The Islamic world’s fascination with China most likely reflects an interest in the Far East which has existed in the entire region, and in particular in Iran, since Antiquity. However, in the Islamic period a concerted effort was made to imitate Chinese blue-and-white porcelain and monochrome celadon wares. Artists and craftsmen from China are known to have worked in Kufa (Iraq) as early as the eighth century, during the Abbasid period (Pelliot 1928, 110-12), so cultural transmission occurred through the movement of technicians as well as through trade and diplomacy. The present bottle is an excellent example of moulded monochrome glazed ware imitating Chinese celadon. Two images created by a mould appear on the body of the bottle: a winged bull and a Chinese qi’lin on one side, and the figure of a lion tamer and a lion on the other. A virtually identical bottle is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, suggesting that the two objects were produced from the same mould (Pope 1938, pls. 807B & 808A [inv. no. 1339-1876]); a similar bottle can be found in the Gemeente Museum, The Hague (Pope 1938, pl. 808B). The pear shape seems to have been popular in the early seventeenth century, as several bottles with this form exist in other collections but with a different decorative programme (see, for example, bottles with a white body, black outlines, and leafy grounds depicting hunters and their prey, in the Brooklyn Museum, New York, and the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg). The image of the lion tamer and lion also appears in drawings of the period; these probably served as models for ceramic decoration as well as for the surfaces of other media. This very scene is depicted by the well-known sixteenth-century Safavid artist Sadiqi Beg, whose drawings sometimes reflect the influence of his contemporary, Riza 'Abbasi, known for his extraordinary “calligraphic” drawing style.
Source: Aga Khan Museum
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