Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

Ashmolean − Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

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Set of forty-eight tiles displaying birds and animals in a landscape

  • Description

    In the Iranian world, the use of tiles in architectural decoration dates back to pre-Islamic times. Decorated with a range of techniques including underglaze and overglaze painting, tiles had practical, aesthetic and broader cultural implications. While providing a protective barrier to otherwise perishable brick constructions, tile coverings spoke about a building’s function as much as about the social status, wealth and aspirations of its patron.

    This panel, decorated with the cuerda seca technique, can be dated to the mid-17th century when elaborate tile compositions were made to decorate garden pavilions and palaces in Iran, especially in Isfahan, then capital of the Safavid empire (1501-1736). Scenes of garden entertainment and hunting, found in examples that have survived in museum collections, provide a window on the luxurious lifestyles of early modern Iran. In this particular example, the decoration does not include human figures but depicts a verdant garden inhabited by animals and birds. These are arranged in symmetrical fashion either side of a central lobed motif.

    The technique known as cuerda seca (literally ‘dry cord’) was meant to reproduce the effect of tile mosaic without its time-consuming process. Various glazes were applied to the ceramic surface separated by thin lines of a greasy, manganese-based, substance. With firing, this compound would disappear, leaving neat dark outlines around the different areas of colour.

  • Details

    Associated place
    Asia Iran (place of creation)
    17th century (1601 - 1700)
    Safavid Period (1501 - 1722)
    Material and technique
    fritware, with decoration in coloured glazes applied in the cuerda seca technique
    with frame 101 x 278 x 5.5 cm (height x width x depth)
    without frame 93 x 269 cm (height x width)
    each tile 24 x 15 cm approx. (height x width)
    Material index
    Technique index
    coveredcoated glazed,
    Object type index
    No. of items
    Credit line
    Purchased, 1979.
    Accession no.



  • fritware

    Ceramic material composed of ground quartz and small quantities of clay and finely ground frit (frit is obtained by pouring molten glass into water).


    • First floor | Room 31 | Islamic Middle East

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