Fatimid craftsmen were the earliest to make large-scale decorative lustreware items

Compiled by Nimira Dewji

The ancient technique of lustre, which may have been travelled from China along the Silk Road and other trade networks, involved painting copper and silver onto vessels, producing a lustrous golden shine. The development of glazing techniques made the earthenwares water-resistant, but also became catalysts for creativity, turning everyday objects into art canvases.

Fatimid craftsmen were the earliest to make large-scale decorative lustreware items
Earthenware jar with lustre dated 11th century, Fatimid Egypt. Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford.

Muslim artists and craftsmen adapted to new styles and techniques, illustrated by the variety of ceramics produced in the diverse regions. First seen in the Muslim regions in ninth-century Iraq, lustreware became popular in Fatimid Egypt (969-1171 CE), and then travelled back to Syria and Iran in the twelfth century. Subsequently, between the late twelfth and early fourteenth centuries, Kashan in Iran, emerged as a prominent centre of lustre production.

Fatimid ceramic bowls – known as bacini – were highly sought after in Italy where they were used either for decorating facades or as religious vessels. Fatimid craftsmen were the first to make decorative objects of this kind in the large size.

Fatimid craftsmen were the earliest to make large-scale decorative lustreware items
Fatimid bacini, 11th century, Musée nationale de San Matteo.

This ceramic bowl with a lustre-painted decoration, produced in Fatimid Egypt in the second half of the eleventh century, is a bacino (basin, hollow circular vessel). Embedded in one of the facades of San Sisto Church in Pisa, it was used, along with other ceramic plates, to decorate the building.

Lustreware production techniques were most likely brought to Nasrid Spain (1232-1492) by Fatimid artists emigrating after the fall of the Fatimid empire.1


  • 1Nasrid, Archnet (accessed September 2017)
  • Victoria & Albert Museum (accessed September 2017)
  • Yousef Jameel Online Centre for Islamic and Asian Art, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (accessed September 2017)
  • Sibylle Mazot, “The Fatimids, Decorative Arts,” Islam: Art and Architecture Edited by Markus Hattstein and Peter Delius, Konemann


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Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

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