Panel, fritware,comprising thirteen tiles with portraits and 17 border tiles, polychrome underglaze painted, north west Iran (probably Tabriz), 1600-50.
Panel of twenty-eight glazed tiles, with thirteen separate bust portraits of Safavid women and men, one holding a wine-cup, another carrying a large jar
These wall tiles were made around 1600-50, in the city of Isfahan, which was then the capital of Iran. They were probably remounted together on this panel not long before they were sold to the V&A in 1877. The tiles include thirteen bust portraits of fashionable men and women of the day. These portraits recall the graceful style of the artist Riza Abbasi (d.1635), who specialised in single portraits of wealthy members of Isfahan society. These tiles and others of this type are often referred to as 'Kubachi' tiles. This is because the bowls and other vessels made by the same potters and painted in the same range of colours are called 'Kubachi' wares. This is a misnomer, which came about because large numbers of these vessels came on to the art market about 1900 after they were discovered in houses in the small town of Kubachi in the Caucasus Mountains. This town in Daghestan, now part of Russia, specialised in decorating arms and armour with damascened patterns in gold over a very long period, and its inhabitants were relatively prosperous. It seems that they imported large numbers of 'Kubachi' vessels and used many of them to decorate their houses rather than for serving food, which explains why they survived. At first it was thought that the vessels had been made in Kubachi. Later it was realised that they were made in Iran, and they were attributed to Tabriz, the most important city near the Caucasus. More recently, analysis of the body material has shown that they were made in the Isfahan area, and this is in tune with their decoration.
Location: Ceramics Study Galleries, Asia & Europe, room 137, case WN