Tareq Rajab Museum


Lustre-Painted wares

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    Lustre painting was perhaps one of the most important decorative techniques in the Near and Middle East throughout the Islamic period. It was invented by the Copts of Egypt and used only on glass in pre-Islamic times. Islamic potters began to apply it on pottery during the second half of the 9th century, when the decoration was painted in ruby red or polychrome lustre. The Museum possesses five polychrome painted bowls, one of them is decorated with the "Sasanian wing" motif , chevron patterns and "eye" motifs (CER0044TSR). By the second half of the 10th century the decoration becomes monochrome and human and animal figures also appear in the decoration, like e.g. the dancing lady on a small bowl (CER1525TSR. A lobed monochrome painted bowl was most likely made in Egypt during the early Fatimid period, i.e. late 10th - early 11th century and outside within the base it bears the signature of the artist Abu Hani (CER0048TSR). The large jar, painted in lustre over a blue glaze depicts the same human figure in three oval medallions and give the signature of a well-known Fatimid artist Baytar, who was active towards the end of the 10th and early 11th century AD (CER1760TSR).

    Lustre-painting reached its apogee during the late 12th and 13th centuries in Iran and there are several objects in the Museum from this period. A large jar with a cylindrical upward opening and moulded body is decorated in the earlier monumental style (CER1753TSR). The large tray, which imitates the shape of contemporary metal trays and is showing an enthroned ruler surrounded by attendants and courtiers, dates from the beginning of the 13th century (CER0669TSR). A large jug with a shining gold lustre is also of the same period (CER0439TSR). There is a rectangular tile on which the lustre decoration seems to have a secondary role in the background and the additional cobalt-blue and turquoise provides the frame for the portraits of young ladies, can also be attributed to the early part of the 13th century (CER1122TSR). The bowl with the whirling fish is considerably later (CER0446TSR). It dates from the Ilkhanid period from the late 13th or early 14th century.The star-shaped lustre and cobalt-blue painted tile is also of the same date(CER0690TSR).

    Lustre-painting may have declined towards the end of the 14th century, but it certainly never completely disappeared. On the contrary, there was a revival of the technique during the Safavid period from the early 16th century onward. Occasionally the lustre painting was applied over a cobalt-blue glaze, like on a ewer which has a fluted body (CER0700TSR). Lustre vessels were still made during the Qajar period in the late 18th and 19th centuries. A good example of Qajar lustre vessels is a small dish painted with brownish lustre and cobalt-blue (CER0645TSR).

    Syrian lustre wares of the 12th and 14th centuries were quite distinct from their Iranian counterparts mainly in the colour of their designs. It is always chocolate brown. They were most likely made at Raqqa, which was one of the major pottery centres in the country. A large jar in the Museum has a moulded body painted in chocolate-brown lustre (CER0501TSR). Unfortunately its glaze, as it happened to most Syrian vessels, was attacked by the salt in the soil and became iridescent. A second Syrian example is a chamber-pot painted in lustre and cobalt-blue splashes were added on the outside (CER0502TSR).

    There are all together 122 lustre-painted objects in the Museum from Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Iran.
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Tareq Rajab Museum

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