Dish with chrysanthemum sprays and lotus flower


  • Handbook text

    Chinese porcelains were held in high esteem in the courts of the fifteenth century Islamic rulers of the Near East. For example, in the second half of the century, documents reveal a steady succession of gifts of Chinese porcelain from the Mamluk Sultans of Egypt and Syria to the Doges of Venice, or to other important European figures. And when the Ottomans captured Cairo in 1517 the thousand camels used to transport the booty to Istanbul must have carried many tens, if not hundreds, of pieces of porcelain, for a contemporary chronicler records porcelains high on the list, fourth only to gold, silver and weapons, in order of importance. Turning to Chinese porcelains at contemporary Persian courts, an Ottoman register records that sixty-four pieces were found in the Hasht Behesht palace and elsewhere in Tabriz, the north-west Persian capital of the Turcoman dynasty, after its capture by Selim I in 1514. And indeed such objects are frequently shown in Persian miniature paintings of the day, either in day to day use, or housed in special rooms to show off to important guests.

    The Persian dish illustrated here was probably made in Tabriz early in the sixteenth century, and must have been based on Chinese porcelains seen by the potter in the local bazaar, on their way perhaps to the royal treasury. The Chinese motifs copied by the potter are the rock-and-wave border, the chrysanthemum sprays in the cavetto, and the lotus flower with coiled stem and leaves around it. Chinese potters sometimes used cloud-collars to form a star shape to outline the centre of a dish, but, typically, the Islamic potter has introduced a much stronger geometric flavour to the design through the use of a blue arcade of eight arches, which forces the white, eight-pointed star which it encloses and defines onto the viewer’s attention. The tension between this arcade, the circular stem within it, and the central lotus flower, on the one hand, and the spiral stem breaking into three, on the other, provides the extraordinary drama of the dish.

    In: Allan, James W., Islamic Ceramics, Ashmolean-Christie's Handbooks (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1991)

Glossary of terms


underglaze painting

Further reading

Allan, James W., Islamic Ceramics, Ashmolean-Christie's Handbooks (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1991), no. 31 on p. 52, illus. p. 53

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. 31 (table 3.2), 32, & 154, pls IX (colour) & 67 a & b

Reference URL

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