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The Aga Khan Museum: Ceramic, Mosaic - Samanid, 9th-10th century CE  Place your mouse over the image
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Ceramic, Mosaic

Object name
Bowl With Inscription


Samanid, 9th-10th century CE


Materials and technique
Ceramic; earthenware, black slip with white slip decoration under a transparent glaze

Ø 33.5 cm

Accession number


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. While most of the ceramic wares attributed to the workshops of this region in the ninth and tenth centuries display white slips with dark brown calligraphy, this bowl is an example which shows the inverse form of this decoration, that is, white inscription on a dark slip-covered ground (Makariou 2007, p. 197, n. 6). 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 bowl. Added to the sobriety and sophistication of the epigraphic ornament, the colour contrast heightens the beauty of this vessel. 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 reads: "Be aware of the fool, do not associate with him, and do not disregard the bewildered admirer: with blessing."

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