Glazed earthenware bowl with geometric painting in blue, Iraq (probably Basra), 9th century.
Diameter: 20.8 cm, Height: 6 cm
Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Victoria and Albert Museum (The Millennium Galleries, Sheffield 14/01/2006-16/04/2006)
Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Victoria and Albert Museum (Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo 01/10/2005-04/12/2005)
Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Victoria and Albert Museum (Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas 03/04/2005-04/09/2005)
Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Victoria and Albert Museum (National Gallery of Art, Washington 18/07/2004-06/02/2005)
Islamic Middle East, room 42
Long-haul trading voyages to China were underway from as early as the eighth century, and Chinese porcelains were imported into the Abbasid imperial cities. These porcelains were so admired that Islamic potters began to experiment with imitating their bright whiteness, and consequently invented the technique of opacifying the glaze by adding particles of tin. This provided a blank ‘canvas’, to which the potters soon began to add decoration in cobalt blue. The Abbasid wares have long been thought of as the world’s first blue-and-white, though it is still unknown whether or not ninth-century Chinese ceramics with blue decoration came first.
White-glazed earthenware painted in blue.
MESOPOTAMIAN ; 9th century [Used until 11/2003]
Decorated Whiteware Bowls
Iraq, probably Basra
Once Iraqi potters could successfully imitate Chinese whitewares, they began to treat the white surface of their ceramics as a blank canvas. Splashed decoration in copper green and other colours was inspired by Chinese models, but painting into the glaze in cobalt blue was a local innovation, which resulted in the world's first blue-and-white ceramics.
Earthenware with decoration painted and splashed into the opaque glaze
Museum nos. C.1447-1924; C.12-1947 [Jameel Gallery]
Glazed ceramics were not widely used in the pre-Islamic Middle East, but in the 8th and 9th centuries, they began to assume the important role they have today.
High-fired ceramics from China, first brought to Iraq by sea in the 8th century, were one stimulus for this change. In the early 9th century Iraqi potters began to imitate elegant white bowls imported from China. They used the local yellow clay, which they masked with an opaque white glaze. Soon they began to add new forms and decoration of different types in blue, green and metallic lustre.
Once Iraqi potters could successfully imitate Chinese whiteware, they began to treat the white surface of their ceramics as a blank canvas. Painting into the glaze in cobalt blue was a local innovation, which resulted in the world's first blue-and-white ceramics.