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A flat, lusterware tile that is in the shape of an eight pointed star. It is brown and tan colored with white lines outlining a seated figure in the center.

A flat, lusterware tile that is in the shape of an eight pointed star and shown on a white background. It is irregularly colored brown and tan with some wear along the pointed ends. At the center of the tile are white lines depicting a figure sitting cross-legged with their left hand reaching out to the viewer’s left. The figure has brown dots all over their clothes and they have a brown headpiece that covers the sides of their head. There are white line that follows the inner frame of the star shape.

Gallery Text

Perhaps the most important contribution of Muslim potters, the application of luster to a ceramic surface was not limited to vessels. As early as the ninth century, this costly technique was applied to wall tiles to distinguish parts of buildings. In the eastern Islamic lands during the medieval era, the use of colored tiles — decorated with luster but with other techniques as well — increased in complexity and scope. In both religious and secular buildings, large surface areas came to be sheathed in brilliant ceramic revetments. The use of glazed ceramics for architectural decoration continued into the early modern era, culminating in the great monuments of the Safavid and Ottoman Empires.

The luster tiles gathered here would have been integrated into the decoration of buildings of the Seljuk-Atabeg (1037–c. 1220) and Ilkhanid (1256–1335) periods. Although the star tiles bear self-contained designs, they were intended to interlock with cruciform tiles in a grid. Three of the tiles feature inscriptions. The two large stars, which were probably intended for the interior of a religious shrine, reproduce verses from the Qurʾan in Arabic. The tile with figural imagery bears fragments of poetry in Persian, demonstrating the revival of Persian as a literary language in the medieval era.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Luster Star Tile with Seated Figure
Architectural Elements
Work Type
architectural element
12th-13th century
Creation Place: Middle East, Iran, Kashan
Seljuk-Atabeg period
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2550, Art from Islamic Lands, The Middle East and North Africa
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Physical Descriptions

14 cm (5 1/2 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Denman Waldo Ross, Cambridge, MA, (by 1923), gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1923.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Dr. Denman W. Ross
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Label text from exhibition “Re-View,” an overview of objects drawn from the collections of Harvard Art Museums, 26 April 2008 – 1 July 2013; label text written by Mary McWilliams, Norma Jean Calderwood Curator of Islamic and Later Indian Art, Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art:

Star Tile with Seated Figure Surrounded by Spiraling Vine
Iran, Kashan, Saljuq-Atabeg period, late 12th–early 13th century
Fritware with luster painting over glaze
Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Dr. Denman W. Ross, 1923.139

Publication History

  • Stanley Ferber, ed., Islam and the Medieval West: A Loan Exhbition at the University Art Gallery April 6-May 4, 1975, University of New York (Binghamton, NY, 1975), fig. 41 a.

Exhibition History

  • Islamic Art From the Collections of the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 08/01/1974
  • Pattern and Purpose. Decorative Arts of Islam., Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 02/19/1994 - 07/03/1994
  • Overlapping Realms: Arts of the Islamic World and India, 900-1900, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 12/02/2006 - 03/23/2008
  • Re-View: Arts of India & the Islamic Lands, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/26/2008 - 06/01/2013
  • 32Q: 2550 Islamic, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Verification Level

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at