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Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

Ashmolean − Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

Islamic Ceramics trail

Explore over one thousand years of development in Islamic ceramics through our extensive collection.

Detail from bowl with seated figures by a stream, Iran, probably Kashan, 1211-1212 (Museum number: EA1956.33)
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The beginnings

The ceramic production of the early Islamic period is very similar to that of the preceding centuries, and it is not always easy to distinguish the early Islamic from the pre-Islamic production.

Unglazed ware

Ceramics manufacture in the 7th and 8th centuries focused on functional ware, such as cooking, storage, and transport vessels. The vast majority of these wares were unglazed, and this would hold true for this type of ware up to more recent times. However, these completely plain wares were made alongside decorative pieces showing inventive incised, applied, and stamped decoration.

Ewer with winged creatures (EA1978.2240) Ewer with winged creatures (EA1978.2240)

Glazed ware

Monochrome glazes had been used in the Middle East during previous centuries to provide vessels with a smooth, non-porous surface that could hold liquids and be cleaned easily. Green-blue alkaline-glazed vessels made during the Parthian (3rd century BC - 3rd century AD) and Sasanian (3rd - 7th century AD) periods continued to be manufactured in large numbers in the first centuries of Islam. Some of these wares travelled widely as containers for export goods. Fragments of large, alkaline-glazed jars have been found from the East African coast all the way to the Far East, along the maritime trade routes.

Three-footed bowl (EA1966.222) Three-footed bowl (EA1966.222)   Storage jar (EA2005.85) Storage jar (EA2005.85)

There are some early examples from the earliest centuries of Islam of ceramics that were glazed in different colours for decorative purposes, and these might have paved the way for more elaborate examples over the next few centuries.

Dish with polychrome glazing (EA1974.48) Dish with polychrome glazing (EA1974.48)

These pieces do not anticipate the major innovations that would come about with the development of opaque white tin glaze during the 9th century, which had a major impact on ceramic production in both the Islamic world and Europe.

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