SOAS University of London

London Middle East Institute

Blue and White Ceramics in the Middle East: Exchanges with China

Melanie Gibson, Gingko Library

Date: 17 May 2018Time: 5:45 PM

Finishes: 17 May 2018Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: MBI Al Jaber Building, 21 Russell Square Room: MBI Al Jaber Seminar Room

Type of Event: Lecture

The development and use of blue and white on ceramics is widely associated with the kilns of Jingdezhen in south-east China, kilns that produced porcelains decorated with blue and white for export to Middle Eastern markets continuously from the mid-14th century onwards. These pieces were shipped across the Indian Ocean to ports in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea and transferred to camel caravans serving the inland markets; when they reached the cities of Cairo, Damascus and Tabriz, they were avidly collected by those who could afford them.

But the story of blue and white ceramics begins long before the 14th century, and its genesis can be traced to Iraq in the 9th century. Craftsmen working in Basra used cobalt, a pigment that had long been used to colour glass, to add simple painterly designs to white bowls that imitated imported Chinese whitewares. This lecture will explore the aesthetic and technical connections and exchanges between the ceramic workshops of China and the Middle East at a number of key moments– starting with 9th century Basra but also looking at production in Kashan, Damascus and Istanbul in the following centuries.

Melanie Gibson, BA (Oxon) MA, PhD (SOAS, London University) is Executive Trustee of the Gingko Library and Senior Editor of the Gingko Library Art Series. Since 2005 she has been teaching on Islamic ceramics and glass, as well as more widely on art and architecture, for SOAS, London University, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Courtauld Institute and the Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar. From 2012-2016 she was head of the Art History department at the New College of the Humanities, London. Her research focuses on the ceramics and glass of the Islamic world and she is also interested in plaster, ceramic and metal sculpture from the region. Her most recent research projects have looked at the reception and use of Islamic pattern in 19th century British design, the transmission and impact of Chinese ceramics in medieval Iran, and the development of the blue and white aesthetic in the history of Islamic ceramics.

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