Piece of September 2012. Caliphal ataifor of Medina al Zahra

ataifor_miniPatronato de la Alhambra y Generalife announces the Piece of the Month, the Caliphal bowl which has the inscription Al Mulk from Madinat al Zahra’. Those who are interested in participating in this free programme that will take place from 12 a.m. every Saturday in September, may go to Hall II of the Museum of the Alhambra. There Gaspar Aranda, the Art Historian, will explain the details of this unique piece.

The bowl has a very special shape, with decorative technique in ‘green and manganese’ and an outstanding epigraph in Arabic in the centre, which indicates that this ceramic ware was made in the caliphal city, Madinat al-Zahra’ (Cordoba) and was used in the most renowned tableware of the palace during the height of its splendour during the second half of the 10th century.

Its shape is identified with one of the types of vessels included in the specific denomination of ataifor (from the Arabic tayfur) in the context of Al-Andalus. Both the outside and the inside of the piece are fully glazed, but using two methods of the technique and applied at two different times. While the outer surface was covered with a honey-coloured monochrome vitreous glaze (containing oxide of lead and iron) the concave surface has white, green and black decoration.

The white is a glaze containing lead (vitrifying) and tin (the opaqueness that gives it the white colour), the green comes from copper oxide and the black comes from oxide of manganese. The bowl received two oxidant firings, the first at a higher temperature to fire and set the clay and to vitrify the honey-coloured glaze, and the second firing to vitrify the white glaze and for the bichrome decoration to adhere to it.

The inner rim of the bowl has an ornamental strip of sections of circles, outlined in black and filled in with green, like a frame to the central surface where the word al-mulk (the Power) is outlined on the white background, written in lineal Kufic script with the outline of the characters in black and the inner part filled in with green in a consistent way.

All of these aesthetic features seemed to provide this type of bowl with a symbolic association of diverse significance related to the caliphal splendour.

When: Saturdays (September), noon
Where: Room II, Museum of the Alhambra, Palace of Carlos V.



Source: Patronato de la Alhambra 

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