Luster Bowls from Iraq

I’m not going to yak on about these items. I’ll just present them in their simple beauty, and marvel that numerous museums have made such items available for us to see and share online — as the next wave of Covid envelops the world in late 2021.

 Imported Luster Bowl (side view), 10th Century, from Iraq (found in Nishapur, Iran), Metropolitan Museum of Art

(Beginning in 2017, several major museums began sharing images and basic data of public-domain artwork in their collections under the Open Access Initiative. Participating museums include the Met, the Cooper Hewitt, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery and the Smithsonian Museum.)

This 10th century luster bowl shown above was made in Iraq, but discovered at Tepe Madrasa in Nishapur, Iran, in 1939. The Metropolitan Museum of Art notes “its true metallic sheen—derived from a technique not known to Nishapuri potters—confirms that it was made in Iraq, and its single color dates it to the tenth century. Together with other examples, this bowl is evidence of the active trade between the two regions once Nishapur was incorporated into the Abbasid empire in the eighth century.”

Apart from its historic context, I love the confident, fluid brushstrokes of this piece, combining delicate lines with broad areas of pigment on the buff surface. I also enjoy the gesture of the strokes. I can picture the artist perched on a low stool, bowl in his (or her) lap, dipping a brush into metallic pigment and quickly, deftly, sketching out this design.

 Imported Luster Bowl (top view), 10th Century, from Iraq (found in Nishapur, Iran), Metropolitan Museum of Art

Here is a second example, this item from the Cleveland Museum of Art entitled “Luster Bowl with Man Holding a Banner” and dated around the 10th century. I will include some close-ups because the images of the object are so sharp you can really drill into detail on the museum website. THANK YOU to the Cleveland Museum of Art for the high level of photography they share with all of us!

Luster Bowl (top view), 10th Century, from Iraq (probably Baghdad), Cleveland Museum of Art
Luster Bowl (detail of top), 10th Century, from Iraq (probably Baghdad), Cleveland Museum of Art
Luster Bowl (side view), 10th Century, from Iraq (probably Baghdad), Cleveland Museum of Art
Luster Bowl (detail of side), 10th Century, from Iraq (probably Baghdad), Cleveland Museum of Art
Luster Bowl (bottom), 10th Century, from Iraq (probably Baghdad), Cleveland Museum of Art

Stay safe, everyone.

2 thoughts on “Luster Bowls from Iraq

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