Name of Object:



London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

The British Museum

About The British Museum, London

Date of Object:

Hegira 3rd century / AD 9th century

Artist(s) / Craftsperson(s):

Abu Nasr of Basra.

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Relief-moulded and lead-glazed ceramic.


Width 34.9 cm

Period / Dynasty





A small, square relief-moulded ceramic dish with nine sections: five circular and four egg-shaped in the corners. The flat surface around these indentations is covered with relief decoration. This was probably used as a condiment tray with a different delicacy held in each compartment. Unusually for this type of ceramic the craftsman has signed his work; Abu Nasr states that he is from Basra but that this dish was made in Egypt. It is possible that Abu Nasr moved from Basra after a period of political unrest there, to settle in Egypt under the relative stability of the Tulunid dynasty. He offers, therefore, an interesting example of the tendency of craftsmen to leave areas of political upheaval and migrate to more politically peaceful locations where patronage would be more abundant.

View Short Description

This ceramic dish was made by one Abu Nasr; he states that he is from Basra but that he made the dish in Egypt. This is clear evidence that not only artefacts, such as wood-carvings and ceramics, but craftsmen themselves travelled from Abbasid Iraq to Tulunid Egypt in the AH 3rd / AD 9th century.

How date and origin were established:

Other lead-glazed ceramics with relief decoration have been found at sites in Abbasid Egypt and Iraq, dating to the 3rd / 9th century.

How Object was obtained:

Bequeathed by Augustus Wollaston Franks in 1889.

How provenance was established:

The craftsman has inscribed the dish with the words: 'the work of Abu Nasr of Basra in Egypt'. Therefore although he originated in Basra, he made this dish in Egypt.

Selected bibliography:

Grube. E., et. al., Cobalt and Lustre: The First Centuries of Islamic Pottery, London, 1994, pp.10–34.

Citation of this web page:

Emily Shovelton "Dish" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2016.;ISL;uk;Mus01;47;en

Prepared by: Emily ShoveltonEmily Shovelton

Emily Shovelton is a historian of Islamic art. She studied history of art at Edinburgh University before completing an MA in Islamic and Indian art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Since graduating she has worked on a number of projects at the British Museum. Other recent work includes editing and writing for a digital database of architectural photographs at the British Library. She is currently working on a Ph.D. on “Sultanate Painting in 15th-century India and its relationship to Persian, Mamluk and Indian Painting”, to be completed at SOAS in 2006. A paper on Sultanate painting given at the Conference of European Association of South Asian Archaeologists, held in the British Museum in July 2005, is due to be published next year.

Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: UK1 66


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