OBJECT OF THE MONTH
A Samarkand Ceramic Plate, 9th Century
At the centre of a sophisticated domestic setting, a fritware ceramic plate, thought to originate from 9th century Samarkand of modern-day Uzbekistan, carries a starkly simple green design. Bare of the Islamic motifs one might expect of the period, and certainly the place, the design has an uncanny Modernity - subtle, spare, and teasingly asymmetrical.
The appearance suggests a lack of fuss or interference, as though the green was simply dripped onto the plate and left to its own devices - slipping slowly down before pooling into crevices, settling into its chance design. A detached approach of unstudied deference, it follows the plate’s own bends and falls and, in doing so, it accentuates its form. The ceramic holds a concentration of shapes that are echoed throughout the arrangement of furniture that frames it.
Its soft curves are repeated in the gentle arch of an Italian lamp or the interlocking bends in the legs of a Hans Wegner chair. Angled lines underscore the bold strokes of black, brown and grey that give the hand knotted carpet its rhythmic, unregimented design.
The plate’s pattern is achieved by splashing coloured enamel directly onto a white slip ground and finally sealed in with a transparent glaze. The style has challenged academics and archaeologists, who still debate its origins and whether or not it was influenced by an influx of similar Tang sancai ceramics from China or developed independently. Chinese examples, however, are more elaborate and likely intended for elite tombs, whereas Central Asian ceramics were utilitarian objects, not intended to be seen as great art.
Glazed wares became a fixture of pottery production in Central Asia in the 8th century and their discovery, through archaeological digs of buried urban sites, speak of its inhabitants' affluence and bring to life an ancient trade centre. Samarkand was founded between the 8th and 7th centuries BC and prospered from its location on the Silk Road between China and the Mediterranean. By the 9th century it was under the control of the Samanids and a capital of the Samanid dynasty. Samanid rule is notable for its revival of Persian culture through considerable patronage of the arts and humanities.
LIGHT The 1950s Italian lamp is composed of an arched frame, in green enamel, stemming from a round base. It stands at 155cm with a diameter of 47cm.
TABLE The coffee table, of Satinwood veneer and parchment, is an English 2016 Tripod measuring 50cm x 80cm.
CHAIR The Hans Wegner folding chair (JH 512), 75cm high with an oak frame, a rattan back and seat and brass fixtures, was designed in 1949.
CARPET The loosely woven hand knotted carpet is 3.04 x 2.45m and was designed for the Afridi Gallery The Gallery is specifically designed to let objects speak for themselves, creating an intriguing dialogue between different art forms, united by quality of design and mastery of execution.
Afridi, 76 Royal Hospital Road, London SW3 4HN www.shahbazafridi.com
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