Persia And Neighbouring Countries

In Persia and other Near East countries pottery had been made for many centuries, and while the majority of Europe was in a state of barbarism, attractive wares were being made with brilliantly coloured glazes and with designs incised or painted. The Persians rediscovered the art of tin-glazing, a technique used by the Assyrians, and were masters in the use of coloured lustres by the end of the twelfth century. Both of these processes reached Europe later by way of the Moors in Spain.

Many types of Chinese wares were exported to the Near East countries, and there was a constant interchange of ideas; the Chinese learned of painting in underglaze blue from the Persian potters at Kashan, and the Persians made imitations of their favourite Chinese celadon glazes. Following the important Persian Exhibition held in London in 1931, scholars have turned their attention to the earlier wares, and attempts are being made to trace a sequence of styles and to discover exactly where the various types were made.

Excavations carried out at the end of the nineteenth century first revealed the beauty of these Islamic wares which had then been long forgotten. Ironically, beautiful as so many of them are, most have been restored from fragments found discarded in rubbish-pits in Persia and Egypt. Good examples are, understandably, rare, and poor ones skillfully made up from two or more articles with a generous helping of plaster and paint are to be guarded against.

Most of the wares made in Persian and nearby pottery centres from the fourteenth century onwards are versions of earlier types and show less originality. Imitations of Ming blue-and- white, with thick glaze and a very runny blue, are sometimes mistaken for Chinese.

To the north-west of Persia, in Turkey, a distinctive pottery was made. It has a sandy body coated with white slip, decorated with painting of formal floral or leaf patterns outlined in black and coloured in a distinctive thick red, bright green and blue. It dates from about the sixteenth century. This ware was once thought to be of Persian origin, later said to have come from the Island of Rhodes and known as 'Rhodian' ware, but is now accepted as having been made principally at Isnik, a town to the south of Istanbul.

Collectable Antiques: