Chinese style Iranian dish with an image of a dandy
North-west Iran, early AD 1600s
This dish is extremely unusual in that it has the image of an Iranian dandy in its centre instead of a copy of a Chinese figure or landscape. During the reign of Shah 'Abbas I (1571–1629), exports of Chinese blue-and white porcelain increased significantly and large dishes with panels used as framing devices were especially popular. Iranian potters imitated this style and often included versions of Chinese designs with figures or animals in landscape in the centre of their dishes.
This dish contains a mixture of imagery. The head, shoulders and hands of a stylish youth in the centre, the eight panels with stylized symbols derived from Chinese Kraak-ware porcelain on the sides, and the band of blue-and-white overlapping petals associated with Safavid pottery from north-west Iran. The potter’s desire to include the figure’s hands at any cost has led to some strange distortions. The dandy’s small right hand waves in front of his chest while his tiny left hand, holding a wine cup, rises behind his shoulder. What appears to be a fringe was meant to be a feather and the floating sash is actually the end of the dandy’s turban, misunderstood by the potter.
Under Shah 'Abbas, trade in Iran expanded and boosted its economy. As a result of this relative prosperity a new class of dandies was born. Although these people were concentrated in the capital of Isfahan, the fashions associated with them, such as very large turbans and curling sideburns, were imitated elsewhere as well.