Ceramics

Ceramics is one of the oldest industries, dating back to the Paleolithic era, more than 30,000 years ago. While The al-Sabah Collection is rich in ceramics, the primary focus of the collecting effort concentrated on covering the range of different techniques used by potters from the earliest Islamic period through to the 19th century. The examples below include an early earthenware bowl painted in lustre which displays a metallic sheen produced by metal oxides when the piece was fired a second time in a kiln low in oxygen. This technique of decoration was first employed on ceramics in Iraq in the 9th century CE, subsequently to spread far and wide over a period of almost a millennium.

The development of fritware in the 11th – 12th centuries CE provided the Islamic potter with a white body superficially simulating that of Chinese porcelain, which reigned supreme as the most luxurious and expensive of ceramics. Among well-known types of Islamic pottery with frit bodies are various large and small bowls, jars, etc., from Iranian lands, Syria and Turkey.

The use of polychrome ceramic tiles to decorate buildings was an ancient Near Eastern decorative tradition and became one of the most important products of the Islamic potter. Decorative techniques largely paralleled those employed for vessels. Additional techniques were developed for the manufacture of the large-scale designs that building tiles demanded.

Ceramics is one of the oldest industries, dating back to the Paleolithic era, more than 30,000 years ago. While The al-Sabah Collection is rich in ceramics, the primary focus of the collecting effort concentrated on covering the range of different techniques used by potters from the earliest Islamic period through to the 19th century. The examples below include an early earthenware bowl painted in lustre which displays a metallic sheen produced by metal oxides when the piece was fired a second time in a kiln low in oxygen. This technique of decoration was first employed on ceramics in Iraq in the 9th century CE, subsequently to spread far and wide over a period of almost a millennium.

The development of fritware in the 11th – 12th centuries CE provided the Islamic potter with a white body superficially simulating that of Chinese porcelain, which reigned supreme as the most luxurious and expensive of ceramics. Among well-known types of Islamic pottery with frit bodies are various large and small bowls, jars, etc., from Iranian lands, Syria and Turkey.

The use of polychrome ceramic tiles to decorate buildings was an ancient Near Eastern decorative tradition and became one of the most important products of the Islamic potter. Decorative techniques largely paralleled those employed for vessels. Additional techniques were developed for the manufacture of the large-scale designs that building tiles demanded.

LNS 9 C

Earthenware bowl, metallic lustre-painted in copper red and olive green with whirling half-palmettes

Inv. no. LNS 9 C
Wheel-thrown, glazed and metallic lustre-painted
Height 7.5 cm; diameter 28.7 cm
Iraq, 9th century AD
3rd century AH

LNS 498 C

Earthenware bowl decorated with a stylized vegetal motif

Inv. no. LNS 498 C
Wheel-thrown, overglaze painted in cobalt stain
Height 5 cm; diameter 20.2 cm
Iraq, 9th century AD
3rd century AH

LNS 185 C

Reticulated double-walled composite-bodied ceramic ewer, the openwork shell decorated with seated princely figures enclosed in curvilinearized dodecagonal compartments

Inv. no. LNS 185 C
Wheel-thrown and moulded, pierced, underglaze-painted in black, transparent turquoise glaze detailed with cobalt blue
Height 29.6 cm; diameter 15.5 cm
Iranian world, early 13th century AD
early 7th century AH

LNS 1060 C

Unglazed earthenware master-mould for the production of composite-bodied ceramic vessels, decorated with haloed figures wearing elaborate head-dresses, seated in arched ‘pavillions’; around the base, good wishes to the owner in naskhi script

Inv. no. LNS 1060 C
Moulded and carved
Height 12 cm; diameter 16.5 cm
East Iranian world, 12th – 13th century AD
6th – 7th century AH

LNS 99 C

Composite-bodied ceramic ewer, the body covered with upright foliate scrolls bearing lotus blossoms, and the neck with a continuous scroll of leaves and lotus blossoms

