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.
Module learning outcomes
By completing this course students will be able to identify the origin and production methods of a wide range of wares produced across the Islamic world from the seventh to the nineteenth centuries.
Alongside studying a wide array of table wares, students will develop an understanding of a significant number of different architectural uses of ceramics.
By studying the wide-ranging diffusion of ceramics from their place of production, and the movement of ingredients, such as tin, cobalt and lapis lazuli, students will gain insights into the international trading networks, by both land and sea, which were in operation throughout the period of study
The object handling and recognition skills developed in this course will prepare students for further research, as well as working with ceramics and other classes of Islamic art in museums, galleries and auction houses.
Students will gain an understanding of the interactions between the competing commercial, academic and curatorial interests in the wider international art market
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Special assessment rules
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Feedback on summative assessment within 20 working days.
Allan, J. 1973. “Abu’l Qasim’s Treatise on Ceramics”, Iran XI, pp. 111-120
Allan, J. and Roberts, C. (eds.) 1987. Syria and Iran. Three Studies in Medieval Ceramics, Oxford Studies in Islamic Art IV, Oxford
Denny, W. B. 2004. Iznik: The Artistry of Ottoman Ceramics, London
Golombek, L., Mason, R. B. and Bailey, G. A. 1996. Tamerlane’s Tableware: A New Approach to the Chinoiserie Ceramics of Fifteenth and Sixteenth-Century Iran, Costa Mesa, CA
Grube, E. J. 1994. Cobalt and Lustre; The First Centuries of Islamic Pottery, London
---- 1976. Islamic Pottery of the Eight to the Fifteenth Century in the Keir Collection, London
Hillenbrand, R. 2015. “Content versus Context in Samanid Epigraphic Pottery”, in Peacock, A. C. S. and Tor, D. G. (eds.) Medieval Central Asia and the Persianate World, London, pp. 56-107
Jenkins-Madina, M. 2006. Raqqa Revisited: Ceramics of Ayyubid Syria, London/New Haven, CT
Junod, B., Khalil, G., Weber, S. and Wolf, G. (eds.) 2012. Islamic Art and the Museum, London
Mason, R. 2004. Shine Like the Sun; Lustre Painted and Associated Pottery from the Medieval Middle East, Costa Mesa, CA