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
and manganese; bird (perhaps a Peacock)
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
“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
and along the coast of North Africa.
It would have been used by pilgrims to carry
or oils back from the sanctuaries they visited. The
tradition stems from the fourth millennium BCE
was very popular in the pre-Islamic world. The
earliest glazed examples appear in Parthian and
Here, we have an Islamic take on a praxis that
already ancient by the time the artisan assumed
The style of script – angular, bordering on
– is typical of the early Abbasid period. Other
elements pertain to lustreware bowls from
Samarkand and Nishapur, both centres of
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
seen on contemporaneous Samanid ceramics.
It is worth drawing attention to the dotted zones
that occupy the spaces between the characters.
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,
root in our mind.
Now, to speak of the features that make this
rather singularly unique. For a start, the
is extremely well executed; the sum of the
decorative elements is a synthesised and
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
artisan wanted to emphasise the script; to imitate
what he saw around him in contemporary
architecture where Kufic inscriptions were
in relief against fine red brickwork.