Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

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Bowl with radial design and drop-shaped cartouches

Glossary (2)

fritware, underglaze painting

  • fritware

    Ceramic material composed of ground quartz and small quantities of clay and finely ground frit (frit is obtained by pouring molten glass into water).

  • underglaze painting

    Painting applied to ceramic material before a transparent, or monochrome or coloured glaze for Islamic objects, is applied. The technique was initially developed in China.


    • currently in research collection

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Publications online

  • Islamic ceramics, by James W. Allan

    Islamic Ceramics

    The underglaze painting tradition, once developed, was to have continuing use in Islamic ceramics, and changes in style and colour scheme mark successive phases. Under the Il-Khanid (Mongol) rulers of Iran in the late thirteenth century the style of vegetal design becomes looser and more fluid, the variable but distinct background pattern of the pre-Mongol period become loose groupings of dots, and the black becomes much softer and greener in colour. Occasional blobs of turquoise indicate an interest in expanding the underglaze palette. Figural decoration declines, and the commonest designs are now geometric, with a variety of arabesque patterns used as fillers. Both these bowls have radial designs. No. 17 [EA1978.1683] has a ‘Maltese’ cross which is emphasised visually by its colour, by its wide, white border, and by the wide, white surround to the pear-shaped cartouches in each of its arms. In no.18 [EA1978.1595] the centre has a greater emphasis, and the balance of the now eight radiating panels is more subtle. The primary cross-shape is emphasised by its pointed arms, and by the use of the same arabesque design as a filler for each of them. The four secondary arms have square ends and the designs used as fillers alternate, two and two. The result is that although the bowl is decorated with an eight-point radial design, the eye reads it as a cross.

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