10th or 11th century AD
earthenware, painted in purplish-black and red slips under a colourless glaze
16.3 x 41cm
A number of examples of this ware decorated with confronted birds, whose elongated bodies appear to be inspired by calligraphic forms, are known. The birds’ bodies are generally inscribed, often with almost illegible phrases that are probably based on the word barakah (‘Blessing’).
The two larger birds on this bowl present a lively variation on the theme of ‘confronted birds’. Here, their elongated bodies point in opposite directions and their heads face backwards, which – together with their long, curved tails – creates a sinuous movement reminiscent of elegant calligraphic strokes. The centre of the bowl, which on many examples of this ware is left empty or accented by a small black dot, has been filled with a small bird with outspread, foliated wings.
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.80, pp.88–9. J.M. Rogers, The Arts of Islam. Masterpieces from the Khalili Collection, London 2010, cat.43, p.53.