Persian Pottery in the First Global Age

The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries


Persian Pottery in the First Global Age: the Sixteenth and Seventeeth Centuries studies the ceramic industry of Iran in the Safavid period (1501–1732) and the impact which the influx of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain, heightened by the activities of the English and Dutch East Indies Companies after c. 1700, had on local production.
The multidisciplinary approach of the authors (Lisa Golombek, Robert B. Mason, Patricia Proctor, Eileen Reilly) leads to a reconstruction of the narrative about Safavid pottery and revises commonly accepted notions. The book includes easily accessible reference charts to assist in dating and provenancing Safavid pottery on the basis of diagnostic motifs, potters’ marks, petrofabrics, shapes, and Chinese models.
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EUR €164.00USD $221.00

Biographical Note

Lisa Golombek, Ph.D. (1968) University of Michigan, is Curator Emeritus ( Royal Ontario Museum) and Professor Emeritus ( University of Toronto). Her publications on Islamic art range from architecture to portable objects and include The Timurid Architecture of Iran and Turan (Princeton University Press 1988) and Tamerlane’s Tableware (ROM press 1996).

Robert Mason, D. Phil (1994) University of Oxford, is Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, and is an archaeological scientist at the Royal Ontario Museum. He has published widely on the typology, technology, and provenance of the ceramics of the Islamic world, including Shine Like the Sun: Lustre-painted and Associated Pottery from the Medieval Middle East (ROM press, 2004).

Patricia Proctor : M.A. (1968) University of Toronto, is a retired Curator of Chinese Ceramics at the Royal Ontario Museum. She has played an active role in exhibitions and galleries at the ROM and published translations and articles on Chinese ceramics.

Eileen Reilly: M.A. (1998) is a collections care specialist, artist, editor and appraiser. She has worked at the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Review Quotes

"The Safavid period was a truly global age evidenced by its material culture. In this ground-breaking survey of both elite Iranian pottery and imported Chinese porcelain, Lisa Golombek and her team have separated out fact from fiction and extracted revelatory details from a paucity of documentary sources, to unravel a concise linear narrative. This critical survey places this overlooked luxury ware in its socio-economic and cultural context. Consumption is introduced through discussions of shape and purpose; caravanserai, Armenian merchants and East India Company distribution networks; and the importance of contemporary connoisseurship, imperial collecting and royal kitchens is introduced. The commoditization of the potteries, potters and technological innovations are other themes of discourse. Ubiquitous chinoiseries and other foreign patterns are justified by fashionability, inextricably linked with all luxury goods. Integrating modern petrography and archaeology with traditional art history, explored in Tamerlane’s Tablewares, has further clarified the mystery of marks and production centres. Golembek, with authors Robert Mason, Patricia Proctor, and Eileen Reilly are to be lauded for providing a level platform for future researchers to build on."

Patricia Ferguson, Consulting Curator, Victoria and Albert Museum

"... l’ensemble constitue à n’en pas douter un ouvrage de référence, très attendu, et une réelle avancée pour l’histoire de la céramique iranienne des xvie et xviie siècles. Le fonds de céramiques safavides du ROM est intéressant, sans être exceptionnel ou particulièrement diversifié ; en
faisant de cette collection le moteur d’un programme de recherche, Lisa Golombek est parvenue à allier à merveille conservation et recherche, haussant ainsi cette collection au rang de référence".

Sandra Aube in BCAI 31 (2016)

Table of contents

Collections Cited
List of Important Dates


Part I: Safavid Pottery and Society

Chapter One: Safavid Society and the Ceramic Industry

Iran under the Safavids (Lisa Golombek)
The Dynamics of Supply and Demand (Lisa Golombek)
The Potter
Chinese Porcelain in Safavid Iran
The Markets for Safavid Pottery
The Safavid Potter and the First Global Age
The Object: Shapes and Functions of Safavid Pottery (Lisa Golombek and Eileen Reilly)

Chapter Two: Dominant Fashions and Distinctive Styles: A History of the Ceramic Industry in Safavid Iran (Lisa Golombek)
China at the Door: The Sixteenth Century
China in the House: The Seventeenth Century
Phase I: 1615–1640
Phase II: 1640–1650
Phase III: 1650–1680
Phase IV: 1680–1722

Chapter Three: The Measure of Faithfulness: the Chinese Models for Safavid Blue-and-White (Patricia Proctor)

Chapter Four: The “Kubachi Problem” (Lisa Golombek)
The “Kubachi Problem”
The Isfahan/ Qumisheh Workshop

Chapter Five: The Safavid Workshops and Petrographic Analysis (Robert B. Mason)
Part II: Identifying Safavid Pottery – A Guide
Chapter Six: Diagnostic Motifs (Lisa Golombek and Eileen Reilly)
6.1 Rims: Sixteenth Century
6.2 Backs: Sixteenth Century
6.3 Backs: Seventeenth Century
6.4 Rims: Isfahan, Seventeenth Century

Chapter Seven: Potters’ Marks (Lisa Golombek and Robert B. Mason, and Eileen Reilly)
7.1 Seal-marks
7.2 Tassel-marks
7.3 Character-marks

Chapter Eight: Form Study (Eileen Reilly)

Part III: Catalogue of Safavid Pottery in the Royal Ontario Museum (Lisa Golombek)
[images approx. 50 pp.]


Appendix A
Dated vessels
Dated tiles
Appendix B
Concordance of the Safavid Ceramics Project Numbers



Scholars of Islamic art, historians concerned with the economic and social history of Iran in the pre-modern era; museums, private collectors of Islamic ceramics, dealers, auctioneers; scholars of Chinese ceramics.


Collection Information