Fragment of an Open Vessel with Blue Palmette on White

Not on view

This fragment 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 in-glaze-painted blue on a white background is an example of the new aesthetic (“blue and white”). 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. Iraqi “blue and white” vessels have been found as far East as China and may or may not have inspired the later blue and white Chinese porcelains.

Fragment of an Open Vessel with Blue Palmette on White, Earthenware; in-glaze painted in blue on opaque white glaze

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