About This Artwork

Byzantine; Constantinople or vicinity, or Cyprus

Fragment from the Base of a Bowl, 12th/13th century

Glazed terra-cotta
H. 5 cm (2 in.); w. at widest point: 9 cm (3 1/2 in.)

Anonymous Fund, 1932.269.15

Fragments of Byzantine pottery preserve decorative motifs that were placed on the base of each pot’s interior. They represent a range of geometric and abstract floral motifs that were created by cutting through the white slip, or glaze, to reveal the red earthenware beneath. This technique of engraved slipware is known as sgraffitto. Color washes in a range of greens and browns were then placed over the incised decoration. First developed in the eleventh century, this combination of sgraffitto and color washes remained a defining feature of fine Byzantine pottery for several centuries.

Later Byzantine pottery such as this circulated throughout the eastern Mediterranean. Over time, it competed with an increasing number of imported ceramics of Italian, Islamic, and even Chinese origin. The technique and decorative motif seen here continued to be used in regions of Greece, Anatolia, and the Balkans during the Ottoman Empire (15th–20th century), thereby outlasting the Byzantine Empire itself, which ended in 1453.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

The Art Institute of Chicago, Of Gods and Glamour: The Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries of Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Art, Gallery 153, November 11, 2012 - present.

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