“It is not until the Abbasid period that a distinct type and style of ceramic ware emerged that can be distinguished technically as ‘Islamic’.”
The curators argue their point by illustrating the shift from pre-Islamic characteristics in art and more specifically ceramics to the style that we today consider to be “Islamic.” First discussing the visual shift into designs and methods that emulated Chinese ceramics, featuring a white base appearing similar to porcelain sparingly decorated with blue or green shapes and calligraphic script. This is seen in “Ceramic Bowl” (Hegira 3rd-4th/ AD 9th-10th century) which captures these visual similarities with Chinese ceramics but with the use of calligraphic script marks it as clearly Islamic art in nature. This in contrast with “Ceramic Jar” (Hegira 2nd century / AD 8th century) from roughly a century earlier displays more of the pre-Islamic artistic tendencies helps the curators show this connection between pre-Islamic and Islamic art, as well as heighten the differences in simplicity and material application of their subsequent visual styles.
Aside from the influence of the visual styles of Chinese ceramics as a catalyzing factor of the departure from pre-Islamic art, the curators also back up their claim with the historical context of the Abbasid period. It appears that the development of ceramics grew so much during the Abbasid empire partially due to the support for ceramic innovation from one of the rulers in the Imperial Court. This lead to innovations primarily in lustre glazes and techniques which would come to develop and dominate Islamic ceramics and art.
As seen in “Plate with lotus leaves” (Hegira, last third of the 4th or beginning of 5th century / AD 10th-11th centuries) the curators show this culmination of designs and techniques which they describe as “refined but subtle” which can be seen quite consistently throughout the Abbasid period and beyond as it was adopted as one of the standard characteristics of Islamic art through the years. Still there is the consistent use of calligraphic script throughout, which the curators use to support their claim of the ceramic styles developing into something “distinguished technically as ‘Islamic.’” I think the curators demonstrated their claim fairly clearly, but I think their argument could have benefited from a brief discussion of the exceptions and specific pieces that could have demonstrated the origins and development of these technical standards of Islamic art. I found the end of the exhibit about how the ceramic styles and qualities differed for the use of varying levels of society to be interesting, but not necessarily as relevant to their argument, and could have possibly better demonstrated the continuation of the visual styles largely developed during the Abbasid period in later Islamic ceramics.