National Museum of Damascus
Hegira 3rd– 4th/ AD 9th–10th century
Earthenware, tin-glazed and painted (dichromatic).
Height 7 cm, diameter 24 cm
Abbasid, possibly during the Buyid Dynasty, also known as the Buwayhids
Al-Jazira (the region located between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, hence known as “the island”; currently consisting of northeast modern Syria and northwest Iraq), or Mesopotamia.
The shallow shape of the bowl and the attempt to imitate the whiteness of porcelain are evidence of the admiration the Muslim potters had for Chinese ceramics. Early Abbasid potters created a tin-glaze or under-fired alkaline glaze in order to conceal the earthy colour of their wares with an opaque whiteness imitating Chinese porcelain. The decoration on this bowl includes four spontaneously flowing streams of green running from the border towards the centre. In the middle of the dish are three lines of angular Arabic kufic script that are decorative and not clearly legible.
It is possible to read the first line as: “was made by which …" This is unusual as the proper phrasing should be "which was made by…". The second line is not entirely legible, but can be read as: “Muhammad”, possibly indicating the name of the craftsman. There are similar ceramic bowls exhibiting the same name. The third line reads: "enjoy your meal". Such wares were regularly decorated with aphorisms and good wishes to the owner.
The fashion for Chinese ceramics among early Muslim potters is evidenced by the opaque whiteness and crackled effect of the glaze as applied on this Abbasid dish. Its designer, possibly named Muhammad, is trying to imitate Chinese porcelain.
The dating is approximated to the AH 3rd– 4th/ AD 9th–10th century or Abbasid period, based on stylistic and comparative evidence. Most bowls in this Eastern style are attributed to the period of the Buyid Dynasty, also known as the Buwayhids, an Islamic Dynasty of Persian origin and Shi'ite faith, who ruled in Iraq between 338–447/ 943–1055 while maintaining loyalty to the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad.
Purchased in 1939 in Aleppo.
This type of ware was made in Mesopotamia and al-Jazira and shows Eastern influences. There were various centres of production.
Abu al-Faraj al-Ush, M., A Concise Guide to the National Museum of Damascus,
Damascus, 1969, p.230.
Atil, E., Islamic Art and Patronage: Treasures from Kuwait, New York, 1990, pp.60–1.
Bloom, J., and Blair, S., Islamic Arts, London, 2002,pp.18–109.
Ettinghausen, R., Grabar, O., and Jenkins-Madina, M., Islamic Art and Architecture 650–1250, New Haven, 2001.
Fehervari, G., Art of the Eastern World, London, p.122–3.
Khalili, N., A Selection of Islamic Art at the Brunei Museum, Brunei, 1990.
Soustiel, J., and Kiefer, C., La céramique islamique, Fribourg, 1985.
Mona al-Moadin "Ceramic bowl" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2018. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;sy;Mus01;12;en
Prepared by: Mona Al-Moadin
Translation by: Hilary Kalmbach (from the Arabic)
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: SY 18
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Abbasids | Abbasid Ceramics
DownloadAs PDF (including images) As Word (text only)