Stonepaste; openwork, underglaze-painted, glazed in transparent turquoise
H. 8 3/16 in. (20.8 cm)
Diam. 6 5/8 in. (16.8 cm)
Wt. 36.2 oz. (1026.4 g)
Fletcher Fund, 1932
Not on view
This jug exemplifies the virtuosity of Seljuq and post-Seljuq potters in Iran. Over a solid inner core, the outer layer of its neck and upper body is carved and pierced, featuring deer, dogs, cheetahs, winged sphinxes, and harpies entwined in foliage. The beneficial symbolism of these animals, all of which sport slight smiles, is at odds with the regretful tone of the Persian and Arabic poetry on the rim and lower body.
By 1215–16, when this jug was made, the technical proficiency of Iranian potters had reached a pinnacle. The jug consists of two layers, the interior vessel and the carved openwork on the neck and globular sides with black and blue underglaze painting under a trans parent turquoise glaze. Along the rim of the mouth and above a band of waterweeds above the foot run two inscriptions. The lower one comprises verses by an anonymous poet together with the date. The upper inscription is a ruba‘i (quatrain) by Rukn al-Din Da‘vidar Qummi.
The love poetry appears to have little direct relation to the imagery on the neck and body. Here spotted dogs, cheetahs, and hares bound through the foliage above and below pairs of winged sphinxes and harpies. Around the rim four deer lope across a ground of foliate scrolls. The sphinxes, dogs, and cheetahs all have slight smiles, which communicate a happier mood than the poetry. Standing confronted, separated by a stylized tree, the sphinxes can be interpreted as guarding the Tree of Life, a role they often fill on objects of this period. Like sphinxes, harpies, here depicted addorsed with heads viewed frontally, were inherited from the classical world, but their meaning in the Seljuq context was associated with the zodiac, particularly the sign of Gemini. Although they came from distant, inaccessible lands, harpies could represent happiness and appeared often in courtly scenes. In the absence of human figures on this jug, the real and imaginary beasts and their luxuriant natural setting suggest a paradisiacal theme only slightly diluted by the longing tone of the poetry.
Sheila R. Canby (author) in [Canby et al. 2016]
Inscription: Inscription around mouth of jug, a Persian ruba‘i (quatrain)
by Rukn al-Din Da‘vidar Qummi:
من بی تو همان سر زده ام فارغ باش
همواره بهم بر زده ام فارغ باش
دست از تو بمهر دیگری از سر تو
بیزار شدم گر زده ام فارغ باش
Without you, I am depraved; Be free from care.
Ceaselessly, I am unsettled; Be free from care.
[Turning] from you, I reach for the kindness of another, because of you.
Although I have done so, I despised it; Be free from care.
(Diwan Rukn al-din Da‘vidar Qummi, ed Ali Mohaddith, Amir Kabir publication, Tehran, 1365/1986 p.)
Inscription around base of jug, a Persian ruba‘i by an as-yet-unidentified poet:
گفتم چو رسد بزلف دانی دستم
دل باز ستانم وز محنت رستم
یک لحظه چو در پیش رخش بنشتم
جان نیز چو دل در سر زلفش بستم
I said, “[Do] you know, if my hand reaches her tresses,
I [could] reclaim my heart and be free from suffering.”
One moment, while sitting face-to-face with her,
I tied my soul, like my heart, to the end of her curls.
Inscription following the above:
في شهور سنة إثني عشر و ستمائة
In the months of the year A.H. 612 [A.D. 1215–16]
V. Everit Macy, New York (by 1923–d. 1930; his estate, 1930–32; sold to MMA)
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