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With inverted conical body, flaring neck and simple handle with pyramidal thumbpiece, on short flat foot, painted with four panels of palmettes and arabesques highlighted in cobalt-blue on a dense ground of spiral motifs, each panel bordered with a line of cursory naskh on white ground, the spout with large split palmettes reserved against the lustre ground, bordered by bands of naskh inscription on lustre ground at mouth, shoulder and belly, a band of stylized foliage below, very small repair to the mouth, in fitted box
7 7/8in. (19.9cm.) high
Anon sale, Sotheby's, London, 17 October 1996, lot 18
G. Fehérvári and M. Bayani, Exhibition of Islamic Art: Iranian Lustre ware of the Thirteenth Century, Mansour Gallery, London, June 1979, pp.54-55, pl.7
Exhibition of Islamic Art: Iranian Lustre ware of the Thirteenth Century, Mansour Gallery, London, June 1979, no 7

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Romain Pingannaud

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Lot Essay

The inscriptions on this ewer translate as follows:

On the horizontal band encircling the body, in Persian and Arabic, 'Oh you whose will it is to hurt me for years and months , Who are free from me and glad at my anguish , You vowed not to break your promise again , It is I, who have caused this break , Glory and prosperity and wealth and happiness and well-being and grace and success and splendour'.

The four vertical bands, in Arabic, 'The days will reveal to you that of which you are ignorant , The [one] whom you never dealt with will bring you news , Do not ask about a person [and] look at the companion he keeps , For the companion tries to imitate his companion'.
Around the shoulder, in Arabic, 'The good remains, no matter how much time passes, and evil is the worst provision that you can store, Muharram 660 [November 1261]'.

Around the rim of the neck, 'Perpetual glory, exceeding prosperity, prosperity, prosperity and wealth'.

The present ewer fits into a group of Kashan cobalt and lustre vessels all decorated in the same style and attributed to the late 12th or early 13th century. All share similar cobalt-highlighted palmettes and arabesques reserved against a dense ground of scrolls. Two of the group, a bottle and a dish, are in the Harvey B. Plotnick Collection (Oya Pancaroglu, Perpetual Glory. Medieval Islamic Ceramics from the Harvey B. Plotnick Collection, Chicago, 2007, pp.117-18, nos.75 and 76). The bottle, no. 74, also shares the same Arabic and Persian poetic inscription. Another bowl of comparable design is in the Al-Sabah Collection, catalogued as circa 1200-20 (Oliver Watson, Ceramics from Islamic Lands, London, 2004, p. 358, cat.O.16). The distinctive angular-shape of the present vessel as well as the decoration is also paralleled on another ewer from the collection of Raymond Ades, exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum (Islamic Pottery, 800-1400 AD, exhibition catalogue, London, 1969, no. 105, p. 35). So close are the two ewers that it seems probable that they are the product of the same workshop. Neither our ewer (nor indeed the dated bowl of the following lot) were recorded in Watson's list of dated Persian lustre vessels in 1985 (Oliver Watson, Persian Lustre Ware, London, 1985, pp.197-2000). However, it was previously published as having the date of AH 660, and thus being one of the earliest post Mongol invasion pottery vessels. The date can also be read AH 606 and in light of the comparable examples listed above and unless one assumes a complete absence of change in the decorative repertoire after a period of more than 50 very turbulent years, this seems altogether more likely. As such, it is an important addition and one which confirms and narrows the present attribution of the group.

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