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  • Place of origin:

    Iran (made)

  • Date:

    1600-1625 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Fritware painted in enamel colours

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 137, The Curtain Foundation Gallery, case W, shelf 1

This is one of two rectangular tiles (307-1879) painted in coloured slip with partially dressed dancers associated with the harem, preparing for a bath. They were probably made in Isfahan for a Safavid palace or bathhouse.Bathhouses, an important focal point of daily life, were traditionally decorated with luxurious glazed tiles lining the pools and tile panels ornamenting the walls.

Each figure holds a spouted pouring vessel in their hands, which have been coloured orange-red with henna. A paste of powdered henna was applied or painted in designs on hands and often feet and left on overnight to producee a stain, which was highly admired. Dark almost black henna, suggests the evidence of wealth, as it was produced using costly essential perfumes and oil, whereas a paler colour indicates that water was used a binder. That both hands are stained is further evidence of an elite lifestyle indicating that a skilled henna artist has applied the stain.

Physical description

Tile of fritware, rectangular, painted in polychrome slip with a full length female figure prepared for the bath and a background of flowers and birds. She has salmon-pink body and henna-red hands.

Place of Origin

Iran (made)


1600-1625 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Fritware painted in enamel colours


Length: 26.7 cm, Width: 15.9 cm

Object history note

This object was one of two similar tiles sold to the South Kensington Museum by Caspar Purdon Clarke, for £50. During the years 1874-1876, Purdon Clarke had worked in Iran as superintendent of works for Britain's Legation buildings, which still serve as the British embassy in Tehran today. On his return in 1876, Purdon Clarke sold many art objects to the Museum, including these and other tiles, glass, textiles and the Mirza Akbar architectural drawings.

Descriptive line

Tile, fritware painted in polychrome slip with partially dressed female figure holding a wine-pourer, Safavid Isfahan, Iran, 1600-1625

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Lane, Arthur. Later Islamic Pottery. London: Faber and Faber, 1957. 133p., ill. Pages 71, 80, plate 56B

Production Note






Subjects depicted

Birds; Women; Flowers




Middle East Section

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