Islamic Lands

Isalmic Pottery

Iran 13th - Metropolitan Museum NY

During the last century, Islamic Pottery (fine ceramics made from potters in the lands of Islam) has become the subject of extensive study. Important museum collections and extensive bibliography can offer information to the hungry collector and researcher.

The 1st Islamic Empire was build under the leadership of Muhammad’s four companions, who ruled successively as caliphs (632-661) from Medina, and then under the Umayyad, the 1st Islamic Dynasty (661-749) who moved the capital to Damascus.

From the most important dynasties that influenced artistic trends we must mention the Almoravids (1062 – 1147), Almohads (1130 – 1269) and Nasrids (1232 – 1492) in Spain and the Maghrib region. In Egypt and Syria are the Fatimid (909 – 1169), the Ayyubids (1169 – 1260) and Mamlucks (1250 – 1517), the Seljuqs in Greater Persia (1040 – 1194) and Anatolia (1081 – 1307) and finally Mongols Ilkhanids in Iran and Iraq (1256 – 1353)

Egypt 11th - Benaki Islamic Museum Greece

Islamic pottery between the 7th and the 10th century is characterized by the development of glazed ceramics. The development was slow at first but during the 9th century the production of the Islamic potters was much more sophisticated with great variety to offer.
In the 11th century we see a general decline in ceramic production throughout the entire Islamic world with the exception of Egypt. Potters of the Fatimid Dynasty in Egypt had been very active, producing opaque white or polychrome glazed wares. Towards the end of the 10th century, the arrival of the lustreware technique indicated a new era for the Egyptian pottery including new ways of decorating (animal & human figures). Egyptian potters through various experimentations also developed the fritware technique (a pure white fabric with many advantages that became the standard for fine quality lustre painted and incised wares).

During that period, Kashan in Iran was one of the most important ceramic centers, probably producing the finest works, using the most sophisticated techniques including lustreware, fritware and minai (a local discovery that was made only in Kashan).
A similar activity can be found in Syria with the same techniques that had arrived from Iran & Egypt. Ceramic production is assumed to have continued until mid 13th century when Syria (among others) was invaded by the Mongols. The Mongol invasion appears to have a big impact and even brought to an end production at important ceramic centers as Raqqa (near Euphrates).

Iran 13th - Museum of Oriental Art Italy

In the early 14th c., potters in South Jingdezhen in S. China began to manufacture the first blue & white porcelain. Large quantities of this production were exported in Middle East and India and later Europe. Its desirability and high cost (much more expensive than local production) led potters to try local imitations. Islamic pottery of the early 15th century and on was much influenced by Chinese blue & white porcelains. Wares in Syria, Egypt, Iran & Turkey show clear evidence of the influence from Chinese Style.
In Turkey the first Iznik pots were made in 1480. The quality of Iznik production suggests that the market for tiles and vessels were the court and high officials. Iznik pottery came to an end at the end of the 17th century probably due to increase imports from China. In 18th c. Kutahya became an important ceramic centre of the area, producing ceramics with a unique style of decoration similar to local embroideries. Finally, from the mid 18th century, a simpler earthenware pottery in a variety of styles can be found in Canakkale (Dardanelles). It includes plates and bowls with architectural or ships designs, ewers and other ‘traditional crafts’ that were exported to Europe.

1. Ceramics from Islamic Lands, Kuwait National Museum, The Al-Sabah Collection, By Oliver Watson (London, Thames & Hudson, 2004)
2. Museum of Islamic Art, State Museums of Berlin, Verlag Philipp Von Zabern Mainz, 2008
3. Μουσείο Μπενάκη, Οδηγός του Μουσείου Ισλαμικής Τέχνης, 2006
4. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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