Natural Imagery on a Kubachi Ware Dish

Object: M039
JIAAW, Minassian Collection

Object M039 is a blue and white Kubachi ware dish decorated with birds, flowers, and other vegetal images. Flowers and plants are a common and universal decorative motif found in many styles of artwork throughout the world, and Islamic art is no exception. As the Islamic empire expanded throughout the 7th Century and onwards, the artistic traditions and techniques of conquered areas were adopted into the empire’s ceramic ware production. 

Early Islamic rulers prioritized promoting high levels of production for both everyday and luxury objects over forcing craftspeople to adhere to a distinctive visual language. Thus, the power and wealth of the Islamic empire was emphasized through its incorporation of Byzantine, Egyptian, Iranian, and Roman traditions that drew from natural imagery. 

Over time, however, Islamic art did develop a distinct aesthetic identity. Two prominent features, geometry and symmetry, are seen in the decoration of Object M039. Here, plantlife is depicted in six uniformly spaced segments on the plate’s inside wall. Meanwhile, a bird proudly displays its feathery wings in the center of the piece, a nod to the importance of birds as symbols of safety and rescue in the Muslim tradition. 

-Jinette Jimenez ‘21

Read more about flowers, plants, and birds in Islamic art and see other examples:

Plant motifs in Islamic art

Plant motifs and patterns were used to decorate architecture and objects from the earliest Islamic period. Plants appear in many different forms in Islamic art, ranging from single motifs to extended patterns, and natural depictions of flowers to plant forms which are complicated and heavily stylised.

Dish | Unknown | V&A Explore The Collections

On display at V&A South Kensington Ceramics, Room 137, The Curtain Foundation Gallery Dish of buff-coloured fritware, ‘Kubachi’ type, underglaze-painted in red, blue, green, yellow and green on white slip, featuring a woodland scene with cypress-tree, two birds and flowering trees and plants. The rim is decorated with panels of scale pattern.

A Flight Through Islamic Culture

Birds played a key role in the understanding of the Islamic religion and culture. Dating back to “The miracle of the birds,” an event which occurred around 570 C.E., birds were seen as saviors of the Islamic religion as they stopped an army of invaders from destroying the Kaaba in Mecca.

Dish with Floral Designs on an Olive Background | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This dish is a member of a group of ceramics known as Kubachi ware. Named for a village in the Caucasus where this pottery was discovered in quantity, Kubachi wares are now thought to have actually been produced in Tabriz. An uneven application of the glaze has resulted in a surface-wide crackle, a typical characteristic of the Kubachi wares.

A Sanctuary for Birds: Muslim Civilisation – Muslim Heritage

Few creatures from the animal kingdom can live alongside humans in urban habitats. One of these survivalists are birds. There was a time when birds were simply welcomed and not worshipped not treated badly. You can still find traces of this admiration today.