Inv. no. LNS 99 C
Wheel-thrown and modelled, underglaze engobe, slip- and stain-painted, transparent colourless glaze
Height 27.8 cm; width 20 cm
Turkey, 1560-70 AD
968 – 978 AH

LNS 827 C

Composite-bodied ceramic dish covered with whirling floral and foliate scrolls

Inv. no. LNS 827 C
Wheel-thrown, underglaze engobe, stain-painted, transparent colourless glaze
Height 7 cm; diameter 34.7 cm
Turkey, circa 1575 AD
circa 983 AH

LNS 1084 C

Composite-bodied ceramic dish, the well with a fanciful plant with serrated leaves and a central lotus leaf

Inv. no. LNS 1084 C
Wheel-thrown, underglaze engobe, stain-painted in black under a transparent turquoise glaze
Height 5.5 cm; diameter 34 cm
Northwest Iran, ca. 1600 AD
ca. 1009 AH

LNS 290 C

Composite-bodied ceramic tile from the Mausoleum of Khwaja Rabi‘ at Mashhad (north-eastern Iran), the field with a centralized half-palmette arabesque which seamlessly weds the hexagonal center with the octagonal outer perimeter; inscribed inside the central polygon, ‘O Protector’ (an invocation to God)

Inv. no. LNS 290 C
Moulded, underglaze engobe, stain-painted, transparent colourless glaze
Height 20.5 cm; width 20.5 cm
Eastern Iran, Mashhad, ca. 1620 AD
ca. 1029 – 1030 AH

LNS 859 C

Composite-bodied ceramic dish featuring, at center an elephant fight before a royal pavilion, bordered by flowering plants in counterclockwise rotation

Inv. no. LNS 859 C
Wheel-thrown, underglaze painted with cobalt stain, transparent colourless glaze
Height 3.5 cm; diameter 25.5 cm
India, ca. 17th – 18th century AD
ca. 11th – 12th century AH

LNS 372 C

Earthenware bowl decorated in polychrome metallic lustre-painting in radial layout, with four shield-shaped compartments each containing a schematic plant and multiple lines of pseudo-Kufic script, probably of talismanic or ‘magic’ intent

Inv. no. LNS 372 C
Wheel-thrown, metallic lustre-painted on an opaque off-white glaze
Height 6.2 cm; diameter 21.2 cm
Iraq, 9th century AD
3rd century AH

LNS 350 C

Composite bodied ceramic jar with a mannered cursive inscription around the shoulder, expressing good wishes to the owner

Inv. no. LNS 350 C
Wheel-thrown, carved in relief, transparent green glaze
Height 43 cm; diameter 30 cm
Egypt, 12th century AD
6th century AH

LNS 210 C

Composite bodied bowl painted in cobalt blue and metallic lustre, the inside center with birds amidst a quadripartite half-palmette scroll, against a dense spiralling scroll ground. Inscriptions in an extremely free cursive hand include good wishes to the owner; Persian verses on the pain of love; Arabic verses attributed to the Imam al-Shaf’i on the importance of learning; and the date of manufacture

Inv. no. LNS 210 C
Wheel-thrown, glazed and painted in metallic lustre and cobalt blue on an opaque white glaze
Height 8.2 cm; diameter 23.5 cm
Central Iran, Kashan, dated in the month of Shawwal 614 AH/January 1218 AD

LNS 234 C

Mosaic inscriptional panel (composite bodied ceramic set into plaster), rendering part of verse 286, chapter 2 of the Qur’an, against a continuous spiralling scroll issuing palmettes and half-palmettes

Inv. no. LNS 234 C
Glazed and set
Height 31.5 cm; width 168 cm
Anatolia, thought to be from the Büyük Karatay Madrasa, Konya, of 650 AH/1251 AD

