Ewer with dragon-headed spout

From Isfahan, Iran
Second half of the 17th century AD

The elongated ribbed shape of this slender ewer has been copied from an Indian metalwork prototype. Seventeenth-century Iranian imitations of popular Indian items may have been stimulated by demand from the large Indian community in Iran's diverse population.

Pale monochrome glazes were developed in the Islamic world in imitation of celadon-glazed stoneware imported from China. Celadon glaze is rich in iron, and a pale greyish-green in colour. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Iranian attempts to reproduce celadon resulted in bright turquoise or bottle-green glazes. The later Safavid period in Isfahan saw a revival of these earlier attempts. There was greater success with the colour of the glaze, as can be seen from the muted green of this ewer.

The Islamic world was obsessed with the imitation of Chinese ceramics. This became the motivation for many, but not all, new developments in ceramic-production. The high standard of Chinese luxury goods made this emulation inevitable: Al-Thalibi, an eleventh-century Persian scholar, wrote: 'The Arabs used to call every delicately or curiously made vessel, whatever its real origin, "Chinese", because finely made things are a speciality of China.'

In other Iranian pottery-centres, such as Mashhad and Kirman, craftsmen tried to copy Chinese blue and white porcelains.

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More information


J.M. Rogers, Islamic art and design 1500-17 (London, The British Museum Press, 1983)

A. Lane, Later Islamic pottery: Persia, (London, Faber and Faber, 1957)

S. Canby, The golden age of Persian art, (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)


Height: 29.000 cm

Museum number

ME OA +739


Bequeathed by John Henderson


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