Dish With Inscription
Samanid, 9th-10th century CE
Materials and technique
Ceramic; earthenware, white slip with black and red slip decoration under a transparent glaze
Ø 34.9 cm
This bowl is a fine example of ceramic wares produced in the workshops of Khurasan and Transoxiana during the ninth and tenth centuries, the period during which Samarqand, Nishapur, and Bukhara enjoyed economic and cultural prosperity under the Persian Samanid rulers (819-1005 CE) (Makariou 2007, p. 197, n. 1). The Samanids oversaw a wide variety of ceramic production. Epigraphic slipwares have been ascribed to centres of production such as Nishapur and Afrasiyab (old Samarqand) and were for local consumption; they are not found in excavations west of central Iran or at Rayy. In this bowl, a white slip formed from semi-fluid coloured clay was used to cover the ceramic body and create a blank surface on which the ornamental inscription could be written. Calligraphy, traditionally thought of as the highest form of Islamic art because of its power to transmit the word of God, provides the sole adornment for this vessel. Added to the sobriety and sophistication of the epigraphic ornament, the colour contrast heightens the beauty of this bowl. Samanid artists excelled in the mastery of the void in an era when surface decoration on objects exhibited a wide variety of ornament (ibid., n. 7). Simple, functional wares were turned into stunning works of austere beauty meant for a distinguished clientele. The inscription on this bowl is a Prophetic tradition: "Generostiy is a disposition of the dwellers of paradise", and in red, a repeated word, which possibly reads: "May you be rewarded," a pious aphorism addressed to the owner.
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