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HOME : Islamic Art : AS Collection 4 : Islamic Painted Terracotta Flask
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Islamic Painted Terracotta Flask - LK.015
Origin: Central Asia
Circa: 800 AD to 1100 AD
Dimensions: 6" (15.2cm) high
Collection: Islamic Art
Style: Islamic
Medium: Terracotta

Additional Information: AS

Location: Great Britain
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Terracotta vial formed of two mould-made halves, seam inverted; three lugs, two pierced for suspension and short spout; traces of original red slip and glaze remaining; applied decoration in red and manganese; bird (perhaps a Peacock) occupies the central register with lunettes encircling; Kufic inscription to outer-lying register; dotted zones between characters; lunettes to periphery. This flask dates from a period often referred to as a “golden age” in the history of the Islamic empire, which at this time spanned from Spain to the borders of India, through Persia and the Middle East and along the coast of North Africa. It would have been used by pilgrims to carry water or oils back from the sanctuaries they visited. The tradition stems from the fourth millennium BCE and was very popular in the pre-Islamic world. The earliest glazed examples appear in Parthian and Sassanian times. Here, we have an Islamic take on a praxis that was already ancient by the time the artisan assumed his tools. The style of script – angular, bordering on geometric – is typical of the early Abbasid period. Other elements pertain to lustreware bowls from Samarkand and Nishapur, both centres of ceramic production at this time. The decorative formula applied here mimics such bowls. The central register with peacock, narrow white margin, “cavetto” with script and lunettes are seen on contemporaneous Samanid ceramics. It is worth drawing attention to the dotted zones that occupy the spaces between the characters. This motif is again characteristic of ceramics, which in turn copy the ring-matted ground of metal work. The idea of a widespread artistic vocabulary, transcending limitations of form and function, takes root in our mind. Now, to speak of the features that make this piece rather singularly unique. For a start, the decoration is extremely well executed; the sum of the individual decorative elements is a synthesised and harmonious whole. The use of the red and manganese is unusual. Ordinarily we see the use of manganese only. Referring again to the red dotted zones, perhaps the artisan wanted to emphasise the script; to imitate what he saw around him in contemporary architecture where Kufic inscriptions were executed in relief against fine red brickwork. - (LK.015)


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