The Beveled style of surface ornament painted onto the surface of this bowl is similar to that seen on the molded stucco surfaces of the palaces in Samarra. This motif, which first appeared in ninth‑century Samarra, spread to a variety of places, including Samarqand.
Although the decoration of this bowl is typical of a style that was used in the Abbasid heartland in the ninth century, aspects of its manufacture suggest that the bowl was made far to the east, near Samarqand, during the tenth century. This duality can be explained by the connections between Transoxiana and Iraq that arose as the Abbasid Empire came to rule over this entire area, fostering the spread of this type of ornament, known as the beveled style, throughout its lands. The popularity of this style in Transoxiana is reflected not only in the decoration of this bowl, but also in the design of stucco panels in the Samanid palaces in Afrasiyab (modern Samarqand).
From its place of invention at Samarra, and the medium of stucco in which it was initially employed, the beveled style eventually appeared in many media, from Egypt to Iran. When applied to wood panels or stone capitals, the style was quite easily transferred because it was possible to copy both the characteristic motifs—curved lines ending in spirals surrounded by dots, notches, and slits, with no clear foreground or background—and the method of carving, which utilized an angled, or beveled, cut.
In the case of other objects, however, the transfer was less straightforward. This potter from Samarqand has captured the essence of the style’s main motif and has tried to re-create the beveled profile of the shapes by using lines of varying thickness. Yet the decision to fit the decoration into four quadrants created by strong diagonal lines and the palette of olive green, brick red, and manganese purple reflect local practice. Samarqand was an important center of ceramic production for several centuries, and local potters created three major types of glazed ceramics: calligraphic wares, red and black slip-painted wares, and three-color splash-wares, each with its own distinctive decoration. Although only a very small number of bowls with this beveled decoration are known, the style of painting and compartmentalization of the design can be seen on other examples of ceramics from this area.
Marika Sardar (author) in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
[ Charles Vignier, Paris, until 1928; sold to MMA]
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