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 in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. Illustrated in Akhrarov, I. A., and L. Rempel. Reznoi shtuk Afrasiaba (Relief sculpture in Afrasiab). Tashkent, 1971.
2. Richard Ettinghausen was the first to trace the spread of the beveled style (Ettinghausen, Richard. "The ‘Beveled Style’ in the Post-Samarra Period." In Archaeologica Orientalia in Memoriam Ernst Hertzfeld, edited by George C[arpenter] Miles, pp. 72–83, pls. 9–16. Locust Valley, N.Y., 1952).
3. For three other examples, see Terres secrètes de Samarcande: Céramiques du VIIIe au XIIIe siècle. Exhibition, Institut du Monde , Paris; Musée de Normandie, Caen; Musée des Augustins, Toulouse. Paris, 1992, p. 98.
[ Charles Vignier, Paris, until 1928; sold to MMA]
Dimand, Maurice S. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, May 12 to June 28, 1931." In Loan Exhibition of Ceramic Art of the Near East. New York, 1931. no. 21, p. 7, no ill.
Dimand, Maurice S. A Handbook of Muhammadan Art. 2nd rev. and enl. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1944. p. 165, ill. fig. 101 (b/w).
Wilkinson, Charles K. "The Glazed Pottery of Nishapur and Samarkand." Bulletin of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Series, vol. 20, no. 3 (November 1961). p. 108, ill. fig. 11 (b/w).
Jenkins-Madina, Marilyn, Suzanne G. Valenstein, and Julia Meech-Pekarik. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art." In Oriental Ceramics: The World's Great Collections. vol. 12. Tokyo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1977. ill. pl. 233 (b/w), interior and profile.
Ettinghausen, Richard, and Oleg Grabar. The Art and Architecture of Islam: 650–1250. Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1987. p. 228, ill. fig. 236 (b/w).
Grabar, Oleg. "1989 Andrew W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts." In Intermediary Demons Toward a Theory of Ornament. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 1989. pp. 14-15, ill. fig. 8 (b/w).
Ettinghausen, Richard, Oleg Grabar, and Marilyn Jenkins-Madina. Islamic Art and Architecture 650–1250. 2nd ed. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001. p. 121, ill. fig. 191 (b/w).
Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 69, pp. 88, 110-112, ill. pl. 69 (color).