Exhibitions: Light of the Sufis: The Mystical Arts of Islam

Bowl of Reflections

Bowl of Reflections. Iran, probably Kashan, early 13th century. Ceramic; fritware, painted in luster and blue over an opaque white glaze. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Ernest Erickson Foundation, Inc., 86.227.16

Beginning in the twelfth century, ceramics were produced in Iran with a frit body that provided a clean, light surface for painting. The most luxurious of these wares contained luster, added to the surface in a second firing and creating a metallic sheen that complemented mystical texts and images. While the image on this dish does not appear to be narrative, the presence of a bird, a familiar theme in Persian mystical literature, and certain human features associated with light (such as the figures’ moon-shaped faces) set the tone for the mystical verses appearing in two bands around the rim and interior. The text includes poetry by Rumi’s spiritual master, Shams al- Din Tabrizi (d. 1248), as well as verses believed to have been composed by the lesser-known Baba Afzal al-Din Kashani (d. 1213–14).