Underglaze painting in blue and black on a white stonepaste body is characteristic of Mamluk production in Syria. The main decoration on this jar is the large inscription in thuluth: "Lasting glory, increasing prosperity, and good fortune."
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Geography:Attributed to Syria
Medium:Stonepaste; polychrome-painted under transparent glaze
Dimensions:H. 13 1/4 in. (33.7 cm) Max. Diam. 9 1/4 in. (23.5 cm)
Credit Line:Edward C. Moore Collection, Bequest of Edward C. Moore, 1891
The pear shape of this jar was common in ceramics of the medieval eastern Mediterranean. Its underglaze, cobalt blue and black on a grayish stonepaste body, is characteristic of fourteenth-century ceramic production in Greater Syria during the Mamluk period. A band of heart-shaped vegetal motifs appears on the shoulder, and foliate medallions decorate the neck, while the body is dominated by a benedictory inscription in cursive script wishing "Lasting glory, abundant power, and good fortune." Such messages often appeared on medieval utilitarian objects and were intended to protect the owner as well as the contents stored within the vessel. The pseudo-inscription in black at the base of the jar, also prevalent in medieval Islamic art, may hold an additional benedictory or talismanic meaning.
However, the overall design with monumental calligraphy is characteristic of fourteenth-century Mamluk art (cats. 111 [no. 91.1.601] and 121 [no. 91.1.1539] in this volume). The style of the calligraphy, with tall letter shafts that widen toward the top, and the color contrast of white letters against a dark background filled with stylized palmettes and fretwork recall inlaid examples of metalwork, which probably inspired the design (the white corresponding to the silver letters inlaid in brass). The overall blue-and-white color palette derives from Chinese porcelain, which was considered prestigious and was collected by Mamluk rulers, who used both inlaid brass and porcelain dishes as serving vessels during festive and ceremonial occasions or for diplomatic gifts. As such, this jar reflects the taste of the Mamluk elite, adjusted for a broader middle-class market.
Deniz Beyazit in [Higgins Harvey 2021]
1. The jar was published in Jenkins [Madina], Marilyn. "Islamic Pottery: A Brief History." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s. 40, no. 4 (Spring 1983), p. 31, and p. 30, fig. 32; Tomoko Masuya in Arte islamico, 1994, pp. 152–53, 296, no. 54.
2. See Behrens-Abouseif, Doris. Practising Diplomacy in the Mamluk Sultanate: Gifts and Material Culture in the Medieval Islamic World. Library of Middle East History 44. London: I. B. Tauris, 2014, pp. 41–45.
Underglaze-painted ware was the most common type of pottery from the early Mamluk period in Syria and Egypt during the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The combination of black and cobalt blue on a white slip was favored on this type. The designs are often divided into compartments with geometrical, vegetal, and inscriptional motifs; figurative motifs are rather rare. The surface of this large jar is divided into four major bands: the bands on the neck and shoulder contain vegetal decorations; the main and the lower bands are decorated with inscriptions in thuluth script. While the lower inscriptions written in black are pseudo-inscriptions and therefore do not make sense in Arabic, the main inscriptions reserved in white express good wishes to the owner of this jar, reading: Lasting glory, abundant power, and favorable fortune." Large Inscriptions are also seen on contemporary Mamluk metalwork. The backgrounds of all bands are filled with scrolls and hatched patterns. The shape of this jar is typical of the Syrian production.
Tomoko Masuya in [Walker et al. 1994]
Inscription: While the lower inscriptions written in black are pseudo-inscriptions and therefore do not make sense in Arabic, the main inscriptions reserved in white express good wishes to the owner of this jar, reading: Lasting glory, abundant power, and favorable fortune.
(Tomoko Masuya. Catalogue entry for exhibition, "Islamic Art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art," Mexico City, 1994–95)
Edward C. Moore (American), New York (until d. 1891; bequeathed to MMA)
Mexico City. Colegio de San Ildefonso. "Arte Islámico del Museo Metropolitano de Arte de Nueva York," September 30, 1994–January 8, 1995, no. 54.
Lexington, KY. International Museum of the Horse. "Gift from the Desert," June 1, 2010–October 15, 2010.
Dimand, Maurice S. A Handbook of Mohammedan Decorative Arts. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1930. p. 166.
Jenkins-Madina, Marilyn. "Islamic Pottery: A Brief History." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New Series, vol. 40, no. 4 (Spring 1983). no. 32, pp. 30–31, ill. (color).
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Daniel S. Walker, Arturo Ponce Guadián, Sussan Babaie, Stefano Carboni, Aimee Froom, Marie Lukens Swietochowski, Tomoko Masuya, Annie Christine Daskalakis-Matthews, Abdallah Kahil, and Rochelle Kessler. "Colegio de San Ildefonso, Septiembre de 1994–Enero de 1995." In Arte Islámico del Museo Metropolitano de Arte de Nueva York. Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1994. no. 54, pp. 152–153, ill. (color).
Beyazit, Deniz. Collecting Inspiration : Edward C. Moore at Tiffany & Co., edited by Medill Higgins Harvey. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2021. no. 126, p. 193, ill.
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