Name of Object:

Albarello-shaped tarro (jar)


London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

The British Museum

About The British Museum, London

Date of Object:

Hegira 8th / AD 14th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

White-glazed and blue and brown lustre-painted earthenware.


Height 28 cm, diameter 9.5 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Andalucia, southern Spain.


An albarello-shaped tarro (jar) with cylindrical body, made of earthenware with white glaze, decorated in brown lustre and blue. High and slightly projecting shoulders slope to the neck that has an almost vertical profile. The broader lower section sits on a circular convex foot. The body is painted with a tree-of-life motif, repeated eight times; four springing from the base-line and four inverted trees springing from the neck. The upright trees alternating with inverted trees form a bold symmetrical design. Framing the foliage of the trees are diagonal lines of pseudo-script on a white background painted in gold. The tree trunks are composed of a row of heart-shapes with gold outline and blue body. The upper part of the tree is also outlined in gold. On the sloping shoulder of the jar is an inscription in naskhi script: 'felicity and prosperity', a typical refrain found in Islamic pottery. A narrow frieze, in blue and gold, decorates the neck. This elegant tarro with its well-proportioned shape and design suggests the work of one of the sovereign's potters. Indeed, the tree-of-life motif appears in wooden decoration in the Alhambra Palace. Given this stylistic connection, as well as the fine-quality lustre painting, this tarro may have been amongst the sovereign's own tableware.

View Short Description

An albarello, or jar, decorated with a tree-of-life motif. The elegant shape and striking decoration suggest that this jar was made for the Nasrid court. The tree-of-life motif appears on the ceiling of the Alhambra Palace, the Nasrid royal court in Granada.

How date and origin were established:

This albarello-shaped tarro has been connected by both its form and decoration to the end of the reign of Yusuf I or slightly later (r. 753–64 / 1353-63); the tree-of-life motif appears on the ceiling of the Salon de Comares in the Alhambra Palace, Granada.

How Object was obtained:

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

How provenance was established:

The style, shape and technique of this tarro indicate that it was produced under the Nasrids in Andalucia, southern Spain. More specifically the decoration recalls the ceiling design in the Salon de Comares in the Alhambra Palace, Granada.

Selected bibliography:

Fernández-Puertas, A., "Cuatro Tarros Nazaríes", Miscelanea de Estudios Arabes y Hebreos, 49, Granada, 2000, pp.371–94.

Ray, A., Spanish Pottery 1248–1898, London, 2000.

Citation of this web page:

Emily Shovelton "Albarello-shaped tarro (jar)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2024.;ISL;uk;Mus01;43;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 61


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