HT Image
HT Image

The utter romance of an antique tile

The very first exhibition and sale of ceramic tiles (10,000 of them, sourced over two years from old Indian buildings) will be on in Delhi in August, as the annual fundraiser for the NGO, People for Animals. Renuka Narayanan writes.
By Renuka Narayanan | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JUL 11, 2008 11:35 PM IST

The very first exhibition and sale of ceramic tiles (10,000 of them, sourced over two years from old Indian buildings) will be on in Delhi in August, as the annual fundraiser for the NGO, People for Animals. Chintzy English roses, Portuguese and Dutch fruit baskets, German-made Ravi Varma-patterned Hindu deities, Islamic motifs: they’re all there, as mute, beautiful witness to a global obsession with this particular mode of insulation and decorative surface-cladding. Today an antique hand-painted tile can cost as much as USD 400. What makes it so collectibly delightful?

Antique tiles, like handfans or snuffboxes, are like focused beauty spots. They can be displayed individually or grouped in a striking cluster or used as subtle, powerful accents. Seeing a lovely old tile is like suddenly spotting a rare wildflower while out on a walk. Seeing a whole building covered with them is splendid majolica overload. (‘Majolica’ is the Italian word for the imported Islamic tiles from which medieval Europe developed its own ceramic style). Two of the most incontestably brilliant examples of tilework on the planet are the Jami Masjid piazza in Isfahan (Iran) and Registan Square in Samarkand (Uzbekistan). Their old rose, pinks, greens, yellows and of course, the blues are dazzling and beautiful beyond belief.

The global fondness for antique tiles is all the more intriguing because of their lack of ‘perfection’ They are frequently chipped or exhibit fine, spidery cracks or betray a splash on the side where the tilemaker’s brush slipped and his paint ran over the edge.

There may even be a faint burn or sooty furnace mark. Antique tiles are also usually thicker than all-of-a-kind, impersonal modern, industrial ones. Also, old glazes made of oxides and leads have a more jewel-like ‘depth’ to them than the flatter colours of the mass process.

Egypt, Iraq and China were the tile centres of the ancient world: one beautiful example of ‘Cheeni’ found in India is at the old Jewish synagogue in Kochi, where the floor is laid with blue-and-white Cantonese tiles of which no two are alike, contributed in 1762 by Ezekiel Rahabi, a merchant-diplomat with the Dutch East India Company: I think my own tile mania began there as a little girl.

It was medieval Iran, however, that became the mother of refined, decorative tiles, imparting her techniques to Europe, while great Central Asian cities like Bukhara and Samarkand also grew to be tiled wonders. Indeed, you could compare the last two to a taaus and a bulbul, Persian for ‘peacock’ and ‘nightingale’.

Samarkand, with its purple, green and blue wonders is the in-your-face peacock. Bukhara Sharief, ‘Noble Bukhara’, which still owns up to a ‘Hindu Caravanserai’ where the old kaafilas from Hind converged near the covered, domed market — Bukhara, with its graceful, understated Samanid terracotta monuments is the nightingale, seeming to hide behind understatement but subtly piercing the human heart with its exquisite beauty: differing ‘tile personalities’.

In India, forts in Punjab, Bengal, Bundelkhand and Rajputana show energetic tilework, with the incorrigible desi twist of a lotus, kalasha (pot of plenty), kalpavriksha (wishing tree) or chakra (wheel) motif.

Meanwhile, Babar raved about Gwalior Fort as ‘the pearl among the fortresses of Hind’ on account of its 15th century Man Mandir palace, made by Raja Man Singh, also called the ‘Chit Mandir’ (painted palace) for its multi-coloured animal and flower-patterned tiles.

Soon after, when the Portuguese took over Goa, ‘azulejo’ (from the Arabic ‘al zulayi’ or ‘burnished stone’) became the decorative rage, even on temples. By colonial times you had Dutch ‘Delft blue’ and English Wedgwood and sure enough an Englishman (called Minton) developed a patent and the age of the ornate, handmade tile cracked and crumbled away quietly.

