10th century AD
earthenware, painted in purplish-black slip under a colourless glaze
7.2 x 25.1cm
Among the more sophisticated glazed pottery made in 10th-century eastern Iran and Central Asia was a type decorated with fine inscriptions, generally in purplish-black on a white ground. The inscriptions were not, generally, Qur’anic verses but a miscellaneous collection of traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, sayings of ‘Ali, and edifying maxims or proverbs, with their ascenders forming a regular pattern of radii on large round dishes or deep bowls. The effect is simple yet strikingly beautiful, and although the potters must have worked from templates and executed their inscriptions with a spatula and sharp knife, the freedom of execution suggests the work of pen on paper. Few of the inscriptions, however, are book-hands, and those which are may well have been out of fashion by the time the pottery was made: few bear diacritical marks and vocalisation is totally lacking.
The inscription on this bowl reads, al-jud min akhlaq ahl al-jannah. qala (‘Generosity is a disposition of the dwellers of Paradise. He [‘Ali or the Prophet Muhammad] said’.
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.66, p.77 J.M. Rogers, The Arts of Islam. Masterpieces from the Khalili Collection, London 2010, cat.38, pp.52–3.