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Ceramics in the world: Islam

Ceramics has for centuries been one of the great Tuscan excellences, and Italian in general. But this refined and ancient art has always been one of the most practiced human activities in the world.

On each continent particular and original techniques of workmanship and decoration have developed, which have led to extraordinary results from the artistic point of view.

Let’s look briefly at some examples of pottery in the rest of the world, starting with Islamic art.

Islam and ceramics

The techniques and decorations of the Muslim ceramics date back to the Umayyad dynasty, between 660 and 750 after Christ.

Among the techniques, engobe, majolica, metallic luster.

The choice of subjects is interesting, following the Islamic prescriptions when talking about religious spaces, choosing abstract ornaments, while sometimes envisaging the representation of real and imaginary animals in other spaces, but always represented in a symbolic and not realistic way.

For the most part, the ceramic decorations of Islamic art include geometric figures, characters of the alphabet, stylization of plant forms: what will be called “arabesques”.

Another religious dictum rejects the use of metals and precious stones, favoring bronze, ceramic, wood and ivory.

Also for this reason, the ceramic art in the Islamic world has had a great weight, even in the wall decorations of temples and palaces.

Islamic ceramics in Europe

In Italy we can admire the Palatine Chapel of Palermo, a splendid example of Abbasid painting, while the most extraordinary example in Europe is undoubtedly the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

After the eleventh century, with the Arab conquest of Persia, the style of Islamic ceramics spread in the Mediterranean countries, starting with Spain and Byzantium.

Among the techniques, to remember the metallic luster, which provides for the obtaining of an iridescent effect thanks to the covering of the surface decorated with a varnish in which there are copper or silver pigments.

Islamic ceramics in Persia

Samarra, Nishapur, Samarkand. Fascinating names that evoke legends and ancient cultures.

In these ancient cities developed a personal ceramic art, with unique techniques such as the “slip” and the use of colored liquid clay, and very complex polychrome decorations, which joined geometric figures, floral patterns, animals and sometimes even human figures.

In Western Persia, subtle recipients with perforated surfaces, similar to Chinese porcelains, were established under the Seljuks dynasty.

Precious vases of seven colors, the Minai of Kashan, with pictorial decorations made of metal laminates and enamels to cover a turquoise or opaque white glaze.


In the Middle Ages, Muslim Spain saw the ceramic art of Malaga, Maniese and Paterna flourish.

One of the most valuable results was the wall decorations with blue tiles called “Azulejos”, which still decorate many Andalusian palaces.

An art, that of the Azulejos, which will develop both in Spain and in Portugal, where this type of decoration is still widespread.

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