Bowl with a Horseman Spearing a Serpent

late 1300s or early 1400s
Made in probably Málaga, Spain
Tin-glazed earthenware
Overall: 3 5/8 x diam. 17 5/16 in. (9.2 x diam. 44 cm) depth of dish: 3 in. (7.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of George Blumenthal, 1941
Accession Number:
  • Description

    The earliest example of medieval lusterware in the Museum's collection, this basin was probably either used as a serving dish or intended only for display. The brilliant coloring and expert craftsmanship of Spanish lusterware made it renowned throughout Europe. As early as the tenth century, the Moors in Spain had mastered the technique of lusterware, and by the turn of the fifteenth, when this basin was made, artists were still following those same glazing methods. The choice of decoration was sometimes indebted to Moorish motifs but could also be drawn from Western imagery, as is the case with this representation of a horseman spearing a serpent, perhaps inspired by the legend of Saint George and the dragon. The coats of arms on the shields that decorate the basin's rim have not yet been identified.

    The first step in the technique of Spanish lusterware was to glaze a fired piece of clay with an undercoat of white and then paint the design in deep blue. Details could be obtained by sgraffito—a method of scratching the surface to reveal the white undercoat. Luster, a mixture of silver and copper oxides to which red ocher, silt, and vinegar were added, was applied only after a second firing. It was this last step, mixing and applying the luster and then firing the lustered object, that distinguishes Hispano-Moresque wares from other contemporary ceramic production.

  • Provenance

    Sigismond Bardac, Paris (from at least 1903); [possibly Dikran G. Kelekian, Cairo, Paris, and New York (sold ca. 1909)]; George and Florence Blumenthal, Paris and NY (ca. 1909? or least 1927-1941)

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History