Jug with Kufic Inscription, Samanid period, Nishapur or Samarkand, 819-1005. 2002.50.91. Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art © 2009 President and Fellows of Harvard College 

Reddish earthenware covered in white slip and painted with black (manganese and iron) under clear lead glaze with handle: H. 10.6 x W. 12.2 x D. 9.4 cm (4 3/16 x 4 13/16 x 3 11/16 in.). Diam. of rim: 8.8 cm (3 7/16 in.).
Among the most impressive ceramics produced during the reign of the Samanids are the epigraphic wares, so called because their sole or main decoration consists of stately Kufic script. An austere Arabic inscription, which may be read as “The noblest thing is the well-being of my guest” (ashraf al-shay nuzli al-muna), lends surprising majesty to this small jug. Written in black, four words are evenly spaced around the bulbous body, with an almond-shaped lozenge marking the end of the phrase. The tall ascending letters curve gently to the left. The intersection of the neck and body is ringed by a black line, which breaks into a looping motif at the front of the jug, opposite the handle. The black slip is raised slightly above the white surface; a carving tool has been used to sharpen its contours. The jug has been reassembled from thirteen fragments; small losses filled with plaster have been painted white. The reddish earthenware body, including the flat base, is covered entirely in white slip and a slightly yellowish clear glaze.