The Art of Middle Eastern Ceramics

Islamic art has notable achievements in ceramics. Find out why this Islamic art has endured for years in this article on Middle Eastern ceramics.

The Art of Middle Eastern Ceramics

The history of ceramics in Islamic art is unique like none of its contemporaries. The rest of the world was making unglazed pottery. Meanwhile, Islamic potters were developing a tin-opacified glazing. Some of these are on the blue-painted ware of Basra, Iraq, that dates as far back as 700 AD.


Additionally, 9th century Iraqi Islamic potters also contributed to the creation of stonepaste ceramics. This is also known as fritware. Along with silica it also consists of a small amount of clay and ceramic frit. Fritware became so popular that it quickly spread to Egypt and other parts of the Islamic world from Iraq.


In the 8th century, Ar-Raqqah, Syria, became the first industrial complex for glass and pottery production. Other innovative ceramic pottery centers in the Islamic world soon followed. Some centers include Fustat in the 10th century, Damascus from the 12th century to somewhere around the 17th century, and finally Tabriz which started in the late 15th century and lasted until the middle of the 16th century.

Lusterware


The 9th century saw a new type of pottery or porcelain that featured an iridescent metallic glaze. Today we know it as luster. At first, it was a painting technique for glass. However, Mesopotamians soon adopted it sometime in the between 800 AD and 900 AD.


Islamic potters also borrowed the techniques, shapes and decorative motifs of Chinese ceramics. This happened especially after invasions of the Mongols and Timurids. Likewise, Western ceramics had very little influence. Although many in Europe sought out Islamic ceramics and often tried to duplicate it. One need to look no further than the albarello for an example. The albarello is a type of earthenware jar Europeans crafted. Originally designed to hold apothecary ointments and dry drugs, the Islamic Middle East was actually the first to develop it.

Hispano–Moresque Style


This style emerged in Al-Andaluz, or Muslim Spain, in the 8th century under Egyptian influence. Hispano–Moresque examples were exported to Italy, inspiring the earliest Italian examples, from 15th century Florence. The style was an amalgamate of Islamic and European elements which introduced two ceramic techniques. One was glazing with an opaque white tin-glaze and the other painting in metallic luster.


The finest examples of ceramics, however, come out of 16th century Ottoman Iznik pottery. It produced gorgeous ceramic Iznik tiles along with these huge vessels. Chinese Yuan and Ming ceramics influenced the latter and thus these had beautiful Chinese floral motifs.


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