Architectural Tile with Partial Inscription

Object Name: Tile

Date: second half 14th century

Geography: present-day Uzbekistan

Culture: Islamic

Medium: Stonepaste; carved and glazed

Dimensions: 14 3/16 x 11 x 2 15/16 in. (36 x 28 x 7.5 cm)

Classification: Ceramics-Tiles

Credit Line: Purchase, Friends of Islamic Art Gifts and Elaine Rosenberg Gift, 2006

Accession Number: 2006.274


This carved tile was originally set into the facade of a building in present-day Uzbekistan. The central panel consists of a deeply carved Arabic inscription in plaited kufic script against a background of vegetal scrolls covered in a luminous transparent turquoise glaze. The inscription, which reads "[al-mulk] li-llah al-mu[lk li-llah]" (Sovereignty is for God. Sovereignty is for God), is framed by two narrow light blue borders and is crowned by a wide panel with seven vertical bands in alternating turquoise and white with a horizontal border in dark manganese at the top.
Timurid architectural decoration achieved its height in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries in the capital at Samarqand. Numerous mosques, tombs, and theological schools built during this period were covered in mosaic and carved tiles with geometric, vegetal, and calligraphic patterns. The rich turquoise glaze of the tiles and the bold graphic quality of the inscriptions that distinguish the architecture of this period are particularly evident in the buildings at the main cemetery of the Timurid ruling elite, Shah-i Zinda in Samarqand. This tile may well have come from that cemetery.