What we see then in a show like this one in India are charming pieces of the past including samples of whimsy like tile transfers of sepia photos of Lord and Lady Dufferin (past Viceroy and Vicereine: perhaps they escaped from our navy’s training ship Dufferin?). You, dear reader, have plenty meanwhile to see. Check out www.peopleforanimalsindia.org for details.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
Sakhi, a one-stop centre in Srinagar.(ANI)
Sakhi, a one-stop centre in Srinagar.(ANI)

Srinagar sets up one-stop centre to help women in distress

ANI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 05:22 PM IST
The one-stop centre is a completely centrally sponsored scheme under the Nirbhaya Fund.
Close
Representational Image.
Representational Image.

Uttarakhand assembly polls a yr away, BJP starts prep; Cong faces infighting

By HT Correspondent | Edited by Smriti Sinha
UPDATED ON JAN 18, 2021 05:12 PM IST
Uttarakhand BJP president Bansidhar Bhagat has formed a five-member committee under the leadership of Rajya Sabha member Naresh Bansal for preparing a road map for the 2022 elections
Close
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ram Kadam looks on as his supporters blacken the faces of actors on the poster of Amazon Prime Video's web series Tandav during a protest in Mumbai on Monday.(ANI)
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ram Kadam looks on as his supporters blacken the faces of actors on the poster of Amazon Prime Video's web series Tandav during a protest in Mumbai on Monday.(ANI)

Tandav over Tandav: Why Amazon’s political drama ignited a firestorm

Reported by Aditi PrasadEdited by Meenakshi Ray, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 05:12 PM IST
The controversy over Tandav once again raises the age-old debate about freedom of expression versus moral policing and censorship.
Close
Representational image. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Representational image. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

BSF constable kills self with service rifle in Tripura

By Priyanka Deb Barman
UPDATED ON JAN 18, 2021 05:08 PM IST
A Border Security Force constable allegedly shot himself with his service rifle in Khowai District of
Close
BJP's Shahnawaz Hussain (left) will replace Sushil Modi in the legislative council after the latter's election to the Rajya Sabha while VIP chief Mukesh Sahni (right) will replace Vinod Narayan Jha who had won the assembly election.(HT PHOTO)
BJP's Shahnawaz Hussain (left) will replace Sushil Modi in the legislative council after the latter's election to the Rajya Sabha while VIP chief Mukesh Sahni (right) will replace Vinod Narayan Jha who had won the assembly election.(HT PHOTO)

Shahnawaz Hussain, Mukesh Sahni set to become Bihar MLCs unopposed

PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 05:00 PM IST
  • No other person has filed nomination against Shahnawaz Hussain and Mukesh Sani in view of the obvious majority of the National Democratic Alliance in the state legislature
Close
A teacher takes a class in a Delhi school. Schools in the national capital reopened for students of classes 10 and 12 on Monday. (PTI)
A teacher takes a class in a Delhi school. Schools in the national capital reopened for students of classes 10 and 12 on Monday. (PTI)

Scale down deployment of teachers on Covid-19 duty: Delhi dy CM Manish Sisodia

UPDATED ON JAN 18, 2021 04:54 PM IST
As schools in the Capital reopened, several principals had expressed concerns of managing classes as teachers remained deployed on Covid-19 duty
Close
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ram Kadam and supporters blackening the face of actors of Amazon Web Series Tandava's poster during a protest in Mumbai.(ANI Photo)
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ram Kadam and supporters blackening the face of actors of Amazon Web Series Tandava's poster during a protest in Mumbai.(ANI Photo)

