BOWL - Aga Khan Museum
Aga Khan Development Network
The Aga Khan Museum: Ceramic, Mosaic - 11th century CE  Place your mouse over the image
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Ceramic, Mosaic

Object name


11th century CE

Materials and technique
Earthenware, white slip with decoration in red, yellow, ochre, black and dark brown pigment

Height 7 cm; Ø 17.5 cm

Accession number


The stylised bird in this bowl’s interior attracts the viewer with its size and swelling body, decorated with a colourful dotted pattern that contrasts with the black-striped background and ochre-coloured scalloped border. Its decoration and technique tempt a somewhat composite classification among Abbasid, imitation Abbasid, and so-called “Sari” wares. The bowl recalls similarly decorated Abbasid lustre wares from the tenth century or even imitation lustre wares (created from slip-painted earthenware with slip decoration) from Iran in the same period, where birds are depicted with large bodies and tails and shown holding a leaf in their beaks (see Watson 2004, pp. 193, cat. E.15 and 239, cat. Ge.1). The teardrop shape of the bird’s body, tail, and leaf is also reminiscent of the “bevelled” style in Abbasid wood and stucco decoration, such as at Samarra in Iraq (ibid., p. 193). Finally, the composition and technique of this bowl bear resemblance to so-called “Sari” wares, often identified by an interior filled mostly by the figure of a large bird, often against a background of smaller birds or “lollipop” flowers and decoration in reds, yellows and browns. Sari wares were named after a town in the northern Iranian province of Mazandaran where some were found and believed to have been produced. Watson, however, mentions wasters of a similar ceramic type excavated in Gurgan, another northern town near the Caspian Sea, and believes Gurgan was one of the production centres for such wares (ibid., p. 243). Since none of the wares in Sari were found in excavations, an attribution of Sari as a place of production cannot confidently be made. Given the stylistic variations in so-called “Sari” wares and other ceramic pieces such as the present bowl, one can only speculate that a number of local production centres existed in northern Iran and were responsible for the circulation of a variety of wares exhibiting a wide range of quality.

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