Painted dado panel, 9th century
Found at Iran, Nishapur, Tepe Madrasa, Room W20
Stucco; painted; 40 1/5 x 53 1/2 in. (102 x 136 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1940 (40.170.176)
This dado panel was excavated from a room in the Tepe Madrasa area that once had a lively scheme of painted decoration. The upper section of the wall was colored a deep red, there was a short horizontal frieze of hexagons and diamonds, and then this four foot-high dado with a frieze of alternating square and rectangular panels. Each panel in the dado was framed with blue, red, and white lines; the rectangular panels were filled with a pattern akin to quarter-sawn marble, and the square panels had a variety of feathery shapes, scale-covered elements, and interlaced ribbons ending in stylized eyes and hands. Although amulets in the shape of eyes and hands were used to ward off the evil eye, it seems unlikely that this basic interpretation encompasses the whole meaning of the present work. This symbolism has no known parallels outside Nishapur, although the narrow panel at the left imitates marble as used in Byzantine and some early Islamic buildings.