Envisioning Islamic Art and Architecture – Book Sample
Essays in Honor of Renata Holod Edited by David J. Roxburgh
ENVISIONING ISLAMIC ART AND ARCHITECTURE
Telling Tales: Investigating a Mīnāʾī Bowl
Leslee Katrina Michelsen and Johanna Olafsdotter
The Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar (henceforth miaq), is fortunate to have a relatively substantial collection of mīnāʾī ware holdings, among which one bowl is particularly striking (fig. 4.1).1
The decorative technique, also known as haftrang, or seven colors, consists of applying enamels over a previously fired glaze. The bowl has an unusual decorative program rarely seen on this type of ceramic, comprising a mixture of several common styles.
Its fusion of monoscenic and continuous narratives calls to mind a number of wellknown mīnāʾī ceramics, although the combination found on this bowl appears to be unique.
The quality of the painting on the bowl is extremely high; it differs from contemporary objects in that it is decorated not only with a large central motif but also with numerous registers filled with small-scale, intricately painted scenes and figures.
Our excitement at this was tempered by our concern with the restoration it had obviously undergone; the current study was initiated primarily to determine if the extant decorative program was original to the bowl before proceeding with further work.
The bowl is not unknown. It was displayed at the famous International Exhibition of Persian Art, at the Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, London, in 1931, and later published in Arthur Upham Pope’s A Survey of Persian Art from Prehistoric Times to the Present in 1938.2
Since the 1930s, however, it seems to have been in private hands.3
Its inclusion in one of the great Islamic exhibitions and subsequent“disappearance” from the academic record made its recent acquisition by the miaq a particularly happy one.
In our capacities as, respectively, the Head of the Curatorial and Research Department and the Conservator for Ceramics and Glass, we decided to make the study of this bowl one of our first collaborative projects, as we attempt to examine technical and scientific aspects of both celebrated and little-known Islamic artworks under a cooperative lens.
This is, of course, an ever-growing part of the field of Islamic art history and one that we find to be essential to our understanding of these objects, as well as to their contextualization in a greater material and visual culture.
This bowl, catalogued as po.230. miaq, was chosen for its historical pedigree, unusual decoration, and—more problematically—
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