Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Fragments of a Bowl with Green Splashes and Blue Inscription

Object Name:
9th century
Found/excavated Iraq, Ctesiphon
Earthenware; splashed in green and painted in blue on opaque white glaze
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1932
Accession Number:
Not on view
This bowl was excavated at Ctesiphon, the Sasanian metropolis and administrative capital conquered by Arab Muslim armies in 637. The city was known in Arabic as al-Mada’in, or "the cities", for its extended area. Arab historians indulge in describing al-Mada’in/Ctesiphon’s grand monuments, which obsessed Muslim rulers and may have acquired a symbolic meaning related to its imperial past. This was the case of the Taq-i Kisra, an impressively-sized ivan (a vaulted hall with one side open) partially dismantled to reuse its bricks in caliphal buildings in the new capital Baghdad. Finds like this fragment, which was excavated at a site named Selman Pak V, attest to the continued occupation of Ctesiphon’s urban area in the early Islamic period.

Similar ceramics count amongst the advances achieved by Iraqi potters in the 9th century. Beside technical innovations, such as the development of a range of opacifying techniques for glazes and the use of cobalt blue, the potters’ works attest of their artistic creativity. The combination of uncontrolled green splashes and precise in-glaze-painted blue inscription is an example of the new aesthetic—remarkably, the fragmentary inscription on this bowl would have read the artisan’s name. Such advanced pottery productions profited of broad commercial networks both for the retrieval of raw materials and the diffusion of the finished product. The cobalt employed for the blue, nearly absent in Iraq, was imported from the Caucasus or Iran.
Excavated at Selman Pak V in Ctesiphon, Iraq, by the Joint Expedition of the Staatlichen Museen of Berlin and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1931–32. Acquired by the Museum in the division of finds and accessioned, 1932

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