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: