Among the most significant contributions from Muslim craftsmen to world ceramics, lustre was not only an expensive technique, but a difficult one to master. Metal-based pigments and other substances were diluted and carefully applied to pre-glazed pots. These were then fired in special kilns with a ‘reduced’ atmosphere in which carbon monoxide triggered a chemical reaction that permanently fixed the metallic oxides onto the object’s surface, giving it its characteristic sheen. First used on pottery in ninth-century Iraq, the technique reached Egypt in the 10th century, and then travelled back to Syria and Iran in the 12th century.
This splendid bowl is dated to the year 608 in the Islamic calendar, corresponding to 1211-1212 AD. It can be associated with the city of Kashan in Iran, which emerged as the most prominent centre of lustre production between the late 12th and early 14th century. Although unsigned, its accomplished design and technical execution place the piece within the circle of Abu Zaid. Abu Zaid was one of the most prominent potters of the time, and a driving force behind the technical and stylistic achievements of 13th century Iranian lustreware.
Allan, James W., Islamic Ceramics, Ashmolean-Christie's Handbooks (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1991), no. 15 on p. 28, illus. p. 29
Allan, James W., Medieval Middle Eastern Pottery (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1971), pp. 32-34 & 37, illus. p. 33 pl. 28
Fehérvári, Géza, Islamic Pottery: A Comprehensive Study Based on the Barlow Collection (London: Faber and Faber, 1973), no. 105 on p. 93, pls 46 a & b
Watson, Oliver, Persian Lustre Ware, Faber Monographs on Pottery and Porcelain (London: Faber and Faber, 1985), Appendix III, no. 28 on p. 198
London: Royal Academy of Arts, 22 January-12 April 2005, Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600 - 1600, David J. Roxburgh, ed. (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2005), no. 44 on p. 388, illus. p. 88 no. 44
Piper, David, and Christopher White, Treasures of the Ashmolean Museum: An Illustrated Souvenir of the Collections, revised edn (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1995), no. 41 on p. 44, illus. p. 44 fig. 41
Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 24 May 2006-23 December 2008, Treasures: Antiquities, Eastern Art, Coins, and Casts: Exhibition Guide, Rune Frederiksen, ed. (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2006), no. 34 on p. 16, illus. p. 16 fig. 34
Ceramic material composed of ground quartz and small quantities of clay and finely ground frit (frit is obtained by pouring molten glass into water).
Metallic sheen obtained by applying a mixture of metallic oxides onto an already glazed ceramic that is refired at a reduced atmosphere.
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