Dish with floral decoration in radial panelsOn display
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Dish with floral decoration in radial panels
Date15th century (1401 - 1500)
Timurid Period (1370 - 1507)
Material and technique
fritware, with painting in blue under a turquoise glaze
Dimensions8.5 cm (height)
30.4 cm (diameter)
at foot 10.2 cm (diameter)
No. of items
Gift of Gerald Reitlinger, 1978.
Museum locationFirst floor | Gallery 31 | Islamic Middle East
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The redevelopment of large areas of the old city of Damascus in the 1960’s brought to life many hundreds of pieces of Chinese porcelain, imported into Syria from the late fourteenth century onwards, and cherished by their owners over the centuries. Among these porcelains are dishes which show very clearly the Chinese origin of both the blue-and-white colour scheme, and some of the plant forms, on contemporary Syrian vessels and tiles.
Although precise dating of most blue-and-white Syrian objects may be difficult, the blue and white tiles which decorate the mausoleum and mosque of Ghars al-Din al-Khalil al-Tawrizi, vizier of Damascus, who died in 1430, show that the style was at its most popular in the second decade of the fifteenth century. Particular plant and leaf forms on the Tawrizi tiles in fact compare closely with those in the more densely decorated radiating panels on this dish, suggesting that a date of circa 1425 for the dish cannot be far from the truth. Typically Syrian are the form of a dish (a shallower version of the thirteenth century Syrian bowl form illustrated elsewhere), and the pattern on the rim, both of which are found in contemporary sgraffito wares. More unusual on Syrian blue-and-white is the turquoise glaze. Like the geometric layout, however it recalls yet again the way medieval Islamic potters were keen to move away from slavish copies of Chinese imports to designs which incorporated their own culture traditions and artistic taste.
In Iran the adoption of blue-and-white was destined to have a long and productive future. In the early sixteenth century, however, Syria became a mere province of the vast Ottoman Turkish empire. As a cultural backwater, its ceramics henceforward played second fiddle to the rich polychrome wares of Iznik, unable to emulate them in either design or colour.
In: Allan, James W., Islamic Ceramics, Ashmolean-Christie's Handbooks (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1991)
Glossary of terms
Ceramic material composed of ground quartz and small quantities of clay and finely ground frit (frit is obtained by pouring molten glass into water).
Vitreous coating applied to the surface of a ceramic to make it impermeable or for decorative effect.
Allan, James W., Islamic Ceramics, Ashmolean-Christie's Handbooks (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1991), no. 27 on p. 46, illus. p. 47
Golombek, Lisa, Robert B. Mason, and Gauvin A. Bailey, Tamerlane's Tableware: A New Approach to Chinoiserie Ceramics of Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Iran, Islamic Art and Architecture, 6 (Costa Mesa, California: Mazda Publishers in Association with Royal Ontario Museum, 1996), pp. 42 (table 3.6) & 155, pls 33 a & b