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Large pottery bowl with a quadruped

Earthenware, coloured slip-painted decoration under a colourless glaze

Samanid Transoxiana or Khurasan, circa 10th century

Diameter: 35 cm. Height: 11.7 cm

 

The majestic animal, with its raised head looking back, holds itself elegantly against a background of pinkish beige slip. His ears or his horns point upwards and his body is partly adorned with hatched lines. It is surrounded by brown panels decorated with white dots set in a medallion of interwoven rondels. This is in the purest tradition of the Sassanid Orient.

This large bowl belongs to a very attractive group of ceramics with slip decoration, on a coloured slip background, which was catalogued by Wilkinson in the fifth classification group that he undertook following his excavations at the Nishapur site between 1935 and 1940 (Wilkinson 1973, p.158). It would seem that the pieces of this group could have been manufactured either at Samarkand (Paris 1992, pp. 56-62) or in Nishapur (Wilkinson 1973, p.158). The most frequently used colour for the background is red. Manganese violet, pinkish brown, mauve or salmon pink are rarer.

This truncated conical bowl is significant because of its size, and it is among the largest in the series. The pieces in this group are generally smaller than the very large dishes with black and white decoration. The largest recently catalogued piece measures 38.1 cm in diameter (Christie’s 2005, n° 128) and another one, with an abstract decoration measures 35.2 cm in diameter (Grube 1994, n° 109 p. 108). But above all, it is the subject of this bowl which makes it attractive, as the vast majority of objects in this series of slipware are decorated more simply, with calligraphic motifs, pearled circles, scattered spots or interwoven ribbons embellished with white dots and, more rarely, various animals within medallions (Soustiel 1985, p. 56): a rare bowl with a lion in a heraldic stance on a mauve background was auctioned at Bonhams in 2002 (n° 250). The proud quadruped in the centre of the medallion bears some similarities with a long necked animal on a dish found in Samarkand (Paris 1992, n° 109 p. 43), but50). The proud quadruped in the centre of the medallion bears some similarities with a long necked animal on a dish found in Samarkand (Paris 1992, n° 109 p. 43), but above all it calls to mind the kilin, a legendary creature from Chinese mythology, and is evidence of exchanges between Islam and China under the Abassid Caliphate.