Historical period(s)
Samanid period, 10th century
Earthenware painted under glaze
H x Diam: 6 x 46.8 cm (2 3/8 x 18 7/16 in)
Iran or Afghanistan
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 03: Engaging the Senses: Art in the Islamic World
Ceramic, Vessel


Afghanistan, earthenware, Iran, kufic script, Samanid period (819 - 1005)
Provenance research underway.

Among the most distinct and impressive examples of Persian ceramics are a group produced during the reign of the Samanids (819-1005) in Khurasan in northeastern Iran, present-day Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan. These vessels are embellished with prominent inscriptions, usually in the form of a moralizing proverb. Two bands of writing, identical in content, appear on the large plate. Beginning in the lower center, they read, "He who believes in recompense, is generous in giving, and to whatever you accustom yourself, you will grow accustomed." Undoubtedly prized for its stark beauty and restrained elegance, the plate has been repaired by a former owner.

Probably intended for a highly literate class of urban patrons, this deep bowl is one of the great masterpieces of Samanid ceramic production. Notable for its bold juxtaposition of calligraphy and abstract floral design as well as its carefully balanced color scheme, this extraordinary vessel is inscribed with the following aphorism: "It is said, those who are content with their own opinion, run into danger. Blessing to the owner."

Published References
  • Javanmardi: The Ethics and Practice of Persianate Perfection. British Institute of Persian Studies Series London. cover.
  • Sekai bijutsu zenshu [A Complete Collection of World Art]. 40 vols., Tokyo, 1960-1966. vol. 22: pl. 64.
  • Oriental Ceramics: The World's Great Collections. 12 vols., Tokyo. vol. 10, pl. 264.
  • O. Graber. The Formation of Islamic Art. New Haven. pl. 113.
  • Robert J. Charleston. Islamic Pottery. Masterpieces of Western and Near Eastern Ceramics, vol. 4 Tokyo and New York. vol. 4, pl. 51.
  • Treasure House of the Middle East. vol. 8, no. 19 Beirut, May 9, 1957. p. 11.
  • Richard Ettinghausen. Medieval Near Eastern Ceramics in the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and Baltimore. p. 14.
  • Dr. Esin Atil. Ceramics from the World of Islam. Exh. cat. Washington, 1973. cat. 8, pp. 28-29.
  • Ernst Grube. The World of Islam. Landmarks of the World's Art London. p. 46, fig. 23.
  • Report of the Secretary and the Financial Report, 1953. Washington. p. 55, pl. 3.
  • Louise Allison Cort, Massumeh Farhad, Ann C. Gunter. Asian Traditions in Clay: The Hauge Gifts. Washington, 2000. p. 63, fig. 1.
  • Fu Shen, Glenn D. Lowry, Ann Yonemura, Thomas Lawton. From Concept to Context: Approaches to Asian and Islamic Calligraphy. Exh. cat. Washington. p. 106, fig. 10.
  • La Livre du Millenaire d'Avicenne. vol. 4 Tehran. pp. 132-138, fig. 10.
  • Richard Ettinghausen, O. Graber. The Art and Architecture of Islam, 650-1250. The Pelican History of Art Hammondsworth, Middlesex, England and New York. pp. 229, 240, fig. 238.
  • Richard Ettinghausen. Islamic Art and Archaeology: Collected Papers. Berlin. p. 905.
Collection Area(s)
Arts of the Islamic World
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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