Explore artefacts made over a period of more than 1000 years in the heart of the Islamic world.
‘They take ten parts of the ... white "sugar stone" [i.e. quartz] ... and one part of ground glass frit ... and one part of white ... clay dissolved in water. This is kneaded well like dough ... and left to mature for one night.'
(Description of the making of fritware in Abu'l Qasim's treatise on ceramics, about 1300)
The arrival in the 1100s of a new kind of Chinese porcelain set the Islamic potters off in a new direction. These porcelains were exquisitely thin and had delicate incised or moulded decoration.
Potters in the Islamic world were unable to make successful copies until they developed a type of fine ceramic known as fritware (or stonepaste). Largely made of ground quartz, this material was pure white, could be fashioned into thin-walled vessels, and was covered with a brilliant transparent glaze. Incised, moulded and painted decoration was creatively applied to the new body in the region stretching from Egypt to Syria and Iran.
Underglaze painted wares
Underglaze decoration in more than one colour had been one of the challenges of Islamic potters. The 1100s saw the gradual development of underglaze painting techniques – from the covering of vessels with a black slip that was subsequently removed to reveal the pattern (‘silhouette’ ware) to the achievement of full control over thin pigments which would not run during the firing. The earliest dated examples of this kind are of the early 1200s.