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Tile with ornamental Kufic

Pottery tile with polychrome and “black-line” decoration

Timurid Central Asia, late 14th century

Height: 27cm; Length: 28 cm


The inscription reads: al-mulk li-llâh ‘Dominion is God’s’.

After having conquered a great proportion of Muslim lands, Timur (Temur the Lame or Tamerlane, founder of the eponymous dynasty), firmly encouraged arts, especially architecture, painting and manuscripts. Timurid architecture is noticeable by its features and flamboyant colours and was dominant beyond the Empire’s borders.

The association of calligraphy and stylised foliated motifs closely intertwined to form elaborate windings enlivens floriated and plaited Kufic script. To this extent, ornamental epigraphy looses its literary purpose to become purely decorative. The religious expression al-mulk lillâh is often featured on Timurid tiles as bordering frieze, for example around the porch (pishtâq) of the mausoleum of Khwaje Ahmad (Soustiel & Porter 2003, p. 227 and fig. p. 80), on the facade of the mausoleum of Shad-e Mulk Aqa, post 1371 (op. cit., p 101), on that of the mausoleum “Anonymous no. 2”, circa 1385 (op. cit., p. 120), or on that of the mausoleum of Amir-zade, 1386 (op. cit., p. 126-127), located in the necropolis of Shah-e Zende in Samarkand. A frieze of tiles with almost identical ornamental Kufic adorns the higher part of the panelling of the funerary chamber of the mausoleum known by the name of the Ostad Ali Nasafi, circa 1380 (op. cit., p. 114).