First quarter of the 17th century
Stonepaste, painted and polychrome glazed
41 x 74 x 2 ½ in
Iran, Safavid period
Currently in the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gardens provided an environment for pleasure in the Islamic world. As Shah’ Abbas I transformed the city of Isfahan into his capital, he invested much money in creating a garden district. This scene is composed of thirty two glazed tiles, each 8 ⅞ x 8 ⅞. A lively scene, these tiles show five figures lounging in a garden bursting with life. The woman in the center lounges back against a pillow as another figure holds out a lavish textile for her to see. Each of the women are draped in highly decorated fabrics of black, yellow, blue, and green which reflect the main colors of the panel. Whereas some elements of the panel’s color are naturalistic, such as the green seen in the grass, the blue of the sky, and the yellow of some of the flowers, other colors are not. The trees and many plants in this image are colored in a bright blue that, while not naturalistic, evokes a decorative aspect of the painting and helps to unify the colors of the piece. Additionally, each individual flower is distinguished from the rest and there is some semblance of anatomical exactitude in the way in which each of the plants was painted. This shows the attention to detail that Islamic artists gave to plants, which held an important place in Islamic society.
This work helps to show the importance and prestige that was associated with gardens. As the lounging women exhibit, gardens were a place of relaxation and pleasure. It is most likely that these panels would have been found on the wall of a garden pavilion, providing a mirror to the surrounding environment (The Met).