Iran, perhaps Nishapur
later 12th century AD
white stonepaste ware, moulded in two parts and carved, under a transparent colourless glaze
33.4 x 17cm
Each of the lobes on the mouth of this unusually large flask is decorated with a human face [see pot 885]. The body is decorated in low moulded relief with a row of tall and slender male figures in long robes and high boots. However, unlike other examples of this type where the figures appear to be dancing, here they seem to be standing still, each possibly holding an object in his hand.
With the appearance of frit wares in 12th-century Iran, moulds became more necessary, since their silicon-enriched stonepaste bodies, like sugary pastry, were too crumbly to be thrown on a wheel. This made it possible to produce very fine, thin pottery, which, like contemporary Chinese porcelain, was often translucent. Moulds could, of course, be used for blowing glass as well as for casting metal; it is not, therefore, surprising that the shape of this flask with its cup-shaped mouth and knob feet, parallels contemporary Iranian mould-blown glass.
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.152, pp.159, 161. J.M. Rogers, The Arts of Islam. Masterpieces from the Khalili Collection, London 2010, cat.120, pp.108–9.