Tile thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Ceramics, Room 137, The Curtain Foundation Gallery

Tile

ca. 1275-1325 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This group of star-shaped tiles combine secular and religious imagery. Here, the Mongol imperial symbol of a phoenix in flight is framed by a quotation from the Qur'an.

The invasions of Iran by pagan Mongols in the 13th century brought devastation and disruption, especially in the east. But the invasions were followed by a period of increasing prosperity, as the unification of much of Asia under Mongol rule caused a boom in international trade. One result was an increase in the influence of Chinese art on the art of Iran. This included the use of Chinese-inspired imperial symbols like the dragon and phoenix.

For a time after the Mongol conquest, secular imagery developed for palace walls was sometimes used on tiles destined for religious buildings. This was a striking departure from the usual avoidance of figural imagery in religious contexts.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Earthenware, with overglaze lustre decoration
Brief Description
Tile with a phoenix and an inscription in Persian, Iran, 1275-1325.
Physical Description
Two low fired fritware tiles with blue and copper lustre glazes in the shape of an eight-pointed star. The central field is decorated in reserve against a ground of golden-brown lustre, and has a lightly moulded design of a flying phoenix against a ground of a branching tree. Around the edge is a border inscription in large cursive script, the letters outlined in lustre on a white ground; the background to the border is painted in cobalt blue with the letters left in white.
Dimensions
  • Diameter: 20.5cm
  • Depth: 1.8cm
  • Weight: 0.6kg
Style
Object history
Purchased in Istanbul in 1897 from Mrs Alice Whitaker, daughter and heir of William Henry Wrench (1836-96). Wrench was British consul in the city when he died, and he had formed a significant collection of Ottoman and Iranian objects while in the consular service. For images of how Wrench displayed his collection in his home in the Pera (Beyoğlu) district of the city, see V&A: PH.331 to 334-1892.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This group of star-shaped tiles combine secular and religious imagery. Here, the Mongol imperial symbol of a phoenix in flight is framed by a quotation from the Qur'an.



The invasions of Iran by pagan Mongols in the 13th century brought devastation and disruption, especially in the east. But the invasions were followed by a period of increasing prosperity, as the unification of much of Asia under Mongol rule caused a boom in international trade. One result was an increase in the influence of Chinese art on the art of Iran. This included the use of Chinese-inspired imperial symbols like the dragon and phoenix.



For a time after the Mongol conquest, secular imagery developed for palace walls was sometimes used on tiles destined for religious buildings. This was a striking departure from the usual avoidance of figural imagery in religious contexts.
Associated Objects
Bibliographic References
  • Watson, O. Persian Lustre Ware, London, 1985, pp. 122 & 146, colour plate M
  • Komaroff, Linda, and Carboni, Stefano, (eds), The legacy of Genghis Khan, Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256-1353, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002. Catalogue of the Exhibition from Nov.5, 2002 to Feb. 16, 2003. ISBN1-58839-071-3 (1-58839-071-3 pbk; 0-300-09691-7 Yale U. P.) Cat. Entry 112 p267, Fig.120
Collection
Accession Number
1893A-1897

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record createdSeptember 12, 2002
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