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    Sale 7615

    Art of The Islamic And Indian Worlds

    7 October 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 20

    AN ABBASID GLASS MOSAIC FLOOR TILE FRAGMENT

    PROBABLY SAMARRA, MESOPOTAMIA, 9TH CENTURY

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    AN ABBASID GLASS MOSAIC FLOOR TILE FRAGMENT
    PROBABLY SAMARRA, MESOPOTAMIA, 9TH CENTURY
    The thick green glass body overlaid by a layer of glass mosaic comprising two shades of green forming irregular patterns around staggered circular red and white quartered motifs alternating with cobalt blue panels, in two parts, edges irregular, light surface iridescence, heavier in one corner
    12¼ x 7in. (31 x 18cm.)


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    During the excavations at the caliphal palace in Samarra, known as Jawsaq al-Khaqani, a small number of fragments of mosaic glass wall tiles were found. The best fragment is now in the Berlin Museum; other small fragments are in the Metropolitan Museum and in the Louvre (Stefano Carboni, Glass of the Sultans, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2001, no.61, p.148). From that fragment the original tile can be suggested; a 16cm. square with concentric bands of different brightly coloured canes giving a brilliant overall effect. It would have been used in the wall: it is 0.85cm. thick.

    The present tile, in contrast, is about 3cm thick, the thin upper mosaic layer supported on a thick green glass body. It is also conceived on a much larger scale: each side of this tile, assuming that it was originally square, would have been almost exactly double the size of the wall tiles. The only conclusion justifying this thickness is that it was intended for use on the floor. Even if such tiles were only used as occasional accents within an otherwise much plainer floor, they would have been astonishing to visiting dignitaries, demonstrating the wealth and craftsmanship at the court of the Abbasid Caliphs.

    The aesthetic of this tile is very similar to that of a small group of polychrome lustre tiles that were also found at Jawsaq al-Khaqani. The ground is finely speckled with white and one other colour, onto which two different colours of larger daubs are added. A fragment shows this effect clearest (Oliver Watson, Ceramics from Islamic Lands, London, 2004, cat.E.1, p.184). The complete tiles were painted with cockerels within wreaths, such as one in the Berlin Museum (Venetia Porter, Islamic Tiles, London, 1994, fig.12). The size of that ceramic tile is also, at 28cm. nearly on the same scale as the present glass example.

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