Cup with Figural Design in Polychrome (Mina'i)

  • Iran
  • Saljuq period
  • 12-13c
  • Fritware, polychromy overglaze paint on white slip
  • H-11.3 D-11
Catalogue Entry

Mina'i refers to a polychrome ceramic ware that was developed in the Islamic world, based on their love of the vivid colors on white ground found in Chinese porcelains. In Mina'i ware the body clay is coated with a white glaze, under drawings are painted on the glaze and the work is bisque‐fired. Then polychrome overglaze enamels are used for the final decoration and the work is fired a second time. These wares have a distinctive beauty based on their lovely color coordination.

This work shows seven figures arrayed around the center of the exterior and the edge is patterned with a linked jewel motif and Kufic script designs. The lower area is decorated with a linked C‐shaped design. The interior edge is rimmed with Kufic lettering and arabesque patterns, while the interior base shows a single bird surrounded by scattered small motifs.

Two of the seven figures are seen holding what look like musical instruments. The clothing of the figures is decorated with elegant motifs, such as a white basket weave pattern, a blue checkered pattern, gold flowers and black lines, and red balls against a white ground. The scattering of red dots and gold give this cup depth and a festive quality. Surely a person would feel in a joyful mood the minute they picked up such a lovely cup.