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Earthenware bowl, painted in luster over a white glaze, Egypt, 11th century, H: 5.5; Diam: 20.5 cm, Inv. no. 4/1992. © The David Collection, Copenhagen.

While the motifs on figurative bowls painted in luster in Abbasid Iraq were stylized, a number of quite naturalistic depictions of courtiers, dancers, wrestlers, etc. are known from Fatimid Egypt.

Here we have a young man in a long-sleeved tunic with a tirazband and wearing an elaborately wound turban. He is pouring a dark drink, presumably wine, from a glass decanter into a beaker, which is a reconstruction, since the bowl is missing three shards. Beside him stands a dish with cakes or fruit from which a palmette grows.

There are many figurative elements in Fatimid art, something that should perhaps be seen in the context of the region’s Coptic Christian tradition.