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Tile panel with an arquebusier

A pair of pottery tiles with polychrome and “black line” decoration

Safavid Persia, first half of 17th Century

Dimensions: 49 x 20.5 cm


This elegant young man carrying an arquebus on his shoulder seems to have stepped straight out of Persian “Rezâ-e Abbâssî” miniature. His pensive face with its delicate features is topped with large turban and his green caftan is tied with a wide black and yellow belt. He passes nonchalantly in front of a tree whose fragile branches seem to wish to embrace him. One of the branches weighed down by a ripe pomegranate, bends under a sky of stylised yellow clouds. He holds the butt of his weapon lightly, the barrel resting on his shoulder. The arquebus was used in Europe by a number of regiments as early as the beginning of the 16th century, and was then gradually replaced by the musket and the rifle. The use of firearms was introduced to the East from the 16th century onwards, as illustrated in several miniatures. One of the oldest representations of a flint rifle in Iran is shown on a page of the famous ‘Shahnameh de Shah Tahmasp’, undertaken around 1530-35. Another rifle used during a royal hunt is painted on a miniature of Jami’s ‘Silsilat al-Dhahab’ copied in 1549 (New York 2003, fig 4.12 and fig 4.26 b). Their use became widespread in Iran from 1560 onwards, and they are sometimes represented on 17th century wall panelling (Christie’s 2004, lot n° 98).

The vivid polychrome of these two tiles is enhanced by the black line which defines the meticulous drawing.