LNS 515 C

Composite-bodied lustre-painted ceramic ‘tombstone’ with inscriptions in naskhi and nasta‘liq scripts, including a passage from the Qur’an (chapter 55, verses 26 and 27), an invocation of blessing on the twelve Shi‘a imams, and Persian verses giving the name and date of death of the deceased, Zayn al-‘Abidin ibn Sayyid Mir ‘Ali, and the signature of the maker, Sayyid Muhammad ibn Muzaffar

Inv. no. LNS 515 C
Moulded, metallic lustre-painted on an opaque white glaze
Height 39.8 cm; width 26.2 cm
Iranian world, dated 881 AH/1476-77 AD

LNS 768 C

Porcelain jar, probably produced for the domestic or foreign Islamic market, with a wide central band filled with an Islamic infinite pattern of ten-pointed stars, pentagons, and other polygons (lozenge plan of repetition, based on decagons tangent at their apexes)

Inv. no. LNS 768 C
Wheel-thrown, painted in cobalt blue stain, transparent colourless glaze
Height 22.7 cm; diameter 14.3 cm
China, early 15th century AD
early 9th century AH

LNS 219 C a,b

Two lustre tiles, probably from a shrine, inscribed with Qur’an chapter 55 (al-Rahman) vv.36-39 and chapter 34 (Saba`) vv.9-11
Kashan, Iran, second half 7th century AH/second half 13th century AD

Inv. No: LNS 219 C a and b
DHIKR EXB 14 March 2013
(case 7)
CORNER TILE
Iranian world, 2nd half 7th century AH/2nd half 13th century CE
Fritware, moulded, glazed and luster-painted
Inv. no. LNS 219 C a

LNS 231 C

Composite-bodied ceramic dish, the center with a configuration of six circular dense foliated and floriated scrolls and five stylized palmettes, bordered by eight paired Chinese-style cloud devices, the rim with a border of small flowers on thin scrolling stems; exterior with alternations of two types of Chinese-inspired cloud motifs

Inv. no. LNS 231 C
Wheel-thrown, covered with a white engobe, painted with cobalt blue stain, transparent colourless glaze
Height 9 cm; diameter 45.2 cm
Turkey, Iznik, ca. 1525-35 AD
ca. 932 – 942 AH

LNS 1071 C

Unglazed earthenware tile (probably once part of a frieze) with the representation of a lion amidst a scroll, the lion’s tail and the scroll developing dragons’ heads

Inv. no. LNS 1071 C
Moulded and carved
Height 10.8 cm; width 16.8 cm
Transoxiana, 12th century AD
6th century AH

LNS 1077 C b,d,e /
LNS 32 St a,c

Three earthenware tiles, all featuring near-identical goats with tails terminating in curled half-palmettes

Inv. no. LNS 1077 C b, d, e
Moulded: ‘b’ with transparent yellow glaze over white engobe; ‘d’ with iron stain painted on the pink body, transparent colourless glaze; ‘e’ with transparent green glaze over white engobe
Average height 11.4 cm; average width 11.3 cm
East Iranian world, Ghazni, 2nd half 12th century AD
2nd half 6th century AH

LNS 193 C

Earthenware “Garrus ware” dish, featuring a dove with a stylized foliate stem

Inv. no. LNS 193 C
Wheel-thrown, covered with an off-white engobe, incised, transparent colourless glaze
Height 4 cm; diameter 24 cm
Northwest Iran, 12th century AD
6th century AH

LNS 295 C

Three-footed composite-bodied ceramic dish with lustre-painted enthroned and haloed prince seated amidst stemmed blossoms and foliage, suggesting a garden setting; underside of dish with paired half-palmette ‘trees’ and a central unintelligible device

Inv. no. LNS 295 C
Wheel-thrown, the feet hand-formed and attached, opaque white glaze, metallic lustre-painted
Height 5.5 cm; diameter 14.8 cm
Iran (Kashan), 2nd half 13th century AD
2nd half 7th century AH

 

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LNS 827 C
Composite-bodied ceramic dish covered with whirling floral and foliate scrolls Inv. no. LNS 827 C Wheel-thrown, underglaze engobe, stain-painted, transparent colourless glaze Height 7 cm; diameter 34.7 cm Turkey, circa 1575 AD circa 983 AH
LNS 1084 C
Composite-bodied ceramic dish, the well with a fanciful plant with serrated leaves and a central lotus leaf Inv. no. LNS 1084 C Wheel-thrown, underglaze engobe, stain-painted in black under a transparent turquoise glaze Height 5.5 cm; diameter 34 cm Northwest Iran, ca. 1600 AD ca. 1009 AH
LNS 290 C
Composite-bodied ceramic tile from the Mausoleum of Khwaja Rabi‘ at Mashhad (north-eastern Iran), the field with a centralized half-palmette arabesque which seamlessly weds the hexagonal center with the octagonal outer perimeter; inscribed inside the central polygon, ‘O Protector’ (an invocation to God) Inv. no. LNS 290 C Moulded, underglaze engobe, stain-painted, transparent colourless glaze Height 20.5 cm; width 20.5 cm Eastern Iran, Mashhad, ca. 1620 AD ca. 1029 - 1030 AH
LNS 859 C
Composite-bodied ceramic dish featuring, at center an elephant fight before a royal pavilion, bordered by flowering plants in counterclockwise rotation Inv. no. LNS 859 C Wheel-thrown, underglaze painted with cobalt stain, transparent colourless glaze Height 3.5 cm; diameter 25.5 cm India, ca. 17th - 18th century AD ca. 11th - 12th century AH
LNS 372 C
Earthenware bowl decorated in polychrome metallic lustre-painting in radial layout, with four shield-shaped compartments each containing a schematic plant and multiple lines of pseudo-Kufic script, probably of talismanic or ‘magic’ intent Inv. no. LNS 372 C Wheel-thrown, metallic lustre-painted on an opaque off-white glaze Height 6.2 cm; diameter 21.2 cm Iraq, 9th century AD 3rd century AH
LNS 350 C
Composite bodied ceramic jar with a mannered cursive inscription around the shoulder, expressing good wishes to the owner Inv. no. LNS 350 C Wheel-thrown, carved in relief, transparent green glaze Height 43 cm; diameter 30 cm Egypt, 12th century AD 6th century AH
LNS 210 C
Composite bodied bowl painted in cobalt blue and metallic lustre, the inside center with birds amidst a quadripartite half-palmette scroll, against a dense spiralling scroll ground. Inscriptions in an extremely free cursive hand include good wishes to the owner; Persian verses on the pain of love; Arabic verses attributed to the Imam al-Shaf’i on the importance of learning; and the date of manufacture Inv. no. LNS 210 C Wheel-thrown, glazed and painted in metallic lustre and cobalt blue on an opaque white glaze Height 8.2 cm; diameter 23.5 cm Central Iran, Kashan, dated in the month of Shawwal 614 AH/January 1218 AD
LNS 234 C
Mosaic inscriptional panel (composite bodied ceramic set into plaster), rendering part of verse 286, chapter 2 of the Qur’an, against a continuous spiralling scroll issuing palmettes and half-palmettes Inv. no. LNS 234 C Glazed and set Height 31.5 cm; width 168 cm Anatolia, thought to be from the Büyük Karatay Madrasa, Konya, of 650 AH/1251 AD
LNS 515 C
Composite-bodied lustre-painted ceramic ‘tombstone’ with inscriptions in naskhi and nasta‘liq scripts, including a passage from the Qur’an (chapter 55, verses 26 and 27), an invocation of blessing on the twelve Shi‘a imams, and Persian verses giving the name and date of death of the deceased, Zayn al-‘Abidin ibn Sayyid Mir ‘Ali, and the signature of the maker, Sayyid Muhammad ibn Muzaffar Inv. no. LNS 515 C Moulded, metallic lustre-painted on an opaque white glaze Height 39.8 cm; width 26.2 cm Iranian world, dated 881 AH/1476-77 AD
LNS 768 C
Porcelain jar, probably produced for the domestic or foreign Islamic market, with a wide central band filled with an Islamic infinite pattern of ten-pointed stars, pentagons, and other polygons (lozenge plan of repetition, based on decagons tangent at their apexes) Inv. no. LNS 768 C Wheel-thrown, painted in cobalt blue stain, transparent colourless glaze Height 22.7 cm; diameter 14.3 cm China, early 15th century AD early 9th century AH
LNS 219 C a and b
Two lustre tiles, probably from a shrine, inscribed with Qur'an chapter 55 (al-Rahman) vv.36-39 and chapter 34 (Saba`) vv.9-11 Kashan, Iran, second half 7th century AH/second half 13th century AD Inv. No: LNS 219 C a and b DHIKR EXB 14 March 2013 (case 7) CORNER TILE Iranian world, 2nd half 7th century AH/2nd half 13th century CE Fritware, moulded, glazed and luster-painted Inv. no. LNS 219 C a This luster-painted tile was once part of a series of tiles from a dado panel that featured a continuous inscription adorning the walls of a religious monument. The large relief-moulded inscription in thuluth proclaims: “Oh you who believe,” and is bordered by two relief-moulded bands inscribed in naskh with verse 36 through to the end of verse 39 from Surat al-Rahman; a Sura often found on tombstones and in mausoleums; and with Surat Saba’ from the middle of verse 9 through to the first two words of verse 11.
LNS 231 C
Composite-bodied ceramic dish, the center with a configuration of six circular dense foliated and floriated scrolls and five stylized palmettes, bordered by eight paired Chinese-style cloud devices, the rim with a border of small flowers on thin scrolling stems; exterior with alternations of two types of Chinese-inspired cloud motifs Inv. no. LNS 231 C Wheel-thrown, covered with a white engobe, painted with cobalt blue stain, transparent colourless glaze Height 9 cm; diameter 45.2 cm Turkey, Iznik, ca. 1525-35 AD ca. 932 - 942 AH
LNS 1071 C
Unglazed earthenware tile (probably once part of a frieze) with the representation of a lion amidst a scroll, the lion’s tail and the scroll developing dragons’ heads Inv. no. LNS 1071 C Moulded and carved Height 10.8 cm; width 16.8 cm Transoxiana, 12th century AD 6th century AH
LNS 1077 C b, d, e
Three earthenware tiles, all featuring near-identical goats with tails terminating in curled half-palmettes Inv. no. LNS 1077 C b, d, e Moulded: ‘b’ with transparent yellow glaze over white engobe; ‘d’ with iron stain painted on the pink body, transparent colourless glaze; ‘e’ with transparent green glaze over white engobe Average height 11.4 cm; average width 11.3 cm East Iranian world, Ghazni, 2nd half 12th century AD 2nd half 6th century AH
LNS 193 C
Earthenware “Garrus ware” dish, featuring a dove with a stylized foliate stem Inv. no. LNS 193 C Wheel-thrown, covered with an off-white engobe, incised, transparent colourless glaze Height 4 cm; diameter 24 cm Northwest Iran, 12th century AD 6th century AH
LNS 295 C
Three-footed composite-bodied ceramic dish with lustre-painted enthroned and haloed prince seated amidst stemmed blossoms and foliage, suggesting a garden setting; underside of dish with paired half-palmette ‘trees’ and a central unintelligible device Inv. no. LNS 295 C Wheel-thrown, the feet hand-formed and attached, opaque white glaze, metallic lustre-painted Height 5.5 cm; diameter 14.8 cm Iran (Kashan), 2nd half 13th century AD 2nd half 7th century AH
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