The Aga Khan Museum collection includes a ceramic dish inscribed with the Prophet’s hadith

Samanid dishCeramics are an integral art form of the Middle East and North Africa. This area has a long history of ceramic production because of its ancient civilizations. Trade and conquests resulted in many technological innovations such as a wide range of colours and metallic glazing, long before these techniques reached the West. From the ninth century on, Islamic potters created objects of spectacular beauty.

The potters also attempted to imitate Chinese ceramics, which were imported into these lands. However, the Islamic potters lacked the clay required to duplicate the hardness and smooth glazes of the Chinese products, and  resourcefully adopted new artistic styles incorporating intricately decorative motifs.

“Styles and techniques changed over the years, and frequently differed from one region to another. But essentially, the Islamic potters followed common paths that set their work apart and made it one of the great creative movements in the potter’s art. They served all levels of society, but the finest of their glazed ceramics were designed for people of the middle classes, who delighted in owning objects of beauty. And in the colorful, elaborately decorated wares they created, Islam’s medieval artisans left a heritage of cultural treasures.”*

In various parts of the Islamic world, calligraphy was often used for elegant inscriptions not only to decorate the pottery, but also to convey good wishes, popular sayings or proverbs. In this dish, colourful abstract motifs are inserted between the kufic inscription of a tradition of the Prophet: “Generosity is a disposition of the dwellers of Paradise.”AKM logo

This dish is also the inspiration for the logo of the Aga Khan Museum.

References:
* John Luter, “The Potters of Islam” Saudi Aramco World, July/August 1974
Aga Khan Museum Online Gallery

Compiled by Nimira Dewji

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