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Bowl with drinkers, Nishapur, 10th Century
Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar

A larger image of this Bowl with drinkers, Nishapur, 10th Century. Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar.

Title: Nishapur Bowl
Unknown, Iran, 10th Century
Creator: Unknown, Iran, 10th Century
Date Created: 0900/1000
Diameter: 23.3 cm
Type: Bowl
Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar
Google Art Project

Previous: Bowl with a man with crescent horns in place of a head, c.10th Century, Samanid Nishapur, Iran. Anavian Gallery 5320.
Next: Bowl with standing figure in coat with lapels, 10th Century, Nishapur, Iran, British Museum.

Perhaps the earliest surviving depiction of an incontestably black person in Islamic art is a colorful bowl produced in Nishapur in northeast Iran around the tenth century.33 It depicts a huge, centrally placed, frontal figure holding a falcon while diminutive attendants offer wine (on the left) and food in a dish (right). The right-hand figure is entirely black but for his red neck and white hands.34 From the phrenological point of view he is strongly differentiated from the other attendant, whose outsized, heavy, noseless, rectilinear head dominates and overbalances his whole body; his uncomfortably elongated arms and legs are also out of proportion. The African, by contrast, exhibits no such troubling asymmetries. He has a notably small and delicately proportioned head, with a snub nose and a short, curved beard. Their bodies too are very differently rendered. The Persian attendant is static; the African's pose is mobile, indeed dynamic, with a dancing gait, outstretched arms (his left hand grasps a ewer), and an overall impression of fluid, limber movement. Note as well the digital dexterity displayed by the way he holds the dish aloft. Somehow the artist has endowed him with a joie de vivre that his colleague plainly lacks.
R. Hillenbrand, 'The Image of the Black in Islamic Art: The Case of Painting', in The Image of the Black in African and Asian Art, eds D. Bindman, S. P. Blier, and H. L. Gates, (Cambridge, Mass., 2017), pp.215-53

Back to Bowls with figures from Nishapur, Kurasan, Iran, 9th-10th centuries, Saffarid-Samanid period
Other 10th Century Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers