“Generosity is a disposition of the dwellers of Paradise.”
Dish with Inscription – Aga Khan Museum
Like their monochrome or bi-coloured counterparts, polychrome slip-covered earthenware ceramics produced in the tenth and eleventh century under the Samanids (819-1005 CE) are unrivalled in quality and design. While still using the simplest of materials, Iranian craftsmen achieved an unprecedented level of refinement in the production of earthenware dishes and in the colour and texture of the slip used to cover their surfaces. Designs ranged from figural to epigraphic to abstract, or any combination of the three. This stunning dish is related to other epigraphic wares produced in Samanid Iran and Central Asia, but stands apart from them by its vibrant polychrome decoration. The simple, austere beauty of the other epigraphic wares has been replaced by an organised polychrome decorative programme. Colourful abstract motifs are inserted between the vertical letter terminals of the broad-brushed kufic inscription, which is a tradition of the Prophet: “Generosity is a disposition of the dwellers of Paradise.” An unusually accomplished central interlacing strapwork design based on a four-pointed star completes the decoration.


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