Star-shaped tile with phoenix design


Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum
San Francisco, United States

A proud phoenix spreads its elaborate plumage and takes center stage, surrounded by Chinese-style clouds on this star-shaped luster tile. Originally a Chinese imperial motif, the phoenix was often combined with a dragon to represent the empress and emperor. As a decorative motif brought from China by the Mongols and used by their successors in Persia, the Ilkhanids (1265-1353), the phoenix lost its original associations and was merged with the Persian mythical bird the simurgh. This auspicious bird figures prominently in the Persian national epic the Shahnama, written about 1000 CE. The tile's border is inscribed with a Persian lyrical poem describing the qualities of the beloved, "whose face is like the sun, if only the sun were adorned with musk." The upper right corner contains a date of 691 AH, which is equivalent to 1292-1293 CE. This architectural tile would have been part of a panel of star-and-cross tiles adorning the walls of a palace like Takht-i Sulaiman (built in the 1270s), the only surviving Ilkhanid palace.


  • Title: Star-shaped tile with phoenix design
  • Date Created: 1292-1293
  • Location Created: Iran; probably Sultanabad
  • Physical Dimensions: H. 1.3 cm x Diam. 20.3 cm
  • Type: Ceramics
  • Medium: Glazed fritware with luster decoration
  • Credit Line: The Avery Brundage Collection, B60P2148

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