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Simon Ray Limited

ERNS AND FRONDS
Syria or Egypt (Mamluk), 15th century
Height: 20.2 cm
Width: 17 cm

A hexagonal underglaze-painted tile, finely painted in cobalt blue on a white ground under a smooth, transparent glassy glaze with a fine crackle. The elegant design consists of two stylised fan-shaped ferns, each with a diamond lattice of leaves supported by a sinuous, spiky stem, alternating with three fluidly rustling ferns with soft, curling leaves and fronds on undulating multiple stems. All the ferns quiver gently as if moving in the wind. The variegated twisting leaves soften the formal symmetry of the design. So ably does the soft caressing hand of the painter suggest gentle movement that the plant motifs sway perceptibly before our eyes. The design is drawn with the spontaneous energy and assurance characteristic of Mamluk tile designs of the fifteenth century.

Mamluk tiles of very similar design can be seen in a panel of hexagonal tiles at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, where they are assigned to Syria and dated by the Ashmolean to circa 1425.

all text, images Simon Ray Limited

 

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