Bowl (1 of 2)

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probably made in Kashan, Iran

Postcard of Bowl (1 of 2).
© National Museums Scotland

Bowl (1 of 2)

This bowl was probably made in Kashan in Iran during the late 12th or 13th century. It is made of a small quantity of fine white clay mixed with ground quartz and ground clear glass. The resulting ware is called fritware. When fired, the body material became hard and dense, and if potted thinly enough, nearly translucent. Because of the whiteness of the body, the colours of the decoration or glazes used on this ware gave a brilliant effect.

The bowl was probably moulded and is of polylobed shape. Inside, it is decorated with a mounted horseman surrounded by four pairs of confronted sphinxes. Around the rim runs a Kufic inscription probably containing blessings. Around the outside runs a cursive inscription written in black. The colours used to paint the decoration were applied in a very time-consuming process. Stable colours such as black, turquoise and blue were applied under the clear glaze. The vessel was fired and then less stable colours applied above the glaze, secured subsequently by a second firing at a lower temperature. This technique, known as 'minai' (enamelled) allowed the potters to use a wider range of colours to decorate their wares.

Minai wares were certainly among the most expensive ceramics made in Iran during the late 12th and early 13th centuries, particularly due to the laborious production process. They were probably intended for the court and the upper classes and it is scenes from this environment which they depict most frequently. In many cases the figural scenes are related to the Iranian national epic, the Shahnameh or Book of Kings, written in Persian by the Poet Firdawsi at the end of the 10th century. In style, the paintings relate to contemporary miniature painting.

Record details

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Online ID: 000-180-001-242-C
Image Rights Holder: National Museums Scotland
Project: 0504: National Museums Scotland Part 2
Project description | View all records in project
Ref: National Museums Scotland  A.1927.287
Date: Late 12th or 13th century
Late 12th or early 13th century
Material: Minai ware (enamel ware); body is of frit paste with colours applied under and over the clear glaze. Inscription: [Kufic inscription on rim]; [Naskhi inscription on frieze outside]
Dimensions: 4.00" H x 7.75" D
What: Bowl
Subject: Ceramics
Where: Middle East, Iran, Kashan
Description: Bowl of 'minai' ware, the body is of frit paste with colours applied under and over the glaze, depicted are figures from contemporary miniature painting: Persia, probably Kashan, 1168 - 1299
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