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  • Place of origin:

    Damascus (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1550-1600 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Fritware, polychrome underglaze painted, glazed

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 137, The Curtain Foundation Gallery, case 27, shelf 8, box R1

During the 16th century, the city of Damascus became a major provincial Ottoman capital. To reflect its new status, there was a rise in public buildings which included new mosques, tombs and grand houses. These buildings all required impressive tilework and attracted skilled tilemakers from throughout Syria. Tiles from this period are exuberant and lively, with a distinctive vibrant palette, loosely derived from Iznik tile work.

In the 19th century, Damascus tile work was discovered by English collectors suchs as Lord Leighton, who furnished his house in Holland Park, Leighton House, with tiles. In turn this fashion inspired Arts and Crafts designers, such as WIlliam de Morgan, to copy these 16th century designs and invent their own designs. The peacock was an important motif of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Physical description

Tile, fritware, rectangular, painted in underglaze cobalt blue, turquoise, black and sage green with the body of a peacock surrounded by stylized carnations. Painted wooden frame

Place of Origin

Damascus (made)


ca. 1550-1600 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Fritware, polychrome underglaze painted, glazed


Length: 26.2 cm conversion, Width: 22.9 cm

Object history note

The Reverend Greville John Chester (1830-1892), born in Denton, Norfolk, studied at Oxford and became an ordained clergyman before sickness forced him to retire in 1865. For his ailing health, he was encouraged to travel to Egypt, making his first visit that year; he subsequently travelled there almost every year until his death, alongside journeys elsewhere across the Mediterranean and Near East. Each year, Chester bought items en masse, to sell or donate to British institutions upon returning. His acquisitions form a considerable backbone of the early holdings at the V&A, British Museum, Ashmolean and Fitzwilliam. His contributions to the Victoria and Albert Museum incorporate both ancient and Islamic artefacts, predominantly but not exclusively purchased in Egypt; the most significant acquisitions include several hundred fragments of Late Antique textiles from Akhmim, given to the museum between 1887 and 1892. Chester was widely regarded as having a keen eye for acquisitions, and cultivated close friendships with several prominent Egyptologists. He was also notable for recording the provenance of many ancient items he purchased, an unusual practice for the time.

Historical significance: This style of Damascus tilework was immensely influential on the artists associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement especially the British potter WIlliam De Morgan (1839-1917).

Historical context note

The Reverend Greville John Chester ( 1830-1892), upon his retirement from the church in 1865, wintered in Egypt where he collected antiquities, which he later sold or presented to the British Museum, Fitzwilliam Museum and the V&A.

Descriptive line

Cer, Syria, Ottoman, Polychrome - Tile, fritware, painted in underglaze with cobalt blue, turquoise, sage-green and black with a peacock; Damascus (Syria) ca. 1550-1600.





Subjects depicted



Ceramics; Tiles


Middle East Section

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