Ceramics have the advantage over many other categories of material culture in that they were produced in large numbers, break easily, and cannot be recycled in the way precious metals can. By studying the glazed wares produced across the Islamic world in the medieval and early modern period a broad understanding of the trade, techniques and regional styles emerges. Through the prism of one medium, works in others can be better understood, such as glass, metal, wood and stone. In addition, the early phase in the development in Persian painting survives primarily in the ceramic arts, rather than on paper.
There are large holdings of both complete wares and shards in many collections, allowing students the opportunity for direct engagement with the objects being studied.
This course takes an interdisciplinary approach, introducing students to archaeology, petrography, spectroscopy and repair technologies, as well as traditional art historical approaches to the material.
The study of the ceramic arts of the Islamic world provides a clear and coherent method of understanding the visual aesthetics of a wide array of different dynasties from across the wider region.
In the final portion of the course, students will examine the role of faking and restoration in the commercial market for Islamic ceramics from the late nineteenth century onwards, and see how this has affected the curation and display of wares in museums as well as why some classes of wares are more widely published than others