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Ceramic Arts of the Islamic World: A Framework for Study - HOA00088M

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  • Department: History of Art
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Richard McClary
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

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

Indicative assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay : 4000 essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Indicative reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay : 4000 essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

We aim to provide feedback on summative assessment within 20 working days.

Indicative reading

  • 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
  • Necipoglu, G. 1990. "From International Timurid to Ottoman: a change of taste in sixteenth-century ceramic tiles", Muqarnas 7, pp. 136–170
  • Philon, H. 1980. Early Islamic Ceramics, Ninth to Late Twelfth Centuries, London
  • Pickett, D. 1997. Early Persian Tilework: The Medieval Flowering of Kashi, London
  • Watson, O. 2004. Ceramics From Islamic Lands, London
  • ---- 1985. Persian Lustre Ware, London
  • Wilkinson, C. K. 1973. Nishapur: Pottery of the Early Islamic Period, New York, NY

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University constantly explores ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary. In some instances it may be appropriate for the University to notify and consult with affected students about module changes in accordance with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.