Tile with Image of Phoenix

Object Name: Tile from a frieze

Date: late 13th century

Geography: From Iran, probably Takht-i Sulaiman

Culture: Islamic

Medium: Stonepaste; modeled, underglaze painted in blue and turquoise, luster-painted on opaque white ground

Dimensions: H. 14 3/4 in. (37.5 cm)
W. 14 1/4 inl (36.2 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Tiles

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1912

Accession Number: 12.49.4


After the Mongol conquest of Persia in the thirteenth century, an extensive trade network opened from China to the Mediterranean, allowing goods to move more freely than in prior centuries. This image of a soaring phoenix with crested head and elaborate trailing plumage exemplifies the adaptation of Chinese imagery by Persian artists in this period. Ilkhanid-period artists readily adopted imagery from Chinese iconography—including lotus flowers, deer, dragons, and other mythical creatures.
Similar tiles that were excavated at Takht-i Sulaiman and also bear rounded cloud motifs were presumably produced from the same molds before being decorated in both the luster and lajvardina techniques. The phoenix and the dragon were popular subjects for imperial architectural decoration in China, and their use on tiles, although not traditionally common, became more widespread after the Mongol invasions, appearing on important buildings throughout the empire.