Tankard with blue stripesOn display
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Tankard with blue stripes
Dateearly 13th century
Material and technique
fritware, with underglaze painting in blue
Dimensions12 x 18.4 x 16 cm max. (height x width x depth)
at foot 8.6 cm (diameter)
No. of items
Gift of Gerald Reitlinger, 1978.
Museum locationFirst floor | Gallery 31 | Islamic Middle East
The influence of metalwork recurs in Islamic ceramics. Here a small but interesting feature derived from metalwork is the latch handle on the tankard, which was common on earlier bronzes and contemporary inlaid brasses but is a somewhat impractical shape in clay.
The frit ware bodies of the tankard and bowl are used to good effect as a white ground for the bright blue stripes under the glaze. The use of such stripes gives the pieces a very modern look, and indeed they were probably appreciated in the 13th century as they are today for their very abstract designs. In a medieval Islamic context, however, they were also almost certainly interpreted in a symbolic way. The symbolism of the Sun has already been discussed (no. 10 [EA1978.2311]). Here the radiating blue lines on the bowl remind us of the Sun’s rays, and the solar symbolism is further enhanced by the central bird figure. For the ability of birds to fly up into the sky relates them to the heavens, and it is of course in the heavens that the Sun has his residence.
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).
Painting applied to ceramic material before a transparent, or monochrome or coloured glaze for Islamic objects, is applied. The technique was initially developed in China.
Allan, James W., Islamic Ceramics, Ashmolean-Christie's Handbooks (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1991), no. 12 on p. 24, illus. p. 25