Gallery Text

Perhaps the most important contribution of Muslim potters, the application of luster to a ceramic surface was not limited to vessels. As early as the ninth century, this costly technique was applied to wall tiles to distinguish parts of buildings. In the eastern Islamic lands during the medieval era, the use of colored tiles — decorated with luster but with other techniques as well — increased in complexity and scope. In both religious and secular buildings, large surface areas came to be sheathed in brilliant ceramic revetments. The use of glazed ceramics for architectural decoration continued into the early modern era, culminating in the great monuments of the Safavid and Ottoman Empires.

The luster tiles gathered here would have been integrated into the decoration of buildings of the Seljuk-Atabeg (1037–c. 1220) and Ilkhanid (1256–1335) periods. Although the star tiles bear self-contained designs, they were intended to interlock with cruciform tiles in a grid. Three of the tiles feature inscriptions. The two large stars, which were probably intended for the interior of a religious shrine, reproduce verses from the Qurʾan in Arabic. The tile with figural imagery bears fragments of poetry in Persian, demonstrating the revival of Persian as a literary language in the medieval era.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
2002.50.80
Title
Star Tile with Lotus Decoration
Classification
Architectural Elements
Work Type
architectural element
Date
14th century
Places
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran
Period
Ilkhanid period
Culture
Persian
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/165422
Location
Level 2, Room 2550, Art from Islamic Lands, The Middle East and North Africa
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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
Diam. 20.9 x Th. 1.5 cm (8 1/4 x 9/16 in.)
Provenance
Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood, Belmont, MA (by 1978-2002), 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
2002.50.80
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
Molded in relief, this tile is decorated with stylized lotuses. The background and interior details of the plants are painted in brownish luster; the edge of the tile is outlined in cobalt blue. The lotus motif, as developed in the arts of East Asia, was introduced to the decorative repertoire of the Islamic lands under the Ilkhanids, who in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries ruled an area extending from Central Asia to Asia Minor. The Ilkhanids continued the practice established by their predecessors of decorating interior walls with revetments composed of star-and cross-shaped tiles. Relief tiles with related floral designs sometimes include animals and feature inscription bands around their rims.

Published Catalogue Text: In Harmony: The Norma Jean Calderwood Collection of Islamic Art , written 2013
38

Star tile with lotus decoration
Iran, Ilkhanid period, 14th century
Fritware painted with blue (cobalt) and luster (copper and silver) over white lead alkali glaze opacified with tin
20.9 × 20.9 cm (8 1/4 × 8 1/4 in.)
2002.50.80

Molded in relief, this tile is decorated with stylized lotuses. The background and interior details of the plants are painted in brownish luster; the edge of the tile is outlined in cobalt blue.

The lotus motif, as developed in the arts of East Asia, was introduced to the decorative repertoire of the Islamic lands under the Ilkhanids, who in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries ruled an area extending from Central Asia to Asia Minor. The Ilkhanids continued the practice established by their predecessors of decorating interior walls with revetments composed of star-and cross-shaped tiles. Relief tiles with related floral designs sometimes include animals and feature inscription bands around their rims.[1] A tile identical to this one is in Hetjens Museum in Düsseldorf.[2]

Ayşin Yoltar-Yıldırım

[1] See Watson 1985, fig. M.
[2] 1941/44: see Hetjens Museum 1973, 108.

Publication History

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

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. 160, ill.; p. 194, cat. 38, ill.

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

Overlapping Realms: Arts of the Islamic World and India, 900-1900, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 12/02/2006 - 03/23/2008

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

32Q: 2550 Islamic, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu