Description & Technical information

Of square form, this underglaze ceramic tile is part of a rare series of “Jerusalem tiles” made during the Ottoman era for the Dome of the Rock. The decorations are of extremely fine quality and include white lettering on a cobalt blue background with turquoise curved leafy stems surmounted by black outlines.
During the mid-sixteenth century a high demand for tiles was fuelled by the grand projects of the Ottoman dynasty. Most notably, Sultan Süleyman I ordered the restoration of the Dome of the Rock and asked the master potter Abdallah from Tabriz to oversee the work.1 It is known that some of these tiles date between 1545 and 1552.2 These “Jerusalem tiles” were most likely made locally because kilns were discovered in the Najara vaults in 1917.3  
The distinguishing characteristics of this “Jerusalem tile” are the drilled holes on the edges for metal fixing pegs to be inserted, as mortar and grout were not adequate for the building. In addition, on the unglazed back of the tile, the number ۴٣ (“43”) is deeply scored on the surface, presumably to aid the craftsmen to set out the tiles in the correct order.
There is a similar tile with white lettering on a cobalt blue background held in the Louvre in Paris (Accession Number: AFI2317).

Period:  16th Century
Origin:  Ottoman Jerusalem
Medium: Ceramic
Dimensions: 25 x 25 cm (9⁷/₈ x 9⁷/₈ inches)
Provenance: French private collection prior to the 1970s

Literature: Footnotes:
1. Venetia Porter. 1995. Islamic Tiles. London: British Museum Press. p. 102-3.
2. Gérard Degeorge & Yves Porter. 2002. The Art of the Islamic Tile. Paris: Flammarion. p.212.
3. Arthur Millner. 2015. Damascus Tiles. Munich: Prestel. p.119.

Categories: Oriental and Asian Art