Wednesday, October 26, 2011
The Mongol Ilkhanid rulers of Iran had strong ties with eastern Asia, and that facilitated the exchange of people and goods across the continent. As a result, Persian art produced under Ilkhanid rule often includes newly imported motifs. The soaring phoenix was a favorite subject of rulers in China, and its use in late 13th-century Iran suggests that Ilkhanid artists had adopted Chinese models.
This Chinese symbol of royalty was well-known by the Ilkhanid rulers. In the hands of the Persian artists, it became a representation of their own mythical bird, the simurgh. The fact that this one tile can be interpreted one of two ways—either as a dragon or as a simurgh—indicated the cosmopolitan and hybrid nature of the Ilkhanid court. The tile was purchased by the Museum in 1912.