Bowl with Arabic inscription, 10th century (Samanid Period, 819–1005)
Earthenware; black slip painted on white slip under transparent glaze
Overall: 3 1/4 in x 10 1/2 in; 8.3 cm x 26.7 cm
Purchase with the John Martyn Warbeke Art Fund
Bowls such as this one have been found in large numbers at the site of the medieval Iranian city of Nishapur, a thriving urban center during the Samanid Period (819–1005). The starkly graphic design of this bowl consists of one simple line of Arabic calligraphy, encircling the entirety of the bowl’s deep rim. The gracefully elongated horizontals and sharp-tipped verticals of the letters are unique to an early type of Arabic calligraphy known as ‘new style kufic.’ As the bowl’s sole decoration, the writing is simple yet visually powerful, and reads: “Generosity is the disposition of the dwellers of Paradise. Good fortune.” As a serving bowl likely used for entertaining on special occasions, the message of hospitality is fitting.