Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.65
Title
Beehive Cover
Classification
Vessels
Work Type
cover
Date
19th-20th century
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/165415
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Reddish earthenware covered in white slip and painted with brownish black (chromium, iron, and manganese) and blue (cobalt) under clear alkali glaze
Technique
Underglazed, painted
Dimensions
21 cm (8 1/4 in.)
Provenance
Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (by 1978-2002), 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
2002.50.65
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
This ceramic disk was used to cover one end of a beehive; its round hole admitted bees to a cylinder made of mud and reeds or cane, which was laid horizontally in a stack with other hives to protect them from winter weather. Such beehive covers have been used in Iran at least since the early eighteenth century. Talismanic designs or inscriptions, thought to aid the art of beekeeping, decorated these disks. This example features two long-necked birds, perhaps peacocks, facing each other. Their bodies are crosshatched, and flowering plants appear to sprout from their elaborate tails. Repeating floral motifs surround the birds, and the segment below them, containing the hole, is decorated to suggest a pool of water. Light cobalt is casually applied in the empty white areas and around the periphery. The beehive cover is intact except for chipped edges.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
51

Beehive cover
Iran, 19th or 20th century
Reddish earthenware covered in white slip and painted with brownish black (chromium, iron, and manganese) and blue (cobalt) under clear alkali glaze
21 cm (8 1/4 in.)
2002.50.65

This ceramic disk was used to cover one end of a beehive; its round hole admitted bees to a cylinder made of mud and reeds or cane, which was laid horizontally in a stack with other hives to protect them from winter weather.[1] Such beehive covers have been used in Iran at least since the early eighteenth century.[2]

Talismanic designs or inscriptions, thought to aid the art of beekeeping, decorated these disks.[3] This example features two long-necked birds, perhaps peacocks, facing each other. Their bodies are crosshatched, and flowering plants appear to sprout from their elaborate tails. Repeating floral motifs surround the birds, and the segment below them, containing the hole, is decorated to suggest a pool of water.4 Light cobalt is casually applied in the empty white areas and around the periphery. The beehive cover is intact except for chipped edges.

Ayşin Yoltar-Yıldırım

[1] See Savage-Smith 1997.
[2] Cort et al. 2000, 68, 70.
[3] Savage-Smith 1997, figs. 204–6.
[4] For a similarly decorated beehive cover dated to circa 1950, see Gluck 1977, 84.

Publication History

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. 203, cat. 51, 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