Iran, probably Kashan
Museum nos. 1487, 1489, 1837&A, C, E, F, 1838&C, E-1876, 1077, 1099&A, 1100&A-1892
These lustre tiles come from the tomb of a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad at Varamin near Tehran in Iran. This was a religious building and figural decoration was therefore inappropriate so the tiles are decorated with stylised plant motifs organised according to a geometric structure. Each tile is then bordered by quotations from the Qur'an. The shapes of the tiles – eight-pointed stars alternating with crosses – also form a geometric pattern, indeed one of the most characteristic geometric patterns used in the Islamic world. The star-and-cross framework spread to Europe, where it was used as the underlying structure of the Cappella Palatina ceiling in Palermo and the pavement of tiles from the Petrucci Palace in Siena, for example.