The study of Islamic pottery is often hampered by the lack of information from archaeological excavations. Although there are certainly a number of sites in Mesopotamia and Persia that are well documented and provide some insight, as a whole, the finds are not conclusive enough to provide a complete picture of the earliest periods of the Islamic ceramics industry. However, it is known that the Chinese ceramics industry played an influential role in the development of various shapes, styles and decorations of Islamic pottery from the early Abbasid period all the way through to the Ottoman period. Early Abbasid ceramics from the 9th and 10th century AD such as splashed wares, green wares and white wares are very closely related to those of the Tang empire (AD 618-907). Such major external influences inspired potters throughout Islamic history to develop their own styles and techniques, using whatever materials and resources were available to them. One key exception to this is perhaps the production of lustreware, which in contrast, developed indigenously using techniques derived from glass workers who in turn, likely acquired their own knowledge of fusing alloys, metal and quartz as a form of decoration from metalworkers.
The Tareq Rajab Museum’s collection of ceramics contains objects from all periods and regions of the Islamic world. Notable examples from the collection include one of, if not the only known dated slip-painted bowl from Samarkand and an array of sgraffiato works from Egypt, Syria, Iran and Central Asia. The museum also houses pottery vessels and tiles from the Timurid period along with better known Iznik, Safavid and Qajar tile work and pottery, which are represented by some extremely rare and unusual pieces.
Some of the earliest examples in the museum include Pre-Islamic monochrome glazed amphorae and jars that originate from Syria or Iran during the Parthian period (2nd/3rd century AD). Various ceramics from the Umayyad period are present, as well as a collection of lead glazed relief wares from the Abbasid period and a rare mould used for the creation of such vessels. The museum’s collection aims to display the evolution of Islamic pottery from the initial close relationship between Umayyad and Abbasid examples with pre-Islamic wares, highlighting the gradual evolution to more intricate and colourful examples such as ‘Hispano-Mauresque’ or Iznik tiles and pottery.
A few examples of the notable ceramics housed in the museum
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