Iran or Mesopotamia
Abbasid, 9th century CE
Materials and technique
Ceramic; earthenware with a white slip and controlled “splashes” of brown, yellow, green, and manganese in a transparent glaze
Ø 37 cm
This large, shallow dish has been decorated using a variation of the “splashed” technique, an effect achieved when pigments added to the surface of a ceramic object run when fired under a lead glaze. Splashed wares, which can include splashed decoration only or additional incised (sgraffiato) designs, have been the subject of much debate among scholars. It was first assumed that the technique was inspired by Tang period (618-907 CE) Chinese ceramic splashed wares, but this theory was questioned as no verified Chinese originals for the Near Eastern objects were identified and the funerary function of the Tang wares made it unlikely that they would have travelled outside of China. However, certain Chinese splashed wares were later found in Samarra, in present-day Iraq. These are believed to be the so-called sancai wares produced specifically for export; these, perhaps, may have provided points of creative departure for their Near Eastern counterparts (see Rawson, Tite, and Hughes 1987-88; Fehervari 2000, p. 47; and Watson 2004, p. 199). The present dish was tested using thermoluminescence analysis, which provided a date of last firing consistent with a ninth century date of manufacture; this is also consistent with the absence of incised or sgraffiato decoration, which first appeared in the tenth century (Watson 2004, p. 201). However, a carefully painted abstract design in manganese evoking the image of a blossoming flower with a large scalloped rim distinguishes this dish from straightforward “splashed” wares.
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