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Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.115
Title
Bowl with Birds and Inscriptions
Classification
Vessels
Work Type
vessel
Date
10th century
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Nishapur
Period
Samanid period
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/160273
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Reddish earthenware covered in white slip and painted with black (manganese and iron) under clear lead glaze
Technique
Underglazed, painted
Dimensions
7.8 x 25 cm (3 1/16 x 9 13/16 in.)
Provenance
[Mansour Gallery, London, 1972], sold; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (1972-2002), gift; to Harvard Art Museums 2002.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
Accession Year
2002
Object Number
2002.50.115
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
A pair of inward-facing birds seeming to revolve counterclockwise occupies the walls in this bowl. Their wings are formed of split leaves articulated in reserve, and their tails recall the forked scarves (or tresses) of human figures on Samanid yellow-field wares. Each bird has the Arabic word for “blessing” (baraka) written in Kufic script across its body, and each holds in its beak a split leaf; one leaf is considerably blurred by the running of the black slip in the glaze. From the number of similar bowls that have survived, one can surmise that these motifs and their composition were highly favored in the early Islamic era. Overall, the bowl is sparsely decorated: the interior features only the birds, a black rim, and a pair of comma-like motifs in the center, and the outside is left entirely plain except for white slip and unevenly applied clear, greenish-tinged glaze. The slip and glaze only partially cover the beveled base. Sagger marks at the center, as well as the flow of the black pigment toward the rim, indicate that the bowl was fired upside down.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
12

Bowl with birds and inscriptions
Iran, probably Nishapur, Samanid period, 10th century[1]
Reddish earthenware covered in white slip and painted with black (manganese and iron) under clear lead glaze
7.8 × 25 cm (3 1/16 × 9 13/16 in.)
2002.50.115

A pair of inward-facing birds seeming to revolve counterclockwise occupies the walls in this bowl. Their wings are formed of split leaves articulated in reserve, and their tails recall the forked scarves (or tresses) of human figures on Samanid yellow-field wares (cats. 18 and 19) or the boots worn by the seated figure on an Abbasid bowl (cat. 4).

Each bird has the Arabic word for “blessing” (baraka) written in Kufic script across its body, and each holds in its beak a split leaf; one leaf is considerably blurred by the running of the black slip in the glaze. From the number of similar bowls that have survived, one can surmise that these motifs and their composition were highly favored in the early Islamic era.[2]

Overall, the bowl is sparsely decorated: the interior features only the birds, a black rim, and a pair of comma-like motifs in the center, and the outside is left entirely plain except for white slip and unevenly applied clear, greenish-tinged glaze. The slip and glaze only partially cover the beveled base. Sagger marks at the center, as well as the flow of the black pigment toward the rim, indicate that the bowl was fired upside down.

Mary McWilliams

[1] The bowl was last fired between 700 and 1300 years ago, according to the results of thermoluminescence analysis carried out by Oxford Authentication Ltd. in 2011.
[2] See the following examples: Tareq Rajab Museum, Kuwait, CER71TSR, illustrated in Fehérvári 2000, 54, no. 48; Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, F1956.1, illustrated in Atıl 1973, 30–31, no. 9. See also Grube 1994, 88–89, nos. 79 and 80.

Publication History

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), p. 117, cat. 12, ill.

Exhibition History

In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2013 - 06/01/2013

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu