Blue-and-White Safavid Bowl

Iran, 17th century

11cm high, 21.5cm diameter

Provenance: Private Australian Collection

Stock no.: A4935

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Full Description

Blue-and-White Safavid Bowl

This rare blue-and-white bowl is decorated on the outside with three Chinese guardian lions (shi), alternating with three circular motifs resembling the Buddhist dharmachakra, or wheel of dharma. Scrolling cloud-bands (chi) fill the remaining space. Inside, another lion surrounded by cloud-bands sits centrally within a circle. The sides are undecorated except for a thick border with diaper patterns and crosses around the inner top edge.  The bowl is deep with rounded sides, and has a straight, high foot. On the base is a faux Chinese mark.

This bowl is a fine example of the high regard held for Chinese ceramics in the Islamic world. Chinese ceramics spread to the Islamic world as early as the 9th century, inspiring new decorative repertoires and advances in technology. By the 14th century Chinese blue-and-white porcelains were exported in great quantities, which resulted in the production of copies by Middle-Eastern potters. Persian potters, in particular, throughout the 16th to 19th centuries, produced imitation blue-and-white wares, some entirely Chinese in design, others combined with Islamic motifs.

Similar imagery depicted on the outside of this bowl can be found on a water pot (kendi) in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Accession Number 1000-1876, and illustrated in Crowe, no. 114, pp. 33 & 99. For a similar border with diaper patterns and crosses, see a domed jar in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Accession Number 940.90.1, and illustrated in Golombek, no. 14, pp. 314-15.


Crowe, Y. Persia and China: Safavid Blue and White Ceramics in the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1501-1738, La Borie, London, 2002.

Golombek, L., et al. “Persian Pottery in the First Global Age: The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries”, in Arts and Archaeology of the Islamic World, Volume 1, Brill, Leiden, 2014.

Watson, O. ‘Chinese-Iranian Relations xi. Mutual Influence of Chinese and Persian Ceramic’, Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2018, available at (accessed on 9 Jan 2019).

Blue-and-White Safavid Bowl