Gallery Text

As central control weakened in the Abbasid Empire, regional dynasties arose to support, challenge, or redefine the authority of the caliph in Baghdad. The arts flourished in many centers, and wealthy merchant and professional classes emerged. A dramatic increase in productivity and innovation and an unprecedented expansion of figural decoration characterize the arts of this period.

A transforming event was the influx of Turkic and Mongol peoples from Central and Inner Asia. Most of the objects in this case were created in lands ruled by the most important of the Turkic dynasties, the Great Seljuks (1038–1157), and their immediate successors, the Atabegs. The Mongol invasions into Islamic lands began in the early 1200s and culminated in the 1258 sack of Baghdad. Eventually, the Mongols established their rule as the Yuan dynasty in China, the Chagatay Khanate in Central Asia, the Golden Horde Khanate in southern Russia, and the Ilkhanid dynasty (1256–1335) in greater Iran. The integration of a vast Eurasian territory into the Mongol Empire facilitated commerce and communication, bringing fresh Chinese inspiration into Islamic art.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.59
Title
Sweetmeat Dish
Classification
Vessels
Work Type
vessel
Date
c. 1200
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Kashan
Period
Seljuk-Atabeg period
Culture
Persian
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/165023
Location
Level 2, Room 2550, Art from Islamic Lands, The Middle East and North Africa
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Physical Descriptions
Medium
Fritware painted with luster (copper and silver) over blue (cobalt) transparent alkali glaze and white lead alkali glaze opacified with tin
Dimensions
29.8 x 7.2 cm
Provenance
[Hadji Baba Rabbi House of Antiquities, Teheran, before 1973], sold; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (by 1973-2002), 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
2002.50.59
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
This sweetmeat dish was made from two joined components: a tray with small indentations for holding food, and, beneath that, a shallow bowl. The center well of the tray is decorated with a human figure; the six wells around it have vegetal designs. The size and depth of the indentations vary, as does the color of the luster, which is now mostly greenish but has some redder areas. The exterior of the bowl is covered with dark blue glaze and has illegible writing in luster close to the rim. The foot is very short, perhaps the result of a mishap in the kiln. The hollow cavity between tray and bowl would presumably have been filled with hot water through a small opening, but no such opening has been found on this vessel.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
35



Sweetmeat dish

Iran, Seljuk-Atabeg period, c. 1200 [1]

Fritware painted with luster (copper and silver) over blue (cobalt) transparent alkali glaze and white lead alkali glaze opacified with tin

7.2 × 30.7 cm (2 13/16 × 12 1/16 in.)

2002.50.59



Published: McWilliams 2003, 241, fig. 21.



This sweetmeat dish was made from two joined components: a tray with small indentations for holding food, and, beneath that, a shallow bowl. The center well of the tray is decorated with a human figure; the six wells around it have vegetal designs. The size and depth of the indentations vary, as does the color of the luster, which is now mostly greenish but has some redder areas. The exterior of the bowl is covered with dark blue glaze and has illegible writing in luster close to the rim. The foot is very short, perhaps the result of a mishap in the kiln. The hollow cavity between tray and bowl would presumably have been filled with hot water through a small opening, but no such opening has been found on this vessel.[2]



Ayşin Yoltar-Yıldırım



[1] The dish was last fired between 600 and 900 years ago, according to the results of thermoluminescence analysis carried out by Oxford Authentication Ltd. in 2003.

[2] See, in this volume, the essay by Anthony B. Sigel, “History in Pieces: Conservation Issues in Islamic Ceramics,” 37–49, discussing the condition and manufacturing method of this bowl.

Publication History

Holly Salmon, "A Comparative Analysis of Lusterware from the Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, June 2003), Unpublished, pp. 1-54 passim

Jessica Chloros, "An Investigation of Cobalt Pigment on Islamic Ceramics at the Harvard Art Museums" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, 2008), Unpublished, pp. 1-41 passim

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), p. 36-37, ill.; pp. 42-49, ill.; p. 192, cat. 35, ill.

Exhibition History

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

32Q: 2550 Islamic, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

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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