An Abbasid Tin Glazed Pottery Bowl, Mesopotamia, 9th Century

Of rounded form with everted lip on short foot, the light grey interior painted in cobalt-blue with a single phrase of flowing kufic, extending from the edges above and below are four green dashes and from either side a hand reaching inwards, the exterior plain, repaired breaks. 7 7/8in. (20cm.) diam. Estimate £30,000 - £50,000

Notes: The kufic inscription across the middle of this bowl reads: 'amal Bassa(?) (The work of Bassa (?)).

This is a particularly well-preserved and accurately delineated example of this type of pottery, with both the blue signature and the green border designs being very well controlled. The green hand that is painted either side of the signature obviously has significance. For a very long time the hand has been seen as a talisman helping ward off the evil eye, and is thought to be of pre-Islamic origins. Examples have been excavated at sites that antedate Islam. It was subsequently incorporated into Islam, and said to relate to Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet. It is used as a talisman throughout the Islamic world. It is found very rarely as an element on Fatimid lustre pottery, a century later than the present bowl (see for example an example in the Detroit Institute of Arts, published in Richard Ettinghausen, Oleg Grabar and Marilyn Jenkins-Madina, Islamic Art and Architecture, New Haven and London, 2001, pl.466, p.284).

Christie's. Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds 31 March 2009 . London, King Street. www.christies.com Image 2009 Christie's Ltd