Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Panel of Four Calligraphic Tiles

Object Name:
Tile panel
14th–early 15th century
(none assigned) Morocco
Stonepaste; glazed and carved
H. 4 7/8 in. (12.4 cm) W. 22 1/4 in. (56.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Leon B. Polsky and Cynthia Hazen Polsky Gift, in honor of Patti Cadby Birch, 1999
Accession Number:
Not on view
Epigraphic friezes executed in ceramic tile were integral to the decorative program of interiors in both Morocco and Spain. They were situated near eye-level, between a dado of tile mosaic and upper-wall decoration of carved stucco. These tiles were first entirely coated in purplish-black glaze, which was carved away leaving behind the calligraphy on a background of foliate scrolls.
#6718. Panel of Four Calligraphic Tiles
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Panels of ceramic tiles, embellished with inscriptions and employed as a frieze, formed an integral part of the architectural decoration of buildings in Morocco from the fourteenth century onward. Placed on the walls slightly below eye level and thus accessible for reading, these friezes were combined with mosaic, stucco, and carved-wood panels to create colorful, textured surfaces of interior rooms and courtyards alike. Bu ‘Inaniyya and al-‘Attarin, two madrasas, or religious schools, constructed in Fez under royal patronage in 1323–25 and 1350–55, respectively, are the most representative examples of fourteenth-century Marinid architecture. Architectural and decorative forms of this period were inspired by the arts and architecture of the Nasrid dynasty of Spain, as exemplified by the palaces of the Alhambra in Granada. Close political and cultural ties between the dynasties facilitated the transmission of artistic ideas when builders and craftsmen from Muslim Iberia emigrated to Morocco as the reconquest of the peninsula progressed under the Christian kings.
Composed of four rectangular ceramic tiles, the present panel is decorated in the intaglio technique, called zilij in Morocco, in which the entire surface is covered with a purplish black glaze and then carved away to leave the inscription and the foliate scroll of the background in relief. The auspicious content of the repeated phrase in the inscription suggests that the panel was originally part of a frieze of much greater length that was used to decorate a secular building.[1] Completing the decorative composition are a delicate spiraling scroll with foliate motifs and a border that frames the inscription at the top and bottom.
Olga Bush (author) in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. Carboni 2000.
Inscription: Inscription in Arabic in thuluth script:
نعم الرفیق السعد والتوفیق
What excellent companions are happiness and good fortune

This proverd is from Badi’ al-Zaman Abi al-Fazl Ahmad Ibn al-Husain al-Hamadaniبدیع الزمان أبي الفضل أحمد بن الحسین الهمذاني and appears in:
Abu Mansur al-Tha‘ālibī , al-‘Ijāz wa’l-’Ijāz , ed. Ibrahim Salih, Dar al-Bash’ir publication, p. 145. (the word السعد happiness does not appear in this reference).
A. Ghouchani :2012
[ Spink & Sons Ltd., London, until 1999; sold to MMA]
Carboni, Stefano. "Panel of Four Calligraphic Tiles." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 58, no. 2 (Fall 2000). p. 16, ill. (color).

Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 42, p. 74, ill. p. 74 (color).

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