Name of Object:



London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

The British Museum

About The British Museum, London

Date of Object:

Hegira 7th century / AD 13th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Incised (sgraffito) splashware (or slipware) ceramic, with green, brown and manganese glaze.


Diameter 26.3 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Northern Syria.


An incised (sgraffiato) splashware (or slipware) bowl with green, brown and manganese glaze that was used popularly as ordinary tableware. Drawn with incised lines under the glaze there is a striking depiction of an archer, mounted on a rearing horse, and drawing his bow and arrow. The splashware technique with polychrome glaze was derived from Chinese T'ang pottery. The incised or sgraffiato technique was widespread in the medieval world – both Christian and Islamic – but relates more specifically to the sgraffiato Aqhkand ceramics produced near Tabriz in Iran in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Iranian product is characterised by a central bold motif with vigorous drawing of incised lines that would have been used to keep the glaze from running outside the design. The system was eventually carried to regions of Italy via Anatolia and then to the Byzantine provinces. Polychrome sgraffiato wares were also popular in Mamluk Egypt, where the technique was used for inscriptions and heraldic devices rather than for figurative designs.

View Short Description

A bowl with incised, or sgraffiato, decoration of an archer on a rearing horse, drawing his bow and arrow. The technique of polychrome glaze splashed onto the surface was derived from Iranian ceramics, in their turn inspired by Chinese T’ang pottery.

How date and origin were established:

The piece relates to wares discovered in excavations that can be dated to the AH 7th / AD 13th century, for example that found at Qal'at Jabar, where the archaeology belongs to the period AH 6th and 7th / AD 12th and 13th centuries only.

How Object was obtained:

Purchased in 1931.

How provenance was established:

The bowl was found in Aleppo and stylistic analysis confirms that it is from northern Syria.

Selected bibliography:

Hobson, R., "A Near Eastern Pottery Bowl", British Museum Quarterly, Vol. XL, 1931, p.37.
Lane, A., Early Islamic Pottery, London, 1947, p.26.
L'Orient de Saladin au temps des Ayyoubides, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 2001, p.102, cat. no. 75.
Porter, V., and Watson O., "Tell Minis wares"in Allan J., and Roberts C., (eds.), Syria and Iran: Three Studies in Medieval Ceramics, Oxford University Press, 1987, pp.175–247.
Tonghini, C., Qal’at Jabar Pottey: A Study of a Syrian Fortified Site of the Late 11th to 14th Centuries, New York, 1998, pp.73–4.

Citation of this web page:

Emily Shovelton "Bowl" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2022.;ISL;uk;Mus01;17;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 20


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