Bowl with Fish Motif

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Bowl with fish motif 14th–15th centuries, Fustat (medieval Cairo), Egypt Glazed ceramic Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, 1969.2.22

Bowl with fish motif


Bowl with fish motif


The greenish color and fish pattern on this large ceramic vessel may have been initially inspired by imported Chinese celadon wares. However, the final result clearly shows significant innovation on the part of the Muslim craftsman. The vessel's exterior wall is decorated with a band of large-scale pseudo-Arabic inscriptions. In its interior, a row of silhouetted fish swim around the inner wall of the bowl. At the bottom, this circular motion is enhanced by a spiral design. When it was filled, the liquid inside would further animate the motifs, setting the whole scene into symbolic motion. Even the vessel's lip is decorated with undulating vegetation, as if plant life were growing on the surface of this ceramic "fishpond."

Bibliography: Grube 1976, 282; Baer 1998, 104–105; 1968; Crowe, 1975–1977; 1976; Gyllensvard 1973; Scanlon 1984; 1970b, 88; and Whitehouse 1973.

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