Medieval Islamic Pottery - Islamic Art History
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Medieval Islamic Pottery

plate with image of yellow donkey
A tin-glazed plate

November 2016 - Just about the time of the Arab conquests (about 600-700 AD), potters began to use metal-based glazes on their pots, so Islamic pottery looks very different from the Roman pottery that came before.

white bowl
Tin-glazed bowl imitating
Chinese pottery, ca. 850 AD

West Asian potters invented this way of glazing pottery during the Roman Empire, but Roman potters didn't use it very much. Glass glazes became much more popular during the early Abbasid empire, about 800 AD, as a way of imitating white Chinese porcelain. Traders were bringing Chinese porcelain west to sell in Baghdad, but it was very expensive - the local knockoffs were cheaper.

big white plate with complicated gold pattern
From around 1400 AD

Islamic potters then began to experiment with lots of different glazes, often painting one color over another, and sometimes firing the pottery more than once.

bowl with two people riding horses painted on it
From about 1300 AD

When the Mongols conquered Central Asia and China in the 1200s AD, there was even more trade between West Asia and China. Chinese pottery again became fashionable in West Asia, and a lot of West Asian pottery began to copy Chinese colors and patterns.

Learn by doing: make a clay pot and glaze it
More about Islamic Art

Bibliography and further reading about Islamic pottery:

Eyewitness: Islam, by Philip Wilkinson and Batul Salazar (2002). 1. For kids - the religion and culture of the Islamic Empire, with lots of pictures.

Pottery of the Islamic World: In the Tareq Rajab Museum, by Geza Fehervari (1998). A good representative collection, with many outstanding pieces, well illustrated.

Pottery of the Early Islamic Period, by Charles Wilkinson (1974). Relies on the collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Byzantine pottery
Medieval European pottery
More about the Islamic Empire
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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