Fragmentary Star Tile With Lovers
Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.125
Title
Fragmentary Star Tile with Lovers
Classification
Architectural Elements
Work Type
architectural element
Date
13th-14th century
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Kashan
Period
Ilkhanid period
Culture
Persian
Location
Level 2, Room 2550, Art from Islamic Lands
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Physical Descriptions
Medium
Fritware painted with blue (cobalt) and luster (copper and silver) over white lead alkali glaze opacified with tin
Technique
Lusterware
Dimensions
23.2 x 21 cm (9 1/8 x 8 1/4 in.)
Provenance
[Charles D. Kelekian, New York]. Lester Wolfe, New York, (by 1975), sold; through [Sotheby Parke Bernet Inc., New York, 14 March 1975, lot 122]; to Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (1975-2002), gift; to Harvard Art Museums, 2002.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art
Accession Year
2002
Object Number
2002.50.125
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
Descriptions
Description
This fragmentary tile, reassembled from four pieces, depicts a narrative scene closely related to those in contemporary and later manuscript paintings.Through an archway, a couple is shown in bed under a patterned cover. A tall candle in a plaited metal candlestick illuminates the interior of the room, and a similarly ornamented ewer appears further to the right. The partially visible bow and arrows likely belong to the man and indicate his princely activities. The fish at the bottom of the scene and the flowers sprouting above the couple create a dreamlike ambience. A figure, likely a servant, stands at left, perhaps outside the room. Bordering the scene, a Persian inscription, reserved in white on a blue ground, is partially legible. Starting at the break on the left, it reads,
. . . wings were broken.
. . . from the prince, felicity came to me.
Even if fate is not auspicious, give in to
your destiny.
Eight-pointed star tiles like this one were combined with other tiles of cruciform shape to create shimmering revetments for palaces and religious buildings. Although figural tiles were used in both secular and religious contexts, the intimate nature of the scene depicted here would have made this tile more appropriate for a palace interior.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
37

Fragmentary star tile with lovers
Iran, Ilkhanid period, 13th–14th century
Fritware painted with blue (cobalt) and luster (copper and silver) over white lead alkali glaze opacified with tin
23.2 cm (9 1/8 in.) diagonally, point to point.
2002.50.125

Published: Sotheby Parke Bernet 1975, lot 122; Watson 1985, 146; McWilliams 2004, 5, 11, fig. 7.

This fragmentary tile, reassembled from four pieces, depicts a narrative scene closely related to those in contemporary and later manuscript paintings.[1] Through an archway, a couple is shown in bed under a patterned cover. A tall candle in a plaited metal candlestick illuminates the interior of the room, and a similarly ornamented ewer appears further to the right. The partially visible bow and arrows likely belong to the man and indicate his princely activities. The fish at the bottom of the scene and the flowers sprouting above the couple create a dreamlike ambience. A figure, likely a servant, stands at left, perhaps outside the room. Bordering the scene, a Persian inscription, reserved in white on a blue ground, is partially legible. Starting at the break on the left, it reads,

. . . wings were broken.
. . . from the prince, felicity came to me.
Even if fate is not auspicious, give in to your destiny.
(. . . shikasta shud par u bāl.
. . . zi shāhzāda shudam saʿd.
Agar zamāna nasāzad tu bā zamāna bisā[z].)[2]

Eight-pointed star tiles like this one were combined with other tiles of cruciform shape to create shimmering revetments for palaces and religious buildings.[3] Although figural tiles were used in both secular and religious contexts,[4] the intimate nature of the scene depicted here would have made this tile more appropriate for a palace interior.

Ayşin Yoltar-Yıldırım

[1] See, in particular, the painting Gulnar Comes to Ardashir’s Pillow, from the “Great Mongol” Shāhnāma, Iran (probably Tabriz), 1330s, in which architectural details, furnishings, and the couple’s position are markedly similar to those on this tile. The painting is reproduced in Grabar and Blair 1980, 137.
[2] We are grateful to Wheeler M. Thackston for this reading and transliteration.
[3] For the full effect, see Watson 1985, 133, fig. 110; 144, fig. 121; and fig. M.
[4] Ibid, 154–55.

Publication History

Mary McWilliams, Closely Focused, Intensely Felt: Selections from the Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, brochure, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2004)

Jessica Chloros, "An Investigation of Cobalt Pigment on Islamic Ceramics at the Harvard Art Museums" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, 2008), Unpublished, pp. 1-41 passim

Mary McWilliams, ed., In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2013), p. 18, ill.; pp. 54-56, ill.; p 194, cat. 37, ill.

Holly Salmon, "A Comparative Analysis of Lusterware from the Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, June 2003), Unpublished, pp. 1-54 passim

Exhibition History

Closely Focused, Intensely Felt: Selections from the Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/07/2004 - 01/02/2005

In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2013 - 06/01/2013

Verification Level

3 - Good. Object is well described and information is vetted