Incised and moulded decoration characterizes a group of dishes with distinctive decoration in the form of stellate designs painted in blue.
The backgrounds are filled with low-relief decoration, such as scale patterns. The exterior is almost always painted in a solid colour, usually blue. No vessels in this group are dated, but many bear tassel-marks, ensuring their attribution to Kerman.
Related to this group is a series of large dishes with carved designs. Some of these also belong to the blackband group. Similar to the dated dish with inscription mentioned earlier, but lacking the black band, is a large dish in the Royal Ontario Museum.
A large floral composition occupies the entire white surface of the interior, while the exterior is solid blue. Another with incised lotus plant has a fluted cavetto, also with a blue back.
Slip-painted and excised monochrome wares
The re-discovery of the beauty of monochrome glaze is fully exploited in the next group.
Two distinct techniques exploit to the fullest the beauty of cobalt blue as a solid background for delicate spare decoration. In the first, the designs are carved through the blue-tinted slip and
(excised) into the leather-hard body before being covered with a transparent glaze. Brown excised monochrome wares appear to be somewhat later in date as their decorative vocabulary relates to Kangxi-influenced blue-and-white wares. The second technique calls for the application of a white slip over the tinted slippainted body, with occasional accents in ochre and red.
The body colour is most often blue, but a celadon-like olive green was also popular. The transparent glaze is applied last.
The Safavid slip-painted wares include one dated piece, a blue qalyan with flowering plants, birds, and clouds.
Potters’ marks that appear to be complex variations on the Kerman tassel-mark occur on 10 of the 51 excised and slip-painted monochrome wares in our database.
These two techniques were especially favoured for pear-shaped qalyans, and several examples of globular qalyans were similarly decorated considerable number of dishes of medium
(25 cm) and large (40-50 cm) diameter were done in both monochrome techniques.
Bowls average 25cm in diameter with a depth of 10-14cm. Only one larger monochrome incised bowl is known, and it is exceptional for other reasons.
Some of the shapes found in monochrome were also common for Kerman polychrome wares, such as the pear-shaped qalyan, the globular qalyan, and the lobed bow.
Several bottles and at least one with four nozzles suggest that the monochrome techniques tended to be used for the larger vessels, perhaps because they required less time and skill to apply the single colour and yet the effect was quite stunning. Monochromeglazed backs were common on all types of Kerman wares in Phase III.
The two monochrome techniques, excising and slip-painting, appear to be contemporary, but the excised wares were more labour intensive and perhaps higher on the luxury scale.
If one compares dishes done in the two techniques, it can be seen that on the excised dish the motifs are carefully cut into the flange of the dish, but the same motifs appear to be executed in a cursory fashion on the slip-painted dish perhaps slip-painting of designs on monochrome wares was simply more economical.
Another possibility is that the excised wares are somewhat earlier and inspired the slip-painting.
A deep bowl with excised S-shaped florets around the walls of the blue exterior has Kraak-derived designs of high quality painted in blue on the interior.
This unusual combination of old and new styles is also found in the Kerman polychrome wares. The odd juxtaposition may be more a matter of taste (patron’s or potter’s) than a chronological indicator.
The above is a lightly edited version of part of a chapter entitled, ‘Dominant Fashions and Distinctive Styles’, from a book entitled, ‘Persian Pottery in the First Global Age’, written by Lisa Golombek, Robert B. Mason, Patricia Proctor, Eileen Reilly, published by Brill.