The inscription around the inner rim in kufic reads:
al-'izz al-da'im wa al-iqbal al-za'id wa al-dawala wa ....[al-'izz all] da'im wa al-iqbal al-za'id wa al-nasr al-ghalib wa al-baqa ..... wa al-judd al-sa'id wa al-daw[la] (Perpetual glory, increasing prosperity, good turn of fortune, ... perpetual glory, increasing prosperity, triumphant victory, long life ... rising good fortune and wealth ...).
This remarkable bowl combines a number of different iconographic sources into an extremely successful composition. The most interesting band however is certainly the central band. It is composed of two or three different scenes which have been worked together, possibly depicting different stages of the same story. The group on the right, with the enthroned ruler, appears in many pottery dishes of this period. The hunting scene on the left is also a known type, but the prominence of the unmounted horse with the crossed halberds behind is most unusual.
The figural style of this bowl is very close to that of an outstanding beaker in the Freer Gallery, Washington (Atil, Esin: Ceramics from the World of Islam, Washington, 1973, no.44, pp.100-101). The upper row of that beaker in particular has a number of features which are very close indeed. Both vessels have a hunting scene showing confronted mounted huntsmen attacking an animal between them. Both also have the group on the right hand side of the band, continuously from the turquoise figure in the centre of this band to the entroned ruler on the right, including the horse with crossed halberds.
The Freer Gallery beaker has been shown to depict a story from the Shahnameh, that of Bihzan and Manizha, first by Diakonov (M.: "Un vase en faïence avec des illustrations de Shah-Namé", Travaux de Départment Oriental, Musée de l'Hermitage, I, 1939, pp.317-26), and then further worked out by Grace Guest ("Notes on a Thirteenth Century Beaker", Ars Islamica, X, 1943, pp.148-152).
The two scenes which are duplicated in our bowl are identified as Kai Khosraw feasting with Bihzan before he goes off on his adventure, and then depicting him fighting the boars. In the present case the animal being attacked is more like a leopard. It seems probable that the artist, possibly the same artist as the Freer beaker, used the same composition as had been used before, but to depict scenes from another, possibly related, story. Whatever the iconography however, the quality of some of the painting, both in the figural scenes and in the underglaze cobalt-blue calligraphy, is remarkable.