Name of Object:

Large dish


Cairo, Egypt

Holding Museum:

Museum of Islamic Art

About Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo

Date of Object:

Hegira 5th century / AD 11th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Ceramic with metallic lustre decoration over a glazed surface.


Diameter 40 cm

Period / Dynasty:





A large dish with a surface edge that bends outward to a rim embellished by a consecutive series of triangles that resemble the jagged teeth of a saw. The interior of the dish is painted with a portrayal of a seated woman playing a stringed instrument that looks like a guitar. She wears a long garment with a V-shaped collar and wide sleeves, which is decorated with thick stripes and cross shapes. She wears a choker-type necklace, the V-shape of which sits inside the neck of her garment. The designs on her garment, in which the folds around the legs are embellished with decorations, are distinctive to Fatimid apparel. The musician's face is portrayed in profile. A toque, which resembles a turban, crowns her head and two locks of her hair appear from under the headdress on either side of her face along with a small tuft of hair behind her neck. The background around the figure is embellished with irregular surfaces demarcated by thin strokes filled with circles, dots and painted branches from which cone-shaped leaves grow. On the left-hand side of the woman is a delicately designed ewer surrounded by stylised vegetal-leaf designs; from the mouth of the ewer two flowering branches emerge. Below the rim of the dish underneath the painted serrated edge are a series of thick lines.

View Short Description

Economic prosperity in the Fatimid period led to the flourishing of the lustre-ware ceramic industry. Such lustre-ware vessels, where the metallic lustre resembles gold, incorporate a variety of decorations including splendid scenes of Fatimid daily and social life.

How date and origin were established:

The dish was dated based on the study of its painted female musician, and specifically the design and decoration of the clothing she wears. The figure reflects the distinguishing traits that mark the portrayal of people in Fatimid art, including circular moon-shaped faces and almond-shaped eyes. The turban seen on the heads of men, and the toques on the heads of women, are also indicative of the period. In addition, the decorations that are present on the dish are borrowed from the vegetal and non-vegetal decorative motifs seen most commonly on wood, ivory and metal objects of the Fatimid period. This date is further supported by a comparison between this dish and other similar examples that bear the signatures of potters who are associated with the period.

How Object was obtained:

The dish was bought in 1944 from a dealer of antiquities, Fuqyan Jaan.

How provenance was established:

The place of manufacture was narrowed down to Egypt in view of the fact that ceramic production and metallic lustre-ware products were renowned in Fatimid Egypt. This industry grew and flourished in Fustat where archaeological excavations have uncovered a large number of ceramic pieces similar to this dish.

Selected bibliography:

______, Trésors fatimides du Caire, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 1998.
Hassan, Z. M., Funun al-Islam (Arts of Islam), Cairo, 1948.
Jenkins, M., “Islamic Pottery: A Brief History”, Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol. 40 (4), spring, 1983.
Khadr, M. Y., Tarikh al-Funun al-Islamiya [History of Islamic Art], UAE, 2003.
Philon, H., Early Islamic Ceramics: Ninth to late Twelfth Centuries, Athens,Vol. 1, London, 1980.

Citation of this web page:

Al-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa Hammad "Large dish" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2023.;ISL;eg;Mus01;38;en

Prepared by: Al-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa HammadAl-Sayyed Muhammad Khalifa Hammad

He holds a BA in Islamic Antiquities from the Faculty of Art, Cairo University and an MA in the same field from Assiut University. He has been working at the Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo, since 1974 and attended a training course at Vienna Museum in 1977. He has supervised sections of glass and manuscripts and, currently, coins. At the Museum he has participated in preparing exhibitions at home and abroad and has been a member of several inventory committees. From 1988 to 1999 he worked as a lecturer at Om al-Qura University, Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and registered and organised the display of the acquisitions of the Civilisation Museum at the Shari'a and Islamic Studies Faculty at the University.

Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (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: ET 70


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