Bowl With Riders And Camels
12th-13th century CE
Materials and technique
Ceramic; fritware, lustre painted on an opaque white glaze
Ø 17 cm
Beginning in the twelfth century, ceramics in Iran were produced with a frit body that provided a clean, light surface for painting. In addition to the many transparent and opaque coloured glazes, lustre could also be added to the ceramic decoration, painted over the glaze after it was fired, and then fired a second time, developing an impressive metallic sheen in the process. Most of the stunning works in this group belong to a larger group of pre-Mongol lustre wares with decoration that can be classified as illustrative or pictorial (see Lentz and Lowry 1989, ch. 2) and exhibit the “miniature” and “monumental” styles of Persian lustreware coined by Oliver Watson (Watson 2004). The “miniature” wares include this bowl with a central figure riding a horse at the base, with a caravan of camels following another figure around the wall below the rim. The decoration on this bowl resembles manuscript illustrations containing stock figures and compositions that could either depict genre scenes or refer to a specific text. Given their concave surface, however, different conventions were used to fill the background of a figural scene on bowls and deep dishes. In this bowl, for example, the horse and rider appear against a background of curving stems, dotted on either side to suggest the presence of leaves. A band of vine scrolls borders the base image and is topped by the caravan frieze, where chequered trees add pauses to the steady rhythm created by the moving camels. These types of wares may be compared to the highly figural mina’i or haft-rangi (seven-colour) wares, also attributed to pre-Mongol Iran, a period that witnessed an intensive proliferation of figural art (often depicting royal pastimes), especially in the production of ceramics.
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