Qing, 17th century CE
Materials and technique
Porcelain, painted in overglaze green and black enamels on opaque white glaze
Ø 35.1 cm
Coarsely potted and covered with a thick, crackled glaze, this dish belongs to a distinct group of porcelain, the so-called ‘Swatow wares’. Swatow is a Dutch mistranslation of Shantou, the port from which such ceramics were supposedly exported, although this port was actually not used until the Qing dynasty (1644-1912 CE). Recent archaeological research by Chinese scholars has established that Swatow wares were produced in Zhangzhou prefecture between the mid-sixteenth and mid-seventeenth centuries for export to Europe, Japan and South East Asia. Dishes similar to this one appeared in Indonesia and are believed to have been commissioned by the powerful seventeenth-century Shia sultans of Aceh in northwest Sumatra, including Sultan Iskander Muda (1607-36 CE) (Canepa 2006, no. 40). The inscriptions on this dish include invocations to Allah, verses from the Qur’an, including Surat al-Baqara (The Cow), Surat al-Ikhlas (Fidelity) and Surat al-Nas (The People), the Nad-i 'Ali prayer and the word ‘Allah’ which is repeated along the cavetto of the dish. The inscriptions are talismanic, seeking protection and assistance for the owner.
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