News updates from Hindustan Times: FIR against makers of web series Tandav

By hindustantimes.com
PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 04:52 PM IST
Here are today’s top news, analysis, and opinion. Know all about the latest news and other news updates from Hindustan Times
Close
Many lawyers practicing in district courts welcomed the decision and said that it will heal the lawyers of trial court who had suffered financially due to limited hearing in the courts.(HT archive)
Many lawyers practicing in district courts welcomed the decision and said that it will heal the lawyers of trial court who had suffered financially due to limited hearing in the courts.(HT archive)

Physical hearing on alternate basis resumes in Delhi district courts

ANI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 04:51 PM IST
The subordinate Courts have also been permitted to record evidence (except in those cases where the accused is in custody) while scrupulously adhering to the norms of social distancing when holding Courts physically.
Close
Arrested computer hacker and cyber criminal with handcuffs, close up of hands (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Arrested computer hacker and cyber criminal with handcuffs, close up of hands (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Man arrested for running fictitious firms to aid businesses evade GST: Officials

PTI, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 04:47 PM IST
Investigation conducted so far has revealed 46 firms to be fictitious which were being controlled by Kumar and his associate.
Close
Taking note of the submission, the court disposed of the petition as not pressed.(HT File Photo)
Taking note of the submission, the court disposed of the petition as not pressed.(HT File Photo)

Amitabh Bachchan voice removed from Covid-19 awareness caller tune: HC told

PTI, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 04:39 PM IST
The submission was made before a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh by the petitioner who said that with the removal of the actor's voice from the caller tune his plea has become infructuous.
Close
Tandav has a big star cast with actor Saif Ali Khan playing one of the lead roles. (File photo)
Tandav has a big star cast with actor Saif Ali Khan playing one of the lead roles. (File photo)

FIR registered in UP against makers of web series ‘Tandav’

By HT Correspondents | Edited by Smriti Sinha
UPDATED ON JAN 18, 2021 04:41 PM IST
A case has also been registered against the producer of web series ‘Mirzapur’ and Amazon Prime for hurting religious sentiments and social beliefs in Mirzapur district of eastern UP
Close
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) volunteers perform a salute towards the RSS flag. (Representational photo/HT)
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) volunteers perform a salute towards the RSS flag. (Representational photo/HT)

RSS decision-making body to hold annual meet in Bengaluru

PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 04:13 PM IST
The annual meeting, which will have in attendance the RSS brass and leaders of its 40-plus affiliates including the Bharatiya Janata Party president, was cancelled last year on account of the pandemic
Close
Union minister Nitin Gadkari interacts with media after a meeting on the ongoing projects in Maharashtra, in Mumbai, (PTI)
Union minister Nitin Gadkari interacts with media after a meeting on the ongoing projects in Maharashtra, in Mumbai, (PTI)

Before 2025, we aim to bring down road accidents by 50%: Nitin Gadkari

ANI
PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 04:12 PM IST
Highlighlight the achievements of the Ministry, he said, "We have achieved the target of constructing 30 kilometres of road per day. I believe that by the end of March, perhaps we will achieve the target of constructing 40 kilometres of road per day."
Close
Police said that the family has not filed any case yet.(HT representative photo )
Police said that the family has not filed any case yet.(HT representative photo )

16-year-old girl's body with throat slit found in Rajasthan's Barmer

PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 04:10 PM IST
Family members and locals have alleged that the minor was raped, but police said it could be confirmed only after the post-mortem.
Close
Shyam Saran Negi, believed to be India's oldest voter at 103 years of age, shows his inked finger after casting vote for Panchayat elections, at Kalpa in Kinnaur.(PTI)
Shyam Saran Negi, believed to be India's oldest voter at 103 years of age, shows his inked finger after casting vote for Panchayat elections, at Kalpa in Kinnaur.(PTI)

India's first voter, ex-school teacher: Shyam Saran Negi has never missed an ele

By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Mallika Soni
PUBLISHED ON JAN 18, 2021 04:07 PM IST
Negi has voted in every general election since 1951 and is believed to be India's oldest voter.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP