A light beige-gray ceramic bowl, covered with a white slip; the decoration is painted in black under a beautiful turquoise glaze, thicker on the bottom where it partially dripped. The rounded body terminates in a high vertical rim; it is supported by a beveled, hollow and disk-shaped foot. The technique, shape and decoration are typical of the ceramics produced in the workshops of Kashan, a city located in central Iran.
This manufacturing technique, known as metal luster technique, is among the most important contributions of Islamic craftsmen to the development of ceramics. The pottery was first covered with a glaze and placed in a kiln, in an oxidizing atmosphere. After cooling, a mixture of oxides was applied to the surface of the glaze. The vessel was then given a second firing at a lower temperature. The glaze, melted by the heat, could thus incorporate the paint in a very thin and glossy film of metal. Although its origin and history are not unanimously admitted, this technique is thought to have been invented in Iraq, the power center of the Abbasids, between the 8th and 9th century; it was widely used by potters in Cairo under the Fatimid dynasty in the 10th and 11th century, before spreading to the Syrian world in the 12th century. In Iran, it was not until the second half of the 12th century that the production of metallic lusterware started; the city of Kashan quickly became a major production center, where veritable dynasties of potters worked, as attested by the signatures visible on many vessels.
The use of turquoise and black colors is certainly an essential part of the still current popularity of this type of ceramic. The patterns were hand-drawn: on the inside, the rim is adorned by a series of vertical lines alternating with dots, while the center of the vessel is occupied by the main motif composed of flowers and other decorative plant volutes separated by semicircles. On the outside, four patterns recalling stylized lilies are separated by vertical lines.