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[‛Alī Muḥammad Iṣfahānī ibn Ustād Mahdī]

(fl 1870s–1888).

Persian potter and tilemaker. Trained as a mason in Isfahan, he probably followed his father’s trade and chose to specialize in making pottery and tiles. His experiments making tiles that imitated the fine work produced under the Safavids (reg 1501–1732), when Isfahan was the capital of Iran, caught the attention of Major-General Robert Murdoch Smith, director of the Persian Telegraph Department and collector of Persian art, and in 1884 Murdoch Smith ordered wall tiles from ‛Ali Muhammad. The potter soon moved to Tehran, seat of the Qajar court (reg 1779–1924), where he established a workshop at the gate of the Shahzada ‛Abd al-‛Azim. Several large tiles made for the royal music master in 1884–5 (540×427 mm; London, V&A, 511.1889, 512.1889) depicting young men reading poetry in an orchard imitate Safavid work of the 17th century. Seven smaller tiles datable 1884–7 (470×340 mm; Edinburgh, R. Harvey-Jamieson priv. col.) show a more evolved style in which black is used as an incised slip and figures are moulded in relief. The tiles depict scenes from Persian literature such as Shirin and Farhad at Mt Bisitun, and royal receptions, but the faces and dress are in typical Qajar style. ‛Ali Muhammad’s mature style is seen in 12 tiles (...