Dish, fritware, painted in underglaze cobalt blue with s scholar in a landscape, Iran, 1600-1640.
World Ceramics, room 145
Persian blue and white ceramics were primarily produced during the rule of the Safavid Dynasty in Iran (early 16th century to early 18th century). Iranian potters were almost exclusively preoccupied with making wares in the styles of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain some close copies and some more fanciful. Echoes of earlier traditions remained, in particular in the black-under-turquoise colour scheme that dates back in Iran to the end of the 12th century. Towards the end of the 16th century there was a widening of interest that blossomed in the 17th century to a wide range of styles and techniques in which blue and white plays a dominant but not exclusive role.
Historical significance: From the last quarter of the 16th until mid 17th century Chinese dishes with petal panels were the common export wares. The striking effect of the new style of decoration made the design popular not only with the Persian potter but also across western Europe. The design originated in the Tang dynasty when the flattened petals of the lotus decorated Buddhist paintings, stone tiles and various artefacts. These panels vary in number but they are usually six or eight according to the size of the dish. Flowers, fruit, birds and sacred emblems are adopted as decorations and the simplified leafy peach motif becomes especially popular in both China and Persia. In the 17th century Persian potters reinterpret the human figures copied from Chinese models in a comic manner.
By the 1620s, Iranian potters were producing convincing copies of the Chinese porcelain imports flooding into Iran since the 1580s. The challenge was to produce well-painted Kraak-style designs on thinly walled vessels.The panelled border around the rim is almost a direct copy of a Kraak-style dish. However, the seated scholar in the centre of the dish, while utlimately based on a Chinese figure type, has been adapted as a poet with a flask of wine, a popular subject found in Iranian painting in the Safavid period.