LARGE SAMANID BOWL
Of conical form on a short foot, decorated in manganese on a cream ground with a bird to the well, the side with a band of inscription in kufic, ‘eat in it with pleasure and with [?]’.
The shortening, bending, and elongation of the letters has transformed the words into abstract motifs of tremendous power. With its monumental presence and the artful arrangement of its letters, this bowl stands out among the many other inscribed ceramics of the same period.
The Samanid dynasty, (819–999 A.D.), was an Iranian dynasty that arose in what is now eastern Iran and Uzbekistan. It was renowned for the impulse that it gave to Iranian national sentiment and learning. At one point the empire encompassed all of today’s Afghanistan, and large parts of Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Pakistan.
The most important contribution of the Samanid age to Islamic art is the pottery produced at Niahspur and Samarkand. The Samanids developed a technique known as slip painting: mixing semifluid clay (slip) with their colours to prevent the designs from running when fired with the thin fluid glazes used at that time. Bowls and simple plates were the most common forms made by Samanid potters. The potters employed stylized Sasanian motifs such as horsemen, birds, lions, and bulls’ heads, as well as Arabic calligraphic design. Polychrome pieces usually had a buff or red body with designs of several colours, bright yellows, greens, black, purples, and reds being the most common. Many pottery pieces were produced at Nishapur, however, with only a single line on a white background.
Collection of Rafi Y. Mottahedeh, acquired before 1974.
Richard Ettinghausen, Islamic Art from Princeton Collections, Princeton University Art Museum, May 20-June 30, 1974, no. 39.