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  • Place of origin:

    Iran (made)
    Isfahan (possibly)

  • 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 painted in coloured slip with partially dressed dancers associated with the harem. 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 has hands coloured orange-red, presumably the result of the application of a paste made from the leaves of henna, which when left on overnight produced a stain, which was highly admired. The darker the 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 with henna-red hands prepared for the bath. Her body is white against a salmon-pink ground decorated with flowers and birds.

Place of Origin

Iran (made)
Isfahan (possibly)


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 56C

Production Note






Subjects depicted

Birds; Women; Flowers




Middle East Section

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