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Four Tiles with a Figural Scene

A work made of fritware with polychrom overglaze decoration.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of fritware with polychrom overglaze decoration.


Safavid dynasty (1501–1722), 17th century



About this artwork

The practice of decorating tiles with bright colors outlined in black was known as cuerda seca, which translates as “dry cord” from Spanish. Cuerda seca developed in the Islamic lands of Spain, Iran, and Central Asia at the end of the 14th century and remained popular in these regions for several centuries. The black line between colors allowed for carefully distinguished forms that otherwise might have been muddles during the firing process.These tiles are a section of a larger scene depicting the life of the epic Persian hero Bahram Gur. Here, gazelles festively play along the bank of a river as young man plays the flute and another presumably bridles a horse, of which only the nose is visible. Similar figures appear in different sets of tiles, evidence of the use of pattern books or stock images for similar scenes. The tales of Bahram Gur were popular subjects for both smaller decorative objects and long epic books, such as the lavishly decorated Khamsa of Nizami, a 16th-century manuscript created for the Mughal Emperor Akbar.


Currently Off View


Arts of Asia




Four Tiles with a Figural Scene


Iran (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

Made 1601–1700


Fritware with polychrom overglaze decoration


Each: 24.2 × 24.2 × 2.2 cm (9 1/2 × 9 1/2 × 7/8 in.)

Credit Line

Mary Jane Gunsaulus Collection

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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