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Catalog Data

Earthenware painted with slip under transparent glaze
H x Diam: 7.6 x 18.5 cm (3 x 7 5/16 in)
10th-11th century
Deep bowl with luster design of peacock holding fish in its beak, on ground with dots and circles. Festooned edge. Lower part of walls and foot unglazed. Two pieces missing and restored.
(Atil,1973) The early lusterwares of the Abbasid period were often imitated in Iran as seen in this bowl which represents a peacock holding a large fish in its beak. The decoration uses the conventions of the Samarra style with a scalloped band on the rim, wide contour panels around the motifs and dots and circles filling in the background. The theme of a bird holding a fish in its beak had been observed on a prehistorical bowl found in Samarra and reapperas in the tenth century on post-Samarra lusters with several examples depicted on bowls and jugs. Other related themes from Iraq show animals or birds with leaves in their mouths (see No.4).
This Iranian example differs from the Iraqi wares both technically and stylistically. The technique used here is not true luster: the motifs are underglaze painted in an olive-green pigment or slip on the white engobe which covers the inner surface of the bowl, thus simulating the greenish-yellow Samarra lusters. The design reveals a derivative quality in which the silhouette effect is dissolved (this feature is particularly noticeable in the body and tail of the peacock); the circles of the background omit the central dot of the "peacock's-eye" motif.
The exterior shows a series of diagonal lines on the rim, deviating from the traditional concentric circles found on the Abbasid wares. The lower part of the exterior walls and fthe foot are unglazed.
The provenance of this piece is not known but several examples of underglaze-painted wares which follow the stylistic features of the Samarra style were found both in Nishapur and in Samarkand (C.K. Wilkinson, "The Glazed Pottery of Nishapur and Samarkand," Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. XX, no.3 [Nov., 1961], pp. 102-115). Some of the pieces from northeastern Iran imitate luster by using a green slip which tends to stain the transparent glaze yellow (C.K. Wilkinson, Iranian Ceramics, New York, 1963, pl.27). One similar bowl from Iran, which also represents a peacock holding a fish in its beak, is a slip-painted in black under a greenish glaze (Victoria and Albert Museum, Islamic Pottery: 800-1400 A.D., London, 1969, no.40).
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Exhibition History:
Near Eastern Ceramics (June 24, 1982 to September 23, 1982)
Near Eastern Ceramics (May 14, 1981 to May 10, 1985)
Art of the Arab World (August 15, 1980 to May 13, 1981)
Ceramics from the World of Islam (January 16, 1974 to July 1, 1974)
ceramic  Search this
Islam  Search this
bird  Search this
fish  Search this
peacock  Search this
Samanid period (819 - 1005)  Search this
Iran  Search this
earthenware  Search this
slip  Search this
Arts of the Islamic World  Search this
Credit Line:
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Accession Number:
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Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Collection
Data Source:
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery