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Pottery

Early Islamic pottery works have various forms, and shapes. Even those utensils which were made for the lower class and ordinary people or peasants had many enhancing elements. Glazing and enamel were used only for excellent items and mainly for courtiers. Other styles such as drawing and painting in different colors were used in Middle East for all sorts of potteries. Irregular excavation made ¡t hard to classify potteries of early Islamic period. In many cases dealers did not reveal the sources and excavation locations. Over all, we can divide Abbasids’ pottery items in seven groups which include the following:

1. Pottery with Elevated Decoration and Monochromic Glaze

This group itself can be divided into two different sections, in the first section, big jugs with green or blue glazes similar to the Sassanids’ potteries, can be observed. Elevated designs on the edges of these potteries were completed in Barbotine technique. This technique was usually applied on non-glazed potteries. The second section, includes plates, cups and bottles with green glaze and elevated decoration. These items were mostly found in Samara and Susa (شوش). They have geometric designs and leaf shapes which are similar to Sassanid’s pottery. Small plates from this period have yellow colored glaze which provides it with a golden color. This glaze is known as the genuine or rainbow glaze by professionals, which is probably imitated from golden utensils.

2. Pottery with Carved Decoration and Poly chrome Glazing

One of the biggest groups of Islamic potteries, are those with carved designs and luster lead glaze. They are called graffito and its commercial name is Gabri. This kind of glaze is usually green or gold en yellow with other colors such as green, brown, yellow or crimson Scattered over it. One of the pure Persian style in pottery, are bowls made from red-mud and its decoration Contains bird, animals, floral ornaments and Kufic writings. These designs were located inside a net shape area, Calligraphy shapes and botanic drawings could be seen in these potteries. They usually had a yellow or cream colored glaze with green edge. Sometimes, the middle part is completely covered with drawings such as a bird motif or peacock Most of these potteries were made in Rey in the reign of Buyids. Because of their similarity in drawjr9 birds and animals on the Potteries of Sassanid’s style, they are often attributed to the Sassanids. Although the palm leaf designs are extracts from Sassanids artifacts it reflects the early Islamic characteristics during late second/eight early third/ninth centuries. The appearance, basics, and its smooth surface often with spiral rings and shapes show that they could not have been made earlier than third/ninth centuries. These potteries were made in Neyshabur (نیشابور) and eastern parts of Persia in early third/ninth century and maybe late second/eighth century.

Those potteries with scattered brownish yellow or green-purple color were reproduced under the influence of Chinese potteries during the Tang period. This style came to Persia during the early Islamic eras and samples of this kind of pottery were found in Samara, Neyshabur and Madayen (مدائن). The Persians lightened up yellow and brown colors, and used more purple in their works. They often combined scattered colors with cut-shapes to get geometrical forms such as parts of a circle or other patterns encountering with each other. Then they would fill those shapes with different designs of vaulted shapes, palm leaves and flowers. One of the best examples of this style can be seen in a plate found in Neyshabur. In some examples different colors with different shapes such as a tulip flowers and big palm leaves were used. This plate belongs to early Islamic era, maybe early third/ninth century.

 

3. Pottery with Under-glazed Painting

Muslim pot makers completed another style in pottery, making known as the under-glazed painting. The motifs are painted on a white or black background. There are few pots from the early Islamic period with decoration on the luster blue glaze or different colored glazes. In the excavations in Neyshabur done by the Metropolitan museum, many painted potteries were found which were common in the east part of Islamic world.

In Neyshabur excavations many pots which belong to late second/eighth or early fourth/tenth centuries, have been found. Some of these pots which were found from the deepest layers of the earth, were made from reddish yellow earth, with black or purple drawings, filled with green or yellow colors.

One of the most famous designs in this style is similar floral shapes on hatched background. The good example of this style is a plate in Metropolitan museum. On this plate colors such as purple, yellow and green are used and designed with palm leaves, vaulted shapes and flowers. Another interesting type of Neyshabur’s pots, are those with humans, animals and bird figures, combined with Kufic scripts.

These are painted with black, dark green or yellow and many other colors.

In one of the plates belonging to this period, at the middle of the plate, there is a picture of a hunter with a blade in his hand. On a yellow background, he is surrounded with crowned birds and flowers and Kufic scripts in black and green, which is the typical of Neyshabur Pottery. The man has a very special cloth on with a turn over collar and his skirt reminds us of the Near East wall paintings in Chinese Turkestan.

4. Pottery with Luster Painting

Potteries from early Islamic era, with luster glaze, considered to be the best works of Islamic pottery. Examples of this style were found in Rey and Susa. Pottery makers invented luster glaze in second-third/eight/ninth centuries. In this method, pots were made from yellow mud, and then covered by opaque glaze. After being cooked in the kiln for the first time, the design will be drawn on the vessel with mineral oxide. Then again, it gradually heats up in furnace to 500-800 Fahrenheit. After the smoke reaches the item, mineral oxide will change to a thin layer of metal. This could be golden, brown or red.

Persian pottery can be divided into two groups. The first, with Persian design, and the second, those which have both Persian and Iraqi elements. Persian potteries are usually decorated with drawings of animals, trees, human figures and Kufic scripts. In one example which is now in Metropolitan museum, a running hare is drawn on the pottery another one which was found in Rey has the figure of gazelle and Kufic inscription.

Since most of these potteries with images of animals were not found in Samara or other places, we could consider them as a pure Persian style.

Another type, have vaulted forms, palm leaves and Kufic scripts, all coming together, shaping one unique design and drawing, which were found mainly in Susa and Rey.

5. Pottery with Decoration on Glaze

Few interesting items, which have been found in Samara, Susa and Rey, have green and blue paintings over their glaze. They were made from yellow mud and then covered by a thin layer of enamel. These were decorated with drawings of green or blue leaves, palm leaves or flowers and blue Kufic scripts. There are examples of this type of pottery in Metropolitan museum.

6. Pottery without Glazing

From all the potteries Pottery without glaze was similar to the Sassanid’s decoration and form, at the beginning of the Islamic era, some of the examples that were big or small pots, jugs, can be found in different parts of Persia, Syria and Iraq. The decorations of these kinds of potteries were in different styles. The simplest was, to engrave parallels curve lines or simple floral shapes. There are other forms of pottery without glaze which were decorated with round or other forms of stamps in the Sassanid period and previous eras like Sialk Mounds.

Refrence(s):

- Beheshti, Oksana (2003). Travel guide to Isfahan, Kashan and more. Iran. Tehran. Rozaneh publication.

- Shayestehfar. Mahnaz. (2007). an Introduction to Persian Islamic Art. Iran. Institute of Islamic Art Studies.

 

 

 

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