This frieze tile is molded in low relief and painted in luster over an opaque white ground with accents of turquoise and cobalt blue. The background presents a lush landscape of vegetal motifs and birds in flight, while in the foreground two horsemen stab a deer with their swords. The figures wear luxurious clothes, and the artist has taken care to depict different textile patterns on each. Luster tiles of similar quality, color scheme, and motifs decorated the palace at Takht-i Sulaymän, an important Ilkhanid imperial residence.
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Title:Frieze Tile with Two Hunters
Date:second half 13th century
Geography:Attributed to Iran, Kashan
Medium:Stonepaste; molded, inglaze painted in blue and turquoise, luster-painted on opaque white glaze
Dimensions:H. 10 3/4 in. (27.3 cm) W. 13 1/4 in. (33.7 cm) D. 1 1/8 in. (2.9 cm)
Credit Line:Gift of George Blumenthal, 1910
Two frieze tiles: V&A 1841-1876 and MMA 10.9.1
These two frieze tiles each have a figural subject in the main register, set against very similar densely vegetal backgrounds with birds in flight; in each case the narrow, almost identical border below is divided into small compartments that contain a highly stylized design. Both tiles have molded details accentuated in cobalt blue and turquoise pigment; owing to its volatile nature, the latter has spread in the V&A tile, creating streaks on the surface of the tile.
The V&A tile features two characters from the Shahnama (Book of Kings), Bahram Gur and his favorite harp player, Azada. They are shown mounted on a camel, with Bahram Gur shooting a deer while Azada plays her harp. In the upper register of the tile is a row of three running quadrupeds, two gazelles and a sphinx, set against a floral background. The MMA tile shows two horsemen, one approaching from the right and the other from the left, in the act of dispatching the deer trapped between them with their swords. The composition suggests a narrative allusion, but none has yet been identified. The upper register of the tile is missing, but it is likely to have resembled that of the V&A tile in showing a sequence of animals.
The only Ilkhanid frieze tiles of known origin with pictorial representations come from Takht-i Sulaymän, and several examples of this type are in various collections. Images or text drawn from the Shahnama, such as the scene of Bahram Gur and Azada, were clearly deemed especially appropriate for this palace complex.
[Komaroff and Carboni 2002]
1. Watson, Oliver. Persian Lustre Ware. Faber Monographs on Pottery and Porcelain. London: Faber and Faber, 1985, pl. L,a.
2. Carboni, Stefano and Tomoko Masuya. Persian Tiles. Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993, p. 23, no. 18.
3. See Oliver Watson. "Persian Lustre Tiles of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries." 2 vols. Ph.D. diss., School of Oriental and African Studies. University of London, 1977.
Fragment of a luster frieze tile with two hunters
This tile shows two horsemen hunting a deer; it is molded in relief and painted in luster with touches of turquoise and cobalt blue. Both style and subject are very similar to those found on the tiles excavated at Takht-i Sulaymän, a ruined Ilkhanid palace in Azerbaijan, built in the 1270s. A kiln was excavated within the walls of Takht-i Sulaymän and pottery appliances and some molds were found. Therefore, it is clear that some tiles were produced at the site. Another similar tile depicting Bahräm Gür and Azädah in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (no. 10.56.2) seems to have come from the same palace. The surface of a typical frieze tile from Takht-i Sulaymän is divided into three fields: the upper field contains a procession of animals; the main field depicts a scene of battle or hunting, sometimes taken from the Shähnämah; and the lower field shows a narrow band of vegetal or geometric decoration. Thus, it is most likely that the missing upper part of this tile once showed a procession of animals.
[Carboni and Masuya 1993]
George Blumenthal, New York (until 1910; gifted to MMA)
New York. Hagop Kevorkian Fund Special Exhibitions Gallery, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Persian Tiles," May 4, 1993–January 2, 1994, no. 18.
New York. The Hagop Kevorkian Special Exhibitions Gallery, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Riding Across Central Asia: Images of the Mongolian Horse in Islamic Art," April 26–November 12, 2000, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia 1256-1353," October 28, 2002–February 16, 2003, no. 98.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia 1256-1353," April 13–July 27, 2003, no. 98.
New York. American Museum of Natural History. "The Horse," May 17, 2008–January 4, 2009, no catalogue.
Pittsburg, PA. Carnegie Museum of Natural History. "The Horse," February 27, 2009–July 6, 2009, no catalogue.
Watson, Oliver. Persian Lustre Ware. London; Boston: Faber and Faber, 1985. ill. pl. L,a.
Carboni, Stefano, and Tomoko Masuya. Persian Tiles. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. no. 18, p. 23, ill. (b/w).
Rossabi, Morris, Charles Melville, James C. Y. Watt, Tomoko Masuya, Sheila Blair, Robert Hillenbrand, Linda Komaroff, Stefano Carboni, Sarah Bertelan, and John Hirx. The Legacy of Genghis Khan: Courtly Art and Culture in Western Asia, 1256–1353, edited by Stefano Carboni, and Linda Komaroff. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002. no. 98, pp. 52, 265, ill. fig. 50 (color).
Ekhtiar, Maryam. "Shimmering Surfaces: Lustre Ceramics of the Islamic World." Arts of Asia vol. 42 (2012). p. 96, ill. fig. 14 (color).
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