D. Kashan Lustre:


D.2. The "Monumental" Style:

Rather than indicating that everything in this group is oversized, the term "monumental" indicates a manner of depiction which is bold and fleshy, compared to the "Miniature" style (see next page). This style is characterised by large-scale motifs and the bold way in which the decoration is dominated by large central figures. All motifs are shown reserved in white against a ground of solid lustre which is articulated through large and fleshy arabesques, or static and angular Kufic inscriptions, though clothes or animal coats are rendered by decorations in the lustrous pigment.

The style is also characterised by the two main vessel shapes, which are not found again in either of the two later styles. The first is a large flat dish (Watson fig 1) which stands on a wide low footring, and has a narrow flat rim; this is perhaps derived from an Egyptian shape. The second shape is a small bowl, with a cylindrical footring which then curves upwards (rather than flaring out). This is derived from a Chinese porcelain shape, the lotus-pod bowl. Other common shapes used in the "Monumental" style seem to take their inspiration from local Persian metal shapes, and there is a tendency to looseness in the potting producing rounded angles and irregular contours.

Very rarely is the glaze coloured, except for the backs of vessels, where it is common to find a cobalt-blue coloured glaze down to the footring [1978.2370=frag]: this does, however, die out quite soon. Blue is used on the interior of bowls, when the design is divided into radiating panels, blue alternating with white [Ashmo 1956.50; 1956.118]; underglaze blue is also used sometimes to outline aspects of the lustre decoration [as on X 3125; 1956.169].

Reserved decoration is a technique derived from Egyptian lustres, though the use of scratched decoration (which is also a feature of Egyptian vessels) does not occur on these early types. The range of subjects is small, and the most common depictions tend to be a single animal or bird (especially horses and eagles), or a seated figure, drinking, playing an instrument or merely sitting. There is no attempt by the painters of these vessels to represent any real setting for the figures, which contrasts with the later trend of suggesting landscape sometimes merely by a pond with fish at the very bottom of the vessel, or the rays from the sun poking down from the top.

The characteristic moon-face, which is known through endless literary references to be the Saljuq ideal of beauty, is already present on these early wares, and is something that does not derive from earlier Egyptian traditions. The potters already represent poses, gestures and expressions with sensitivity, suggesting that their painterly skills are already mature.

Only one "Monumental" piece is signed, by one Abu Tahir ibn Muhammad Hamza ibn al-Hasan; he is probably the earliest recorded member of the Abu Tahir family, which is one of two families that dominated ceramic production at Kashan.

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