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Circle-shaped vase with blue-and-white scene of animals and scroll decorations

This vase has a round base that tapers inward at the top. The main portion of the vase is large and circular, like a disc facing the viewer. It has a narrow cylindrical spout at the top. The vase is off-white with blue and black painted decoration. The central image inside the “circle” is a white donkey-like animal and a blue donkey-like animal standing on grass. A circular border of blue scroll shapes surrounds them. The vase’s sides have more donkey-like animals in various shades of blue.

Gallery Text

The works in this case were produced during the reigns of two dynasties that forged empires in the Iranian region: the Timurids (1370–1506) and the Safavids (1501–1722). The Central Asian warlord Timur concentrated in his capital city of Samarkand artists gathered from a vast empire stretching from Syria to India. Timur’s descendants ruled over a greatly reduced realm—parts of Iran and Afghanistan—but gained renown as patrons of the arts. The Timurid system of organizing artists into workshops in which designs were developed for the book arts and for dissemination into other media was emulated by later dynasties, notably the Safavids and Ottomans. Arising in northwestern Iran, the Safavids united all of greater Iran under their rule and established Shiʿi Islam as the state religion, as distinct from the Sunni branch practiced in the surrounding states.

Cultural exchange and industrial competition increased in these centuries, both across and beyond Islamic lands. Responding to the courts’ avid consumption of Chinese blue-and-white wares, Persian potters appropriated Chinese shapes, compositions, and motifs in their own works. In contrast, the colorful dish with scale patterns probably reflects the highly successful products of the Ottoman kilns to the west, in Iznik.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Canteen with Chinese-style Decoration
Work Type
c. 1650
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Mashhad
Safavid period
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2550, Art from Islamic Lands, The Middle East and North Africa
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Physical Descriptions

Fritware with underglaze painting in cobalt blue
28.5 x 20 x 10.5 cm (11 1/4 x 7 7/8 x 4 1/8 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
H. Khan Monif, New York.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Alpheus Hyatt Purchasing Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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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

Exhibition History

  • Exhibition of Islamic Objects, Mead Art Museum, Amherst, 01/28/1972 - 02/28/1972
  • Islamic Art From the Collections of the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 08/01/1974
  • Overlapping Realms: Arts of the Islamic World and India, 900-1900, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 12/02/2006 - 03/23/2008
  • 32Q: 2550 Islamic, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Verification Level

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at