Coarsely potted and covered with a thick, crackled glaze, this dish belongs to a distinct group of porcelain, the so-called ‘Swatow wares’. Swatow is a Dutch mistranslation of Shantou, the port from which such ceramics were supposedly exported, although this port was actually not used until the Qing dynasty (1644 –1912). Recent archaeological research by Chinese scholars has established that Swatow wares were produced in Zhangzhou prefecture between the mid-sixteenth and mid-seventeenth centuries for export to Europe, Japan and South East Asia. Dishes similar to this one appeared in Indonesia and are believed to have been commissioned by the powerful seventeenth-century Shia sultans of Aceh in northwest Sumatra, including Sultan Iskander Muda (1607–1636) (Canepa 2006, no. 40). The inscriptions on this dish include invocations to Allah, verses from the Qur’an, including Sura al-Baqara, al-Ikhlas (Fidelity) and al-Nas (The People), the Nad-i ³Ali prayer and the word ‘Allah’ which is repeated along the cavetto of the dish. The inscriptions are talismanic, seeking protection and assistance for the owner.
Source: The Aga Khan Museum