Name of Object:

Moorish bowl


Berlin, Germany

Holding Museum:

Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum

About Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum, Berlin

Date of Object:

Hegira late 8th century–834 / AD late 14th century–1430

Museum Inventory Number:

KGM 1906, 99

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Ceramic with lustre and blue glaze.


Height 9.5 cm, diameter 22 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Manises, Valencia, Spain.


In a land such as Spain where sailing was of such importance it is no surprise that ships were used in the decoration of ceramics. At the centre of a bowl with a vertical rim, a sailing ship, which conforms to a type of ship known as a ‘nao’ in Spanish and a ‘nau’ in Portuguese, is depicted in front of spiralling tendrils with rosettes. Both the Spanish and the Portuguese were at the time masters of the earth’s seas.
The ship is a single-masted type with a large, square sail. The artist has stylized the bowsprit due to lack of space; at the stern, of the two “flags”, the one aft may be a spritsail that the artist has curtailed due to lack of space. The superstructure of the rudder is decorated in Arabic letters which read "peace". The structural elements of the ship can only partially be made out on this object, with its somewhat basic and faint markings, However, knowledge of this type of ship is known from an example on a large bowl with steep, angular sides that is housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The decorative design of the Berlin bowl matches that of the London one. An original model nao can be seen in the Maritime Museum in Rotterdam. Under the ship on the Berlin bowl, stylised dolphins can be seen playing, occasionally intersected by the bowl’s rim. After Valencia succumbed to Christian rule in 1238, ceramic manufacturers worked under the commission of Christian patrons. The type of ship shown here demonstrates this relationship and testifies to the proximity in which Christians and Muslims lived during this time. A ship accompanied by dolphins was a known motif in the ceramics produced in Malaga towards the end of the 14th and beginning of the 15th century. The fact that only a few ceramics with this motif existed perhaps reveals that only a few commissioned this princely theme. An examination in 1983 of a fragment of the London plate conclusively confirmed that Nasrid ceramics were manufactured in Malaga. Stylistic examinations had already suggested that this was the case. These comparisons have also demonstrated the connections between the Spanish ceramics of this period and those made in Sicily and Egypt. Depictions of ships first appeared at the time of the Reconquista and with the emergence of Christian patrons.

View Short Description

Ships carrying trade across the Mediterranean sea appear frequently on pottery vessels made in the workshops of al-Andalus. This bowl was made in Manises near Valencia. The marks of the tripod show that such bowls were manufactured in large numbers and were traded to Mediterranean countries.

How date and origin were established:

Bowls featuring depictions of ships are numerous in Spanish ceramic ware. This example, with its three-master, is dated to between the late 14th and the first half of the 15th century, from the way in which it is painted and from its markings.

How Object was obtained:

Transferred from the Museum of Arts and Crafts as a long-term loan.

How provenance was established:

From its shape and its painted markings the bowl looks like ceramics from the Spanish town of Manises.

Selected bibliography:

Caiger-Smith, A., Lustre Pottery, London, 1985, pp.84–125.
Caviró, B. M., Cerámica Hispanomusulman: Andalusí y Mudéjar, Madrid, 1991, pp.82–5, ill. 65–6.
Dodds, J. D., Al-Andalus. The Art of Islamic Spain, New York, 1992, no. 114.
Frothingham, A. W., Lustreware of Spain, New York, 1951, pp.91–3, ill. 56–7.
Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin (eds.), Schätze der Alhambra. Islamische Kunst aus Andalusien, 253, Berlin, 1992, no. 129.

Citation of this web page:

Annette Hagedorn "Moorish bowl" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2023.;ISL;de;Mus01;46;en

Prepared by: Annette Hagedorn
Translation by: Maria Vlotides, Brigitte Finkbeiner
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: GE 57


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