Iran, Natanz, from the shrine of 'Abd al-Samad
Stonepaste; underglaze painted in blue, luster painted on opaque white ground, modeled
H. 15 in. (38.1 cm), W. 15 in. (38.1 cm)
Gift of Emile Rey, 1912 (12.44)
Luster-painted tiles were used to decorate the walls of mausoleums and Sufi shrines. This rectangular tile is from a frieze in the tomb chamber of the shrine of cAbd al-Samad in Natanz, in central Iran. The eclectic religious attitude and tolerance of the Ilkhanids may explain the presence of birds on these tiles (their heads were defaced by iconoclasts at a later time); perhaps related to Sufi mystical thoughts, they were an extremely rare decoration in religious buildings.