Kashan Lustre Pottery Bowl

SKU GD.001

1100 AD to 1300 AD


3.3″ (8.4cm) high x 7.6″ (19.3cm) wide




Central Asia

Gallery Location



This item is a classic example of the 'panel style', so-called because of the division of the surface into radial panels which are distinguished by their separate patterns.

Research is in general agreement that the skills and knowledge for the production of these stunning and intricately decorated lustre wares were imported from Egypt at the end of the Fatimid period and then fully mastered by the Persian potters of the 12th century AD. The many artists and artisans that had originally migrated to Fatimid Egypt, were now moving back to the new centers of power and bringing with them their technical skills. Here, the arts flourished, nurtured and protected by the culturally enlightened rulers, and Islamic decorative techniques were applied to pottery and ceramics with renewed vigour.

Preoccupation with surface decoration reached new levels of technical sophistication with the use of metal-based “lustre” pigments—a combination of copper and silver—in twelfth- century Iran. The pigment was applied to the cold body of an already glazed tile or vessel, which was then re-fired in a specially constructed kiln that allowed the metallic oxides to adhere to the vessel. The result was a shimmering lustrous surface rivaling those of gold and silver.

In response to highly refined and envied Chinese ceramics, the Islamic potters also developed a new and finer material than clay for their artistry during the Seljuk period. “Frit”, consisting of about ten parts crushed quartz, one part white clay and one part glass frit, was made by melting together crushed quarts and potash and crushing the substance again to create a finer, lighter and far more luxurious ceramic.

This magnificent museum quality bowl illustrates the phenomenal heights the art of calligraphy in ceramic decoration reached in the 13th century Middle East. The art of lustre and polychrome painting was mastered to such an extent that cobalt blue highlights were used to create even more variety on the vessels' surface. The entire decoration emanates in radial triangular sections from a single point of origin at the very centre of the cavetto, highlighted by (cobalt) blue straight radial lines.

This bowl has a number of enigmas. Firstly the beautifully rendered inscriptions remain to be deciphered. Then we have the gold stylized zoomorphic image that emerges, repeated in each blue highlighted quarter in gold. Are these angelic forms or something else? In many respects this is an intriguing masterpiece which holds further treasures yet to be uncovered.

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