Iran, Nishapur or the Caspian area (Mazandaran)
10th or 11th century AD
earthenware, slip painted with polychrome staining under a colourless glaze
15.5 x 31.8cm
The mountainous and thickly wooded provinces of northern Iran were slow to accommodate the coming of Islam, and pre-Islamic beliefs persisted in some areas until the 12th century. They were equally tenacious in holding on to Sasanian traditions, and the highly stylised lion decorating this bowl is a recognisable version of the lions which had decorated Sasanian silver dishes of the 5th and 6th centuries.
The name, Ja‘far ibn Husayn, that appears near the lion’s head is most probably the potter’s signature.
E.J. Grube et al, Cobalt and Lustre. The First Centuries of Islamic Pottery, The Nasser D Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, volume IX, London 1994, cat.115, pp.112–13. J.M. Rogers, The Arts of Islam. Masterpieces from the Khalili Collection, London 2010, cat.34, p.50.