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HOME : Islamic Art : Bowls : Lustreware Figurative Bowl
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Lustreware Figurative Bowl - JB.1132
Origin: Iraq
Circa: 10 th Century AD to 11 th Century AD
Dimensions: 2.9" (7.4cm) high x 9" (22.9cm) wide
Collection: Islamic
Medium: Earthenware
Condition: Extra Fine

Additional Information: A

Location: Great Britain
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Thrown, earthenware bowl with wide everted rim and short, splayed foot; painted in bichrome lustre on an opaque white glaze; male musician playing lute and female dancer with castanets occupies the bowl with dotted registers in the field; thick band to cavetto and lunettes to the rim. Lustre first appears on pottery in Iraq from 9th century, however the origin and date of introduction of lustre are widely disputed. Lustreware was conceived to compete with imported Chinese wares. It was more difficult and expensive to produce and allowed for more sophisticated designs which naturally afforded it a luxury status. It was produced solely in Iraq during 9th century before emerging in Egypt in 10th century and later in Syria, Anatolia and Iran. The green and yellow decoration is consistent with the second phase in the development of lustreware from poly- to bi-chrome and suggests a date of production between mid-late 9th and early 10th century. This would point to an Iraqi provenance in this case. Lustreware has a unique aesthetic that distinguishes it from other contemporary wares, which illustrate either restrained and/or sparse or uncontrolled yet uniform decoration. This piece however has an aesthetic of horror vacui whereby the surface is covered with designs that serve very particular and precise purposes. For example, the dotted registers recall the ring-matted background of contemporary metalwork. Furthermore, the musician and dancer were likely deliberately contrived to inspire thoughts of the ‘princely cycle’ or more broadly, the good life. Such scenes were not uncommon in early Islamic art and are thought to derive from decorative manuscripts. Both, textiles and manuscripts are thought to have inspired lustre designs and as previously mentioned, metalwork also lent certain qualities to the decorative formula. It is during 10th century that figures and animals begin to appear on ceramics. Inspiration for the rather distinct physiognomy and mannerisms of the figures is also disputed but again, could be textiles or manuscripts. Parallels of the human figure can be seen in Coptic manuscripts and ceramics. This was a time for synthesis with earlier cultures and rather than ignoring the traditions of the peoples Islam encountered, artisans took the opportunity to appropriate certain forms and processes and use them to enrich their own craft. While Iraq appears to have had a monopoly on the production of lustrewares, distribution was certainly not limited to Iraq and examples have been found throughout central Islamic lands. A charming piece that elucidates the development of new technologies, as well as, shedding light on the pivotal influences, far and wide, that would eventually form part of the classic Islamic canon that is reflected and reiterated in art throughout the centuries thereafter. - (JB.1132)


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