Name of Object:



London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

The British Museum

About The British Museum, London

Date of Object:

Hegira 869–97 / AD 1465-92

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Moulded and applied earthenware with white glaze; painted with blue and brown lustre and manganese.


Height 57 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Valencia, Spain.


A magnificent flower-vase with a circular body, flaring foot and tall, flaring neck with curved arms. The construction of this type of vase is complicated and very few have survived. Covering the entire vase is a vine-leaf pattern painted in blue and brown lustre. Displayed in a roundel on the main body is the coat of arms of Piero 'Il Gottoso' ('the Gouty') de Medici (AD 1414-69), or his son, Lorenzo 'Il Magnifico' ('the Magnificent', AD 1449-92). This comprises seven circular shapes, one of which is painted with lilies, the symbol of the Kings of France that was added to the Medici arms in AD 1465. On the reverse of the vase is another roundel with the Medici symbol of a diamond and gold ring, painted in gold lustre, symbolising eternity, and two feathers. Lustre was made by applying iridescent metallic decoration to twice-fired pottery, which was then fired for a third time. This technique was first introduced to craftsmen in Malaga, southern Spain. Throughout the AH 9th / AD 15th century Valencia was a thriving centre of lustre-ware manufacture; Valencian wares soon becoming renowned throughout Europe. Italy had a particularly active trade with Spain and also began to manufacture luxury ceramics in direct competition with Valencian wares. Although largely a Christian area, both Christians and Muslims were said to have been employed as potters during this period.

View Short Description

A spectacular vase covered in a repeat vine-leaf pattern in blue and brown lustre. On one side of the body is a roundel with the coat of arms belonging to the Italian Medici family. On the reverse of the vase is another roundel with a Medici symbol of a diamond and gold ring with two feathers.

How date and origin were established:

The coat of arms belongs to Piero de Medici (816–73 / 1414–69). In 869 / 1465 King Louis IX of France granted Piero the honour of including the lilies of France in the Medici arms. Lilies are included in the design of this vase which means it must have been produced between 869 / 1465 and Piero's death in 873 / 1469.

How Object was obtained:

Part of the Godman Bequest to the British Museum in 1983.

How provenance was established:

The shape and technique are typical of ceramic wares produced in Valencia during the 9th / 15th century. Large quantities of lustre-wares were exported to Italy, particularly to the wealthy families of Tuscany. Furthermore, during the 9th / 15th century Valencia was the major centre for the production of ceramics in Spain.

Selected bibliography:

Martínez Caviró, B., Cerámica Hispanomusulmana, Madrid, 1991.
Rubin, P. L., and Wright, A., Renaissance Florence, London, 1999, cat. no. 81.
Wilson, T., Ceramic Art of the Italian Renaissance, exhibition catalogue, London, 1987, pp.28–31, cat. no. 16, pl.16.

Citation of this web page:

Emily Shovelton "Vase" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;uk;Mus01;44;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 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: UK1 62


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