Nayhshabur Pottery

Publication of Cultural Heritage Organization
By: Farzaneh Qaini
Pages: 1 -12
Word Count: 1374

Text: Nayshabur is located in the province of Khorasan, in northeastern Iran. Its name is also recorded as Abarshahr, Abarsahr and Barshahr in historic texts. According to some historians, it also used to be known as Nasabad, or Nisabad. In his History, Bayhaqi records that "Nayshabur was built by Shapur and its original name was Banashapur, from which the [letters] ba and alef were dropped and the alef changed into a ya."In the pahlavi language, nay meant `building', and Nayshabur therefore signinfied `Shapur's building'.From 17 to 23 AH, while Mahuy was governor of Khorasan by ordar of Yazdgerd III, 'Omar ebn-e Khattab sent Ahnaf ehn-e Qays on a campaign to conquer this province. Khorasan eventually fell to the Arabs, with Nayshabur uninterruptedly remaining the seat of Amawid governors until Abu-Moslem Khorasani's uprising in 129 AH. After conquering Khorasan, Abu-Moslem resided for a while in Nayshabur.

Nayshabur was the governmentaI seat of Khorsan in the Taherid period. It was conquered by the Saffarid Ya'qub Laye in 259 AH, and it fell to the Samanid Amir-Nooh in 334 AH. Nayshabur was a prosperous city during the Ghaznavid period. In 429 AH, Ebrahim Yanal, the commander of Seljug armies, conquered Nayshabur and had the khotbeh read in the name of the Toghrol the Seljuq, who entered the city on the next day. Nayshbur's affluence continued for four centuries, from the Ghaznavid Soltan Mas'ud's reign until Soltan Sanjar's. After its conquest at the hands of Mongol horgdes, Tuki khan han Nayshabur flooded and turned into farmland.

Between 1936 and 1339, a mission dispatched by the Metropolitan Museum of Art carried out excavations in the old city of Nayshabur, unearthing relics from the Islamic period civilization, which established this city's importance as a major production center of Islamic pottery. Most of these items were glazed, ivory-colored and decorated with Kufic inscriptions in different colors. The pottery wares from the first four centuries of the Islamic period discovered at Nayshabur were maginficent, and they occasionally bore considerable differences from those produced in other parts of Iran. Some attribute this collection to beyond Khorasan's borders.

Beautiful glazed vessels dating back to the 3rd and 4th centuries AH were discoveredduring the excavations effected at Nayshabur by the American mission. Their decoration consisted mostly of black, red and lilac patterns on ivory-white backgrounds. Other items in this collection were made of reddish clay, in the form of bowls and plates bearing human and animal figures, decorative designs of birds and flowers, decorative inscriptions in Kufic script, and representations of courtly scenes. Many researchers believe that the art embodied in the pottery of Nayshabur is the continuation of the trend adopted by Sasanian metal-working. Studying the pottery of Nayshbur makes it possible to assess the skillfulness involved in the manufacture and decoration of vessels and epigraphs created in different periods and the evolution of writing since the beginning of the Islamic era. Owing to the particularities of 3rd and 4th century pottery__known as Sasanian Pottery__, this type of pottery, which was mainly manufactured in eastern Iran, including Nayshabur, has become known as slip-glazed pottery. After it was shaped, the vessel, which was made of a reddish paste, was dipped in a buff-colored slip, on which the desired patterns were drawn once it was dry. The insciptions adorning these vessels were mostly written in Kufic script. In the end, the vessel was covered with a vitreous glaze and sent to the kiln.

Other types of slip-glazed pottery are:
1. Slip-glazed pottery with black patterns on white background;
2. Slip-glazed pottery with polychrome patterns on white background;
3. Slip-glazed pottery with luster painting;
4. Slip-glazed pottery with black patterns on yellow background.

In 289 AH, Samanid rulers annexed the province of Khorasan, including its capital, Nayshabur, to Transoxiana. In this period, inscribed black and white pottery was produced in all the provinces. In general terms, slip-glazed pottery is the characteristic type of pottery produced in the first four centuries of the Islamic era. These began with milky-white plain glazes with little or no decoration, which gradually covered the entire vessel. Polychrome slip-glazed pottery become popular in the 4th century AH. This century ended with the appearance of plain sprayed glaze.

Pottery with cut decorative patterns was often made in yellow, brown and green colors.

This type of decoration was probably an imitation of that appearing on Chinese Tang vessels, which were imported during the reign of Shah 'Abbas, as attested to by good examples found elswhere in Iran, including at Shush and Rey, as well as in Samarra and Samarkand, and also in the excavations of Nayshabur. These vessels indicate that, far from performing a mere imitation, Iranian potters adopted novel patterns and colors, which distinguished their wares from those of their Chinese counterparts. Thus, their yellows and browns became lighter, they used more lilac tones, and their colors were combined with cut patterns in such ways as to produce regular geometric shapes, such as circles, lozenges and intersecting forms.

Another type of Nayshabur pottery is that of wares painted under the glaze Some of these resemble vessels made at Samarkand, while others are specific to Nayshabur. Their decoration consists of geometric patterns, Kufic inscriptions, palm leaves, flowers, birds, and buman and animal figures.

Yet another category of Nashabur pottery is that of wares with scratched patterns under the glaze. Most of these display latticed patterns on white vessels, although examples on blue and green vessels have also come to sight. Luster painted pottery has also been found at Nayshabur.

Another type of pottery attributed to Nayshabur is that of turquoise-colored vessels.

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