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HOME : Near Eastern Art : Parthian Art : Parthian glazed earthenware jug
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Parthian glazed earthenware jug - RP.129
Origin: Central Asia
Circa: 100 AD to 300 AD
Dimensions: 4.35" (11.0cm) high x 3.85" (9.8cm) wide
Collection: Islamic Art
Medium: Glazed Earthenware

Additional Information: The item is currently at Barakat Hong Kong
Location: UAE
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Parthia is a historical region which roughly corresponds to the north-eastern region of what is nowadays the Islamic Republic of Iran. It was bordered by the Karakum desert in the north, including the mountainous part of Kopet Dag and the Dasht-e-Kavir desert in the south, neighbouring Media on the west, Hyrcania on the north west, Margiana on the north east and Aria on the south east. The territory of Parthia was conquered and subjugated by the empire of the Medes during the 7th century BC, was eventually incorporated into the subsequent Achaemenid Empire under Cyrus the Great in the 6th century BC, and formed part of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire following the 4th-century-BC conquests of Alexander the Great. The area later served as the political and cultural base of the Eastern-Iranian Parni people and Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire (247 BC – 224 AD). The Sasanian Empire succeeded the Parthian Empire as the last state of pre-Islamic Persia, also held the region and maintained the Seven Parthian clans as part of their feudal aristocracy The name "Parthia" is a continuation through Latin deriving from the local word Parthava, translated as "of the Parthians" and designating the native inhabitants of the area.

In contrast to their hostile relationship with Rome, the Parthians seem to have courted the favor of the Chinese explorer Zhang Qian who visited Parthia and described it as an advanced urban civilization. As a result, trade soon flourished with China. A detailed account of Parthian civilization has yet to be written partly because so little of their own literature has survived. Historians are thus forced to rely on foreign histories and numismatic evidence. It is nevertheless clear from Parthian coins that their Kings were consciously modeling themselves on their Achaemenid predecessors and attached great significance to the visual arts.

Glazed turquoise green vessels are one of the most distinctive Parthian art forms. Glazed ceramics were extremely rare in the Middle East prior to the Islamic period. Only in China were glazed wares common at such an early date. Trade and diplomatic ties most likely encouraged such a development in the Parthian region. Even despite their elegant form such vessels were used for practical purposes such as the storage and transportation of liquids and grains. Their color was created from copper and iron oxides mixed with an alkaline glaze which was applied on top of a fine white paste so that the reddish surface of the clay would not show through. The shapes of the vessels reveal a reliance on Greek and Mesopotamian forms while the green glaze has often been likened to the patina that bronze acquires over time.

This elegantly shaped Parthian glazed terracotta jar has an elongated body with a short neck and one handle. It is light turquoise in color and has an elaborate spout that resembles the ripples of a ribbon bunches close together.

The elegance of Parthian wares continued to be influential hundreds of years later with similar decorations, forms, and techniques found in the sophisticated ceramic arts of the Islamic period. As such, this beautiful Parthian vessel would serve as an excellent addition to any collection of Islamic pottery.

- (RP.129)


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