Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

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Semi-circular tile depicting Yusuf appearing before the women on Memphis

  • Description

    These tiles [EA1965.169 & EAX.3135] come from two different sets depicting the story of Yusuf and Zulaikha. Based on the twelfth sura (chapter) of the Qur’an, it originally derives from the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife in the Old Testament.

    In the Qur’anic version, Yusuf is a handsome slave in the service of an Egyptian man. His master’s wife, named Zulaikha in later literature, attempts to seduce him unsuccessfully.

    Both this single tile and the set depict the episode of Yusuf’s appearance before the women of Memphis. Overcome by his beauty, they faint or cut themselves with the knives they hold in their hands.

  • Details

    Associated place
    Asia Iran (place of creation)
    2nd half of the 19th century
    Qajar Period (1779 - 1925)
    Material and technique
    fritware, moulded and with polychrome underglaze painting
    31.5 x 64 x 4.5 cm max. (height x width x depth)
    Material index
    Technique index
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    No. of items
    Credit line
    Presented by H. Hibbert, 1965.
    Accession no.
  • Further reading

    Scarce, Jennifer M., ‘Yusuf and Zulaikha - Tilework Images of Passion’, James Allan, ed., Islamic Art in the Ashmolean Museum, Part Two, Oxford Studies in Islamic Art, 10 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), x.2, passim, illus. p. 67 fig. 5

Glossary (2)

fritware, underglaze painting

  • fritware

    Ceramic material composed of ground quartz and small quantities of clay and finely ground frit (frit is obtained by pouring molten glass into water).

  • underglaze painting

    Painting applied to ceramic material before a transparent, or monochrome or coloured glaze for Islamic objects, is applied. The technique was initially developed in China.


    • First floor | Room 31 | Islamic Middle East

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