Bowl with Courtly and Astrological Motifs

Object Name: Bowl

Date: late 12th–early 13th century

Geography: Attributed to Central or Northern Iran

Culture: Islamic

Medium: Stonepaste; polychrome inglaze and overglaze painted and gilded on opaque monochrome glaze (mina'i)

Dimensions: H. 3 3/4 in. (9.5 cm)
Diam. 7 3/8 in. (18.7 cm)
Wt. 14 oz. (396.9 g)

Classification: Ceramics

Credit Line: Purchase, Rogers Fund, and Gift of The Schiff Foundation, 1957

Accession Number: 57.36.4


The central roundel with a Sun symbol is surrounded by six circular medallions with symbols representing the Moon and the planets Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and Saturn. The surrounding bands contain mounted horsemen and birds, geometric ornament, a row of seated courtiers and musicians with two enthroned personages, and an Arabic inscription in kufic script. A cursive Persian inscription surrounds the exterior. Representations of the planets and the Zodiac signs were popular in Seljuq iconography. They are also seen on stone relief sculpture and inlaid metalwork and continued to be important motifs in later Islamic art.
Each of the planets can be identified by their typical iconography. Mercury (al-’utarid) is a young man writing on a scroll of paper; Venus (al-zuhara) is a female musician playing an instrument; Mars (al-mirrikh) is a warrior, holding a sword and a severed head; Jupiter (al-mushtari) is a sage or a judge, wearing a turban; and the Sun (al-shams) and the Moon (al-qamar) are human figures holding a sun disk and a crescent. The image of Saturn (al-zuhal) was drawn from Indian sources, and the planet is shown as a dark-skinned man with a long white beard, sometimes with multiple arms with a different object in each hand (like some Hindu divinities).