoration shows just how original Ifriqiyan art had become, in spite of its strong Oriental influences.

View Short Description

The rich brown and green decoration on this vase, with its geometric motifs and domestic animals, is particularly noteworthy. Geometric motifs are dotted around the background. This ornamentation, inspired by Berber and Eastern art forms, is a good example of the singularity of Ifriqiyan art.

How date and origin were established:

Raqqada, where the piece was found, was the Aghlabid capital city, built in 263 / 876, which makes this date a terminus ante quem. Moreover, the vase is characteristic in its shape, colour and decoration of that of the Aghlabid repertoire, which we know well from the thousands of objects and fragments found at the Raqqada site. It appears that the same shapes, colours and techniques were carried over to beginning the Fatimid era, which means that we can date this piece from the last quarter of the 3rd / 9th century. But it was definitely produced in either the Raqqada or the Kairouan potteries.

How Object was obtained:

This piece was found during the Raqqada site excavations in the 1960s. From 1966 it was put on display at the museum of the Great Mosque of Kairouan. In 1986 it was transferred to the Museum of Islamic Art at Raqqada.

How provenance was established:

The discovery of this bowl on the Raqqada site would confirm that this was a local piece from the Raqqada potteries or from those at Kairouan, the nearest economic capital.

Selected bibliography:

Couleurs de Tunisie (exhibition catalogue), 1994, p.120.
Daoulatli, A., Poteries et céramiques tunisiennes, 1979, pp.28–9, fig. 8.
Tunisie: du christianisme à l'islam (exhibition catalogue), Lattes, 2001, p.188.
Ifriqiya: Thirteen Centuries of Art and Architecture in Tunisia, pp.174–5.

Citation of this web page:

Mourad Rammah "Round-bellied vase" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018.;ISL;tn;Mus01;46;en

Prepared by: Mourad RammahMourad Rammah

Né en 1953 à Kairouan, docteur en archéologie islamique, Mourad Rammah est le conservateur de la médina de Kairouan. Lauréat du prix Agha Khan d'architecture, il publie divers articles sur l'histoire de l'archéologie médiévale islamique en Tunisie et participe à différentes expositions sur l'architecture islamique. De 1982 à 1994, il est en charge du département de muséographie du Centre des arts et des civilisations islamiques. Mourad Rammah est également directeur du Centre des manuscrits de Kairouan.

Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: David Ash
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: TN 73


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