Carolinda Tolstoy Signature ImagesImagesImagesImages



Dr. Sheila R. Canby

Carolinda Tolstoy's series of faïence and lustre-glazed vases based on Safavid Persian paintings capture the spirit of the originals while adapting them to the ceramic medium. It is interesting to observe how the sinuous line of late sixteenth and early seventeenth century Persian figural studies has been adapted to the form of Tolstoy's vases which are tall with slighting bulbous shoulders. The rounded bodies and swaying stance of the figures are in harmony with the shape of the vases which they decorate. Yet, the lustre glazes used for vegetation, details of costume and ornamental bands at the foot and neck of each vase lends an ethereal, shimmering quality to the pieces. Many of the figures have dreamlike expressions and the lustre glaze enhances this impression of lightness and unreality.

As a historian of Islamic art, I am particularly gratified that images that were immensely popular in their day still have the power to inspire artists. Furthermore, Tolstoy's work demonstrates the internationalism of great art and its ability to 'speak' to people of various cultures and periods without a great deal of verbal explanation. Not only does her choice of imagery relate to Safavid painting, but also her technique is in the tradition of fine Persian pottery and even the revival of lustreware which took place in Iran in the seventeenth century. While Tolstoy's Persian-inspired ceramics must certainly appeal to those familiar with Safavid art, they also are intriguing examples of the twentieth century potter's art. I applaud her skill at uniting traditional Persian imagery and modern ceramic forms and techniques.

© Dr. Sheila R. Canby 1999
Assistant Keeper, Department of Oriental Antiquities, British Museum