Footed Gombroon Bowl

Iran, mid-17th to early 18th century
6 x 11 cm (2 ³/₈ x 4 ³/₈ inches)

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Full Description

Footed Gombroon Bowl

This hemispherical cup with a tall foot is an exceptional example of Safavid era “Gombroon ware”, which was one of the finest wares produced in Iran since the second half of the seventeenth century.[1] The glassy appearance of this object was made of very fine fritware which was decorated by directly piercing through the walls of the white porcelain-like body to form patterns that were then filled by a transparent glaze to create translucent windows. Hence, the light shining through these incised lines creates a subtle play of translucency and opacity whilst also serving to emphasise the thinness of the walls – a characteristic of Chinese porcelain that Iranian potters aimed to emulate. This simple design was enhanced with underglaze painting inside the bowl with four floral sprays in cobalt blue and dark green outlined in black. The rim is also edged with black dashes in groups of three.

Gombroon wares revived the technique of incised white-body ceramic vessels that first became popular in Iran during the twelfth century. Similar to Iranian ceramic production from the ninth century onwards, both Gombroon wares and their twelfth century influences sought to imitate the unique qualities of Chinese ceramics, since kaolin (i.e. the white clay used to create Chinese porcelain) was unavailable in the Middle East.[2]  The increasing popularity of producing white ceramics in Iran during the seventeenth century was likely a response to the discontinuation of porcelain exports from China between 1643-83.[3]

Although this object is named after the port city of Gombroon, the actual place of manufacture is unknown. Originally, the term “Gombroon wares” referred to the then Western European name for Bandar-e Abbas, which served the British and Dutch East India Companies as an entrepôt for ceramics and other luxury goods. Hence, Gombroon was a point of export rather than a place of production. Possible centres for the production of Gombroon wares are Shiraz, Yezd, Kirman, or Isfahan, however, no archaeological evidence has supported these claims.[4]

There are similar examples of this footed Gombroon bowl housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (see Museum Numbers: 1389-1876; 1399-1876; 1962-1910; 424-1872; and 1401-1876).


[1] Géza Fehérvári. 2000. Ceramics of the Islamic World in the Tareq Rajab Museum. New York: I.B. Tauris. p.292.

[2] Maryam D. Ekhtiar and Kendra Weisbin. 2011. “160. Bottle”. In Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, edited by Maryam D. Ekhtiar, Priscilla P. Soucek, Sheila R. Canby, and Navina Najat Haidar, 232-34. New Haven: Yale University Press. p.232.   

[3] Ekhtiar and Weisbin, 2011:233.

[4] Fehérvári, 2000:292.


Footed Gombroon Bowl