Tareq Rajab Museum


Blue and White wares

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    Blue and white wares were produced in the Islamic world after such Chinese porcelain reached Egypt and Syria during the second half of the 14th century AD. The excavations at Hama in Syria brought to light Chinese blue and white porcelain and their local imitations and these must be earlier than 804AH/AD1401, when the Mongols destroyed the city and its citadel. The Tareq Rajab Museum possesses three blue and white pottery objects which were most likely made in Syria. One of them is a lid of a large vessel (CER0592TSR). It has a dome shape with a flange below and a conical top and a wide decorative register around the edges and a second one surrounding conical top. Similarly shaped and decorated vessels were excavated at Hama and dated to the 15th century. The second object is a bowl decorated with a floral scroll inside (CER0593TSR). A similar vessel is in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford which is dated to be of the late 14th or early 15th century. The third vessel is a jar with extensive cobalt-blue decoration on its body (CER0594TSR). This piece can also be attributed to the same period.

    Chinese blue and white porcelain was also imitated in Iran. There are a few such bowls in several public and private collections, while others were excavated at Kilwa in Kenya. There is jar in the Museum which is a rare and early example of the Iranian blue and white ware and it may dated to the late 15th century (CER0748TSR). By the 16th century there were three major pottery centres in Iran producing blue and white pottery: Meshhed, Kirman and Yezd. There are 43 Iranian blue and white wares in the Museum, representing the products of all of these three centres. The two large bowls, decorated with Chinese landscapes and Buddhist symbols well demonstrate the style of Meshhed (CER0765SR and CER0766TSR). A third object, a spitoon was also made at this centre and its decoration similarly betrays the strong Chinese influence (CER1126TSR). There is a similarly decorated kalian, or water-pipe base at the Victoria and Albert Museum, dated 1051AH/AD1641. The spitoon can also be dated to the 17th century. Two small dishes with floral decorations may be from the same period (CER0698TSR and CER0699TSR), although the second one has a brown painted lip which may suggest an early 18th century date.

    The products of the second major centre, which was based at Yezd, can be recognised by the colour of the decoration. It is either greyish-blue or very dark blue. There are two small dishes in the collection which can be attributed to the kilns of Yezd: one of them shows a figure with a halo around his head, standing at a ballustrade (CER0643TSR). The second one has entirely floral decoration (CER0632TSR). Both of these small dishes can be dated to the late 17th or early 18th century.

    The third and equally important centre was at Kirman, where they never tried to copy Chinese porcelain vessels. Kirman blue and white was never as light and compact as those of Meshhed or Yezd. The blue is always light and the decoration reveals the Iranian spirit. A large dish in the Museum is the product of the Kirman workshops (CER0630TSR). There is a rabbit in the centre, rather well hidden in the design, surrounded by floral scrolls. This vessel may be dated to the late 16th or early 17th century.
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