Bowl of semispherical body on medium-heigh
Whereas the interior bears no decoration, the
entire exterior of this molded monochrome
glazed bowl is magnificently inscribed with regal
benedictions interspersed with the images of
four birds in low relief perched on the letters of
the inscription itself and the figure of a crowned
harpy (bird figures with humanoid heads). Several
other birds of smaller dimensions are depicted
among the letters.
The significance of the Harpy and her relevance
in Islamic iconography is vastly associated to the
ascension of Prophet Muhammad to heaven,
which was made possible with the aid of Al-
Buraq, a mythical creature portrayed with a
human head, bearing to a high degree the
resemblance of a harpy.
The features of the Harpy on this bowl
correspond to a typology found in both Saljuq
painting and sculpture. Like other mythical
creatures in Islamic art, the aesthetic evolution
and decorative use of harpies has been
influenced by different traditions of other
cultures. Harpies had a specific meaning in Islam
which is yet to be fully determined but they
always feature as decorative elements of
generally positive connotations.
The importance of birds with humanoid heads in
Islamic pottery, which bear wings on either side
and a body terminating in tail feathers, is
reinforced by certain ceramic comparisons.
Lobed bowls and cups with images of harpies
similar to this, both molded and painted, are also
found decorating the long neck of a certain type
of ceramic bottles of the same period.