The signature of the artist Muslim appears beneath the eagle's right claw and underneath the foot of this remarkable bowl. Muslim is the only Egyptian potter of this period (ca. 1000) whose name is known. In representing this heraldic eagle, he used a motif that had been popular for a long time and was not limited to the iconography of Fatimid works.
The tenth and eleventh centuries under the Fatimid caliphate were times of prosperity in Egypt and the neighboring lands, when a burgeoning class of wealthy consumers emerged. The luster potteries recently established in Cairo by émigré specialists from Basra offered exactly the kind of luxury products this new elite demanded. In such an atmosphere, it is not surprising that makers’ marks are often found on Fatimid-period lusterware. One such instance is that of Muslim, a name that appears in two places on this bowl decorated with an eagle. More than forty known Fatimid-period ceramic objects or fragments and at least one luster-painted glass piece bear some version of this signature.
A more complete rendering of the name, Muslim ibn al-Dahhan (Muslim son of the painter), appears on one of these fragments in the Benaki Museum, Athens, along with the name of the patron, whose nisba suggests that he was associated with the court of Caliph al-Hakim (r. 996–1021). This inscription dates the ceramist’s production to the time of that reign. Because these works vary considerably in quality and style, it has been argued that the word Muslim must be a workshop trademark rather than the signature of an individual artist. However, elsewhere such variability is explained by the suggestion that Muslim was both a master ceramist and the head of a workshop that used his name on its ware.
This straight-sided, low-footed bowl is one of the few signed Muslim works that is complete. Its decoration provides a prime example of the vitality characteristic of Fatimid painting, which is quite distinct from the rigidity of late Abbasid lusterware. The monumental eagle, painted in a greenish-yellow luster against a white ground, occupies the entire interior of the bowl. Even though the artist has adopted an age-old, heraldic pose and embellished the creature improbably with strings of pearls and tiraz-like bands, his painterly execution breathes life into the eagle. A similar depiction of an eagle with spread wings may once have decorated the center of the previously mentioned Benaki fragment.
This bowl carries over features from the Basran phase of luster-painted ceramic production, including the interstitial "peacock eye" filler and the circle-and-dash motifs on the outer walls.
Ellen Kenney (author) in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
Signature: On the interior, below the eagle's claw: "Muslim". On the exterior, on the base: "Muslim"
Inscription: Inscription in Arabic in kufic script on interior, below eagle’s claw, and on base:
Walter Hauser, New York (by 1938); Charles K. and Irma B. Wilkinson, Sharon, CT (by 1961–63; gifted to MMA)
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