The galleries of the MFAH main campus, Rienzi & Bayou Bend are open on a new schedule. Advance timed tickets are recommended. We welcome all visitors at any time. Learn more & get tickets 

Between Sea and Sky: Blue and White Ceramics from Persia and Beyond Through May 31, 2021


Dish, Persian, 15th century

Dish, Persian, Timurid or early Safavid, second half of 15th century, stonepaste; painted in blue on white slip under transparent glaze, the Hossein Afshar Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Bowl, Persian, late 13th–mid-14th century, stonepaste; painted in black under turquoise glaze, the Hossein Afshar Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Base of a Water Pipe (Qalyan), Persian, Safavid, early 17th century, stonepaste; painted in blue and black under transparent glaze; molded, the Hossein Afshar Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Dragon Bowl, Ralph Bacerra, 1979, porcelain, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Leatrice S. and Melvin B. Eagle Collection, Museum purchase funded by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund. © Estate of Ralph Bacerra

Posset Pot, English, c. 1630–35, tin-glazed earthenware (delftware), the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Bayou Bend Collection, gift of Katharine Prentis Murphy.

Arita Vase, Japanese, late 17th century, ceramic, the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation.

Covered Tureen and Stand, English, c. 1755, soft-paste porcelain, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Rienzi Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harris Masterson III in honor of Mrs. Franklin French Divine.

Front Design, Blow Away Vase, 2016, porcelain, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Madison Rendall in honor of Jan and Duane Maddux.

Chinese, Dish, 1700–1720, hard-paste porcelain, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Bayou Bend Collection, gift of Miss Ima Hogg.

Installation view of Between Sea and Sky: Blue and White Ceramics from Persia and Beyond.

Installation view of Between Sea and Sky: Blue and White Ceramics from Persia and Beyond.

Burma, Starry Night Sapphire, sapphire (corundum), 112 carats, on loan from Benjamin Zucker, Precious Stones LLC.

The enduring appeal of blue and white ceramics stretches across the centuries and around the world. This exhibition tells the story through the lens of the exceptional Hossein Afshar Collection of Persian ceramics, on long-term loan to the MFAH.

These works of art—exhibited here together for the first time—open the door to a new and more nuanced understanding of the monumental contribution of Persian blue and white to the world history of ceramics.

Between Sea and Sky: Blue and White Ceramics from Persia and Beyond begins with the early trade history of ceramics, when cobalt blue from the Persian Gulf meets ceramic shapes and techniques from China. The story continues with the introduction of stonepaste, which revolutionizes Persian ceramics, spawning an unprecedented flourishing of shapes, techniques, and colored glazes in the 11th to 14th century. Rare Persian blues also play a significant role, from the luxurious lapis lazuli and brilliant blue turquoise to the more commonly found cobalt. Locally mined and traded across Islamic lands and the world, rare Persian blues are as precious as gold.

Chinese blue and white porcelain from the Ming dynasty was highly prized and collected by Islamic courts in Iran, Turkey, and India. The exhibition features three extraordinary examples of Chinese blue and white porcelain loaned by the San Antonio Museum of Art. The section “Inspired by China” highlights the creative synthesis seen in 15th- to 17th-century Persian ceramics, which combine Chinese dragons and other motifs with Persian blues, shapes, and decorative motifs.

Also on view together for the first time are iconic blue and white works from the full range of the MFAH collections, including blue and white English porcelain and delftware from the Rienzi and Bayou Bend collections; notable Japanese Arita ware from the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation; and important examples of global contemporary blue and white ceramics. These works demonstrate the many different cultural resonances of this wide-ranging tradition.

► A Virtual Tour with the Curator
Aimée Froom, curator of Islamic art, presents an overview of the exhibition.

Gallery Guide
Explore the exhibition on-site and online with the engaging gallery guide.

Virtual Conversation “Global Blue and White”
Artist Jennifer Ling Datchuk talks with curator Aimée Froom and assistant curator Anna Walker about traditional Chinese blue and white ceramics and how the global migration of blue and white patterns relates to identity, race, and gender.

► Related Publications
Find a curated selection of books, as well as the special edition of Arts of Asia magazine, at the MFA Shop (713.639.7360). 

 

Between Sea and Sky: Blue and White Ceramics from Persia and Beyond | November 21, 2020–May 31, 2021

Included with general admission. Advance timed tickets recommended.


This exhibition is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Location

Audrey Jones Beck Building
5601 Main Street
Houston, TX 77005
Map & Directions