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Mina’i, meaning ‘enamelled’ ware, is one of the glories of Islamic ceramics, and was a speciality of the renowned ceramics centre of Kashan in Iran during the decades of the late 12th and early 13th centuries preceding the Mongol invasions. Like the lustrewares also produced in this town, mina’i painting is only found on vessels made of the hard, white, quartz-based paste known as fritware. It is very rare in archaeological contexts due to its limited production and the great value which was accorded to it. In Persian it is known as haft rangi or ‘Seven Colours’ due to its polychrome decoration. 

Mina’i’s technical accomplishment is matched by the richness of its glowing, jewel-like colours, its complex figural and narrative imagery, and its exuberant geometric patterning and inscriptions. Over stark white glazed backgrounds, horsemen gallop and hunt, princes drink, the court gossips, birds, animals and human-headed sphinxes process, and lovers meet under fantastical trees. The rich clothing of this cast of characters is rendered in unfading polychrome tones of red, blue, turquoise and purple, and their arms glitter with gold.