Fragment of a pottery bowl
National Museum of Damascus
Hegira 136–58 / AD 754–75
Earthenware; moulded and stamped.
Height 7.5 cm, diameter 12.2 cm
Produced in Hira in southern Mesopotamia (Iraq).
The Raqqa region contains a group of Abbasid palaces that have been labelled with the letters A, B, C and D. This ceramic fragment was found during archaeological excavations carried out in Palace A. The fragment is part of a delicate bowl that was made in a mould and decorated around its girth with Arabic kufic script that reads: “from the work of Ibrahim al-Nasrani that has been made in Hira for the Amir Sulayman, son of the Commander of the Faithful." The Commander of the Faithful, or Caliph, in question is the Abbasid Abu Ja'far al-Mansur (r. AH 136–58 / AD 754–75). The text indicates that this piece was made in Hira by Ibrahim al-Nasrani and transported to Raqqa. The name of the craftsperson (al-Nasrani, i.e. the Christian) indicates that he was probably a master craftsman in the Christian ceramic-producing quarter of al-Hira.
The base of the bowl was stamped with geometric and stylised vegetal motifs including palm trees.
Although this bowl is delicate and fragmented, its moulded band of early kufic inscription has mostly survived. It includes the name of the craftsman, Ibrahim al-Nasrani, evidently a Christian, the place of production in Hira and the dedication to Sulayman, '[son] of the commander of the faithful'.
Prince Sulayman (son of the Abbasid Caliph Abu Ja'far al-Mansur (r. AH 136–58 / AD 754–75)
The inscription on the fragment associates it with the rule of the Abbasid Caliph Abu Ja'far al-Mansur (136–58 / 754–75).
The fragment was found during an archaeological excavation carried out in 1948 in Palace A by the Syrian General Directorate of Antiquities under the direction of archaeologist Nasib Salibi.
The text inscribed on the vessel fragment specifies Hira, in Mesopotamia (Iraq) as the place of production.
Abu al-Faraj al-Ush, M., A Concise Guide to the National Museum of Damascus,
Damascus, 1969, p.160.
Kohlmeyer, K. (ed), Land des Baal, Mainz, 1982.
Soustiel, J., and Kiefer C., La céramique islamique, Fribourg, 1985.
Weiss, H. (ed), Ebla to Damascus, Washington DC, 1985, p.518.
Mona al-Moadin "Fragment of a pottery bowl" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. https://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;sy;Mus01;11;en
Prepared by: Mona Al-Moadin
Translation by: Hilary Kalmbach (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: SY 17
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Abbasids | Al-Raqqa: Caliph Harun al-Rashid’s Capital in Syria
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