The History of Islamic Tile Design


Islamic art can be defined as being an art with no geographical boundaries. It is, however, considered to be a theological art craft. The art style is commonly referred to as Islamic. It has been produced in many different geographical regions with diverse cultures, unified through the religion of Islam. Islamic religion forbids the representation of figures.


  • Islamic architecture is often extensively decorated with off-set brick, stucco and tile decorations. Some of the most famous Islamic tile work is exhibited in the interior of the mausoleum of Sultan Suleyman in Istanbul. The work originated in 1566. The exterior of the mausoleum of Tamerlane, the Gur Emir, at Smarkand is also beautifully tiled, dating back to 1434.

Tile History

  • The history of Iranian tile dates back to the prehistoric period. It holds an important position among the various decorative arts in Iranian architecture. The four main decorative features can be categorized here as well. They include stone carving, brick work, stucco and tile panels. Using an intricate method of manufacturing, design and the type of materials used in the four methods mentioned above, the methods have evolved as a result of natural factors, economical and political effects.

    During the early ages, such tiles were used to decorate monuments in Iran. Mosaic patterns were the first step in the evolution of tile decoration. Artisans who were both imaginative and creative put together mosaic patterns using bits of colored stone and brick, creating patterns of triangles, semi-circles and circles, all harmonized together with the structures they were placed on. Early examples of mosaic art can be found in the columns of temple art at Ubaid in Mesopotamia.

Before Tile Art

  • Before the tile art we know today, brick and stucco were the most important forms of art used in the decoration of buildings until the 10th and 11th centuries. By 11-12 CE, brick decoration had spread from the East throughout Iran. During this time period, the best examples of decoration were used in the mausoleums of Pir Alamadar in 1026 CE, Chehel Dokhtaran in 466 CE, and the Tower of Mihmandost in 1096 CE.

    During the next stage of development, the use of colored glaze was implemented in the decorative brick. Turquoise was the most popular color. Pieces of turquoise-glazed bricks were used within the decorative brick works.


  • There are many books that one can check out from the library or purchase to read more about the history of Islamic tile design. One book to check out is "The Art of the Islamic Tile." Written by Gerard Degeorg and Yves Porter, the book discusses the history of Islamic tile, providing broad information on Islamic architectural decoration, as well as all of the diversity.

Other Information

  • Other information pertaining to Islamic tile design is something referred to as the body technique. The secrets of the trade were guarded, orally handed down from father to son and master to student, thus rarely being documented. More simply defined, it is tile that is made of clay.

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