Samanid, circa 10th century CE
Materials and technique
Ceramic; earthenware, polychrome slip decoration under a transparent glaze
Height 11.5 cm; Ø 31 cm
Like their monochrome or bi-coloured counterparts, polychrome slip-covered earthenware ceramics produced in the tenth and eleventh century under the Samanids (819-1005 CE) are unrivalled in quality and design. While still using the simplest of materials, Iranian craftsmen achieved an unprecedented level of refinement in the production of earthenware dishes and in the colour and texture of the slip used to cover their surfaces. Designs ranged from figural to epigraphic to abstract, or any combination of the three. This bowl is related to the other epigraphic wares produced in Samanid Iran and Central Asia, but is distinguished from them by its vibrant polychrome decoration. The bowl is of truncated conical form with a narrow foot-ring, painted in burnt-orange, green, and dark brown over a white slip. The decoration consists of four ornamental palmette leaves alternating with abstract kufic inscriptions (perhaps meant to read "Good Fortune") around the cavetto and a strapwork-border roundel containing an abstract spiralling foliate design. Stylised leaf and teardrop forms fill the remaining interstices and a scalloped border completes the design around the vessel’s rim.
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