Iran or Mesopotamia
8th-9th century CE
Materials and technique
Ceramic; earthenware, moulded, impressed, and covered in a monochrome mustard or light brown transparent glaze
Height 33 cm
This ewer exhibits a bulbous body, the bottom portion of which appears to have been made from a mould containing an overall pattern of spiral circle, rosette, and heart motifs. Teardrop shaped leaf forms pointed in alternating vertical directions and framing five-lobed foliate motifs have been impressed onto the upper portion. Most of the flared portion of the neck, which ends in the object’s mouth, is missing, but the applied handle is still intact. Multi-petalled rosettes are also applied throughout. The variations in colour created by the arbitrary spreading of the glaze in thinner and thicker portions around the body create a polychrome effect similar to that of Tang Chinese splashed wares, but the decoration here was formed from a single colour. Iranian artists would certainly have been aware of Chinese designs due to cross-cultural exchanges between these regions, which date to at least the first millennium BCE. A discovery in 1997 CE of a Tang period shipwreck off the coast of the Indonesian island of Belitung - the first archaeological evidence of an Arab or Indian ship found in Asia and the first to be found with a complete cargo - has yielded additional information about these connections during the late antique period. One bowl found on the ship is said to be inscribed with a date equivalent to 826 CE, a date confirmed (to the century) by carbon-14 analysis (Wade 2003, p. 20). When more information about this cargo comes to light, it may lead to new conclusions about artistic transmission between the Near and Far East. In the meantime, the body on the present example also bears resemblance to numerous Islamic metal wares made in Iran or Iraq in the eighth-ninth century, wares that, in fact, reflected a continuation of forms used during the Sasanian period (226-651 CE). The ewer may therefore be given a similar attribution.
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