Animal-Spouted Pitcher

Object Name: Ewer

Date: 9th–10th century

Geography: Attributed to Iran, Nishapur. Excavated in Iran, Nishapur

Medium: Earthenware; polychrome decoration under transparent glaze (buff ware)

Dimensions: H. 10 1/2 in. (26.7 cm)

Classification: Ceramics

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1938

Accession Number: 38.40.247


This is a type of ceramic known as buff ware, which is characterized by graphic imagery outlined in purplish black and highlighted with distinctive yellow and green glazes. Some buff ware vessels were covered with a slip the same color as the buff body before being painted, while the designs on others were painted directly onto the surface of the vessel. The decoration on this group of ceramics ranges from geometric and abstract floral motifs to strong figural compositions and overall patterns of four-legged horned beasts (possibly ibexes) and birds. The type appears to have been produced only in Nishapur, although it was popular throughout the surrounding region and was traded to other cities. Although this is the only known buff ware pitcher with an animal-headed spout, the type is known from other ceramic and metal pitchers of the same period. The decoration on the body of the pitcher includes a field of birds, perhaps peacocks, and other scattered motifs, as well as the yellow and green glazes typical of buff ware.