Name of Object:

Ceramic dish


London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

The British Museum

About The British Museum, London

Date of Object:

Hegira 6th century /AD 12th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Blue, green and manganese-purple glazed and incised pottery.


Diameter 41.5 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Raqqa, northern Syria.


A large round ceramic dish glazed in blue, green and manganese-purple with incised decoration, known as 'laqabi ware', or polychrome carved pottery. The figure dominating the centre of the dish is a harpy, a fantastical animal with the body of a bird and a human head. The first stage in the production process comprised cutting the overall design into the unfired ceramic: the harpy, the swirling vegetal scroll behind the figure, and the border pattern. After the first firing, the glaze was applied to the incised lines which were intended to stop the glaze from running. The design around the border is a simplified version of the rope motif typical of 'laqabi ware' ceramic dishes. Dishes of this type would have been used as tableware and were a cheaper alternative to metal plates and bowls.

View Short Description

A large, round ceramic dish with a picture of a harpy, a fantastical animal with the body of the bird and a human head. The very specific technique of this dish – with incised decoration and polychrome glaze – is known as ‘laqabi ware’, and was produced in Raqqa, Syria.

How date and origin were established:

By comparison with other objects excavated in Syria.

How Object was obtained:

Purchased in 1923.

How provenance was established:

Lane (1947) attributed 'laqabi ware' to Iran, but Porter (1981) has shown that in terms of shape, body and design this type of ceramic was more likely to have been produced in northern Syria.

Selected bibliography:

Grube, E. J., and others, Cobalt and Lustre: the First Centuries of Islamic Pottery, London, 1994, pp. 249–57.

Lane, A., Early Islamic Pottery, 1947, p.35.

Porter, V., Medieval Syrian Pottery, Oxford, 1981, p.35–6.

Citation of this web page:

Emily Shovelton "Ceramic dish" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;uk;Mus01;14;en

Prepared by: Emily ShoveltonEmily Shovelton

Emily Shovelton is a historian of Islamic art. She studied history of art at Edinburgh University before completing an MA in Islamic and Indian art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Since graduating she has worked on a number of projects at the British Museum. Other recent work includes editing and writing for a digital database of architectural photographs at the British Library. She is currently working on a Ph.D. on “Sultanate Painting in 15th-century India and its relationship to Persian, Mamluk and Indian Painting”, to be completed at SOAS in 2006. A paper on Sultanate painting given at the Conference of European Association of South Asian Archaeologists, held in the British Museum in July 2005, is due to be published next year.

Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: UK1 17


Related monuments

 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period


On display in

Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)

Figurative Art | Animal Representation

MWNF Galleries



As PDF (including images) As Word (text only)