The claim that “It is not until the Abbasid period that a distinct type and style of ceramic ware emerged that can be distinguished technically as ‘Islamic’” is only proved to a certain extent by the ceramics in the Abbasid exhibition. There are some ceramic pieces in the exhibition that show definitely have “Islamic” characteristics and motifs. However, there are also a wide variety of pieces that are questionable as to whether they could be Islamic and the exhibition doesn’t quite explain how Muslims left their imprint on these pieces.
One of the pieces that was clearly identifiable as an “Islamic” work was The Ceramic Bowl. Although it clearly resembled many splashed Chinese T’ang period wares, it also had many distinct “Islamic” innovations. Some of these innovations included the blue and screen splashes (common colors seen throughout many Islamic works) and the Kufic script in the center of the bowl. Dish with imaginary animal is another piece that utilizes kufic inscriptions, which distinguishes it as an “Islamic” piece. The exhibit demonstrates the use of ceramics in Islamic architecture as well. Polychrome and bichromatic lustre tiles were used to decorate the mihrab in the Great Mosque of Kairouan. This is a clear example of how Muslims took the art of ceramics and claimed it as their own. Using the ceramics in a holy building makes a statement and also gives insight into the ways that Muslims viewed the art of ceramics.
The exhibition does show many pieces with distinguishing Islamic features, however the more ambiguous works can’t go unnoticed in this exhibition. Dish and Plate with metallic glaze don’t quite have many characteristics that define them as Islamic works of art and the exhibition doesn’t do the best job of explaining how these pieces are part of a “distinctly Islamic type and style”. There aren’t quite any distinguishing Islamic features in Plate with metallic glaze possibly with the exception of the green splashes on the bowl. This piece isn’t the best choice to exhibit “a distinct type and style” of ceramic ware and the vague description doesn’t help the viewer of the exhibition either. Oil Lamp is another example of one of the more ambiguous pieces. It doesn’t have any Islamic motifs and the description doesn’t quite explain how the piece was a ceramic innovation of the Abbasids. Round-bellied vase shows how it was influenced by Berber heritage in its figurative and abstract design, however the exhibition fails to show how the piece is distinguishable as Islamic.