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Image 42

White bowl (tazza)

White bowl (tazza)
12th century
Iran
Stonepaste; incised under transparent glaze; H. 31 1⁄16 in. (9.4 cm), Diam. 7 3/4 in. (19.7 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1963 (63.159.2)

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KEY WORDS AND IDEAS
Silk Road, cultural exchange and trade, China and Iran, Abbasid caliphate, ceramics, porcelain, stonepaste

LINK TO THE THEME OF THIS CHAPTER
This vessel reflects efforts by Near Eastern potters to emulate Chinese porcelain and motifs.

FUNCTION
In addition to being a functional bowl, a work like this reflected the sophistication and refinement of its owner.

DESCRIPTION/VISUAL ANALYSIS
At first glance, this footed bowl is almost indistinguishable from Chinese examples (fig. 49). The entire body is incised with delicate motifs and covered in a transparent white glaze with a slightly greenish tint. In the center of the interior, a rosette motif radiates upward to the vessel's walls and a vine scroll wraps around the exterior. The incised lines are decorative, but are also used to make the clay appear even thinner, in order to more closely approximate the look of translucent porcelain. The light shining through the incised lines creates a subtle play of translucency and opacity.

CONTEXT
This tazza, or shallow bowl resting on a foot, reflects the result of the artistic interconnections between Greater Iran and China during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. It is made of stonepaste, a material adapted by twelfth-century Persian (Iranian) potters in Kashan in the twelfth century as a more translucent, durable, and sophisticated alternative to earthenware. Stonepaste (also known as frit) is made of ground quartz mixed with clay and glaze, and turns white when fired. Visually, these wares were near perfect imitations of Chinese porcelain. Thus, while the appearance of this bowl is Chinese, the materials and techniques are purely Persian. The introduction of stonepaste was a significant development in the history of Islamic ceramics and remained the primary medium until the materials and techniques required to produce true porcelain were developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Fig. 49. Small bowl, late Northern Song (960–1127)–Jin (1115–1234) dynasty, about 12th century; China; porcelain incised with decoration under ivory-white glaze (Ding ware); Diam. 3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Roger G. Gerry, 1980 (1980.532)

This twelfth-century bowl is an example of Chinese porcelain, the material Iranian potters tried to imitate. The inside of the bowl displays an incised flower motif. The body is covered with an ivory-white glaze.

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