Published Oct 20 2016, by

Three Dallas Exhibitions Showcase Early Global Trade

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Fall marks an exciting time for museums and galleries. An array of new exhibitions are ready to make their debut as artists and curators diligently work together to put finishing touches on exhibitions for public enjoyment. This Fall, the city of Dallas is in for a special treat with three exhibitions that will illustrate early globalization.

The three exhibitions include Clay Between Two Seas: From the Abbasid Court to Puebla de los Angeles presented by the Crow Collection of Asian Art, The Tiled Churches of Puebla presented by The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History research center at the Dallas Museum of Art, and A Garden of Delight: The Golden Age of Iznik Tiles of Turkey presented by St. Matthew’s Cathedral Arts. Each exhibition focuses on ceramic art forms that originated in either China, the Middle East, Europe, and Mexico (by way of Spain) as a result of global trade, exchange, and influence.

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The ʿAbbāsid Caliphate in the 9th century. Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.

Beginning in the 7th century, Mesopotamia came under Arab rule and was the first to use the term “Iraq,” meaning “the Fertile.” Under Caliphate rule, which includes all Muslim people and their lands, the city of Baghdad was established in the mid 8th century.  Through the 13th century, Baghdad was the city center and home to a prosperous civilization filled with economic and informational trade routes.

Chinese ceramics were exported throughout the region and the Abbasid Court marveled at the lightness, and purity of the white porcelain and clear glaze. Wanting to create something of equal beauty and luster the Abbasid Caliph commissioned his potters to produce ceramics that were equally as white as the Chinese porcelain; a task that presented great difficulty due to the difference in clay properties. The Abbasid potters innovated tin-glaze technology, a pure-white opaque glaze that was made by adding tin to the existing lead glaze, giving the ceramic body a shiny, white surface ready to be embellished regardless of the clay color underneath.

Fast forward to the 13th century, the Mongols invade Baghdad, destroy the city, and overthrow the Abbasid Caliphate. Chinese blue and white-bodied ceramics were produced for Islamic taste and export throughout the Middle East. Typically export products had densely packed motifs with geometric forms, stylized flowers, and varying body shapes from the original Chinese wares. Examples of which can be seen among the 150+ objects on loan from seven national and international collections in the exhibition Clay Between Two Seas: From the Abbasid Court to Puebla de los Angeles at the Crow Collection.

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Pottery and ceramic production in the Middle East continued to flourish and reached its zenith in the 16th century under Ottoman rule that placed great importance on stimulating and controlling the quality of artistic production. Ottoman ceramics favored highly decorative compositional scenes, and Chinese influence can be seen in themes of lotus bouquets and spiraling floral scrollwork. Their tile work was highly prized for the incorporation of red glaze, which was very difficult to produce, and can be seen in the photography exhibition, A Garden of Delight: The Golden Age of Iznik Tiles of Turkey by Carolyn Brown at St. Matthew’s Cathedral Arts.

From the 16th century well into the 19th century, the Spanish exported Chinese ceramics via the Manila Galleon Trade from the Philippines to the Port of Acapulco. These ceramics were valued as symbols of status and wealth throughout the colonies of New Spain (present-day Mexico) and used for both decorative and utilitarian purposes.

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Routes of Ceramic Trade Map from the exhibition Clay Between Two Seas: From the Abbasid Court to Puebla de los Angeles

Puebla de los Angeles, near Mexico City, was a city occupied by the Spanish elite. Talavera production flourished as it mixed into local production under strict government ordinances that regulated the imitation of Spanish Talavera. Items regulated included figures, foliage, and a strict five-color palette that originated from European masters. Talavera production can be seen today in the form of decorative tiles, and façades throughout the churches of Puebla. To better understand their magnificence, visit The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History Research Center at the Dallas Museum of Art to view the images in The Tiled Churches of Puebla an exhibition by photographer Carolyn Brown.
As the original centers of Talavera production in the Middle East collapsed, Talavera production in Mexico continued and transformed itself into a unique and national Mexican art form. Be sure to visit the three exhibitions and get a taste of the beautiful ceramic art forms mentioned above and see for yourself the products of early global influence!


The Tiled Churches of Puebla
by Carolyn Brown on view at the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History Research Center inside the DMA, level M2, September 1, 2016 – Spring 2017.


Clay Between Two Seas: From the Abbasid Court to Puebla de los Angeles 
on view September 17, 2016 – February 12, 2017, at the Crow Collection of Asian Art. Members’ Reception and Panel Discussion happening Thursday, October 27, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm. To become a Friend of the Crow Collection, visit crowcollection.org/support.


A Garden of Delight: The Golden Age of Iznik Tiles of Turkey
by Carolyn Brown on view September 23, 2016 – December 31, 2016 at St. Matthews Cathedral Arts with an artist reception Wednesday, October 25, 2016 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm, artist talk at 7:00 pm.

-Daniela Cruz