Nishapur Pottery Bowl with Peacocks and Fish



    gift of: Professor Gary Hanson

    date: c. 11th-12th Century AD

    provenance: Nishapur

    description: This bowl was found in Nishapur, in present day north-eastern Iran, a region that often changed rulers. The bowl is earthenware with a white slip and detailed, hand painted decorations, with a clear glaze on the surface. The fish and peacock motifs and the usage of dots are very common on pottery found throughout the Near East. The peacock was part of a Persian folklore creation story, and in Islam the spreading tail of the peacock was both a symbol of the universe and a representation of two opposing symbols of light, the moon and sun. Fish have connotations of wisdom in Islam. Though beautiful, this bowl would have been used every day, as most pottery was decorated and people took pride in owning and using beautiful objects. As Islam forbad the depiction of animals and humans, this bowl would have been used in a household and not a mosque.

    While this bowl was found in Nishapur, it is difficult to know whether it was
    produced there or imported. Potters were itinerant because they could buy
    paints in marketplaces and kilns were relatively easy to set up.