“[slipware] is... of the highest intellectual order;
hold the essence of Islam undiluted”
Arthur Lane, author of Early Islamic Pottery
Buff earthenware, polychrome on white-slip under
clear glaze; piriform body with wide funnel neck,
short foot-ring and arched handle; geometric
register to upper body consisting of interlacing
bands that divide the surface into panels filled
arabesque; neck with leaf sprays, the interstices
similarly filled with arabesque. Excellent surfaces
with some loss of slip and minor repair to mouth.
At their very best, slip-wares of 10-11th centuries
are among the most impressive ceramics ever
in the Islamic world. The praxis of painting in
coloured slips was restricted to Iran and parts of
Central Asia, a region that today denotes
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan
Precisely thrown and turned to a remarkable
thinness, the exceptional standard of finish sets
piece quite apart from contemporaneous
earthenwares. The surfaces have been carefully
rubbed down to achieve a regular, symmetrical
and most attractive iridescent glaze applied.
The underglaze decoration – the sum of black,
brown and red geometric and vegetal elements –
extremely well executed and encompasses key
components of Islamic non-figural decoration.
In spite of the humble material, the weight of the
design – in no small part due to its simplicity –
propels this piece into a higher artistic class.
the main register is closed - its borders clearly
delineated– the interlacing bands lend
repetition fulfilling the Islamic desire for a
harmonious and balanced design.
We see influence across a vast area that is
and reiterated across a wide range of forms and
material. The shape of the vessel corresponds
contemporary unglazed wares and the decoration
follows what might be seen on bowls.
Pre-Islamic wares are also referenced. Rather
ignoring the cultures of the peoples they
encountered during the empires rise to eminence,
the great dynasties that shaped and defined the
empire appropriated certain elements and
perpetrated them within their own artistic
vocabulary. Classical and Roman influence was
transmitted by Late Antique and Byzantine
in the west and Persian by the Sassanians in the
Comparable vessels within the Barakat Collection
have been assigned the provenance of Nishapur.
may well be possible to attribute this piece to the
A similar jug on display at Kuwait National
has been identified from an inscription as a wine
so it is not unreasonable to assume this jar was
intended to serve a similar function.
For similarly shaped vessels, cf. Ceramics from
Islamic Lands, Oliver Watson (Thames & Hudson,
New York, 2004) P.216, Cat.Ga.14.5 & P.228,
Small jug, slip-painted black-on-white ware. The
globular body rests on a low foot-ring and has a
widely opening funnel-shaped neck and a tall
handle. The decoration is painted in black on a
white ground slip an on the upper part of the
presents heavy painted double black fillets which
run around and form series of oval on top, the
spaces in between are decorated by scrollwork.
decoration of the neck presents two sets of
semicircles, one facing down, the other up while
almost perfect rectangular areas, formed by the
semicircles, once more display simple scrolls.
Iran or Central Asia, 10th century.
Prof. Geoffrey King