Stealing the star tiles from Khargird?

The Khargerd madreseh

I’ve always wanted to know exactly when (and how) the famous star tiles were taken off the Khargird madreseh. You can see some of the tiles in London (in the V&A and also in the British Museum); in the Met in New York; and in the David Museum in Copenhagen. If you have (lots of) spare cash, you might even be able to buy one: Christies sold one for $64,000 in 2004; and another one for more than $50K in 2005.

In 1894, Yate – the same man who had witnessed the wanton destruction of another masterpiece by the same architect – wrote of how the madreseh was “defaced by time and weather, but much was still perfect”. He commented that “as mosaic work cannot be taken out and carried away like tiles, it ought to remain as long as wind and weather permit”.

View up into the iwan: the gaps are where the star tiles were taken from

By 1905, however, the British consul Sykes noted that the (non-mosaic?) tiles had “almost all been removed”; although he was then able to buy some in nearby Mashhad.

When you look closely at Sykes’ lantern slides (now in the British Museum collection), maybe he was closer to the thieves than he knew – or perhaps let on.

In one of his slides (click here), you can see a sort of  ‘scaffolding’ in one of the iwans. I’ve included one of my modern pictures here, with very similar ‘gaps’ in the tiling.

Could the ‘frame’ in Sykes’ picture be the one that the thieves must have used to climb up when they removed the tiles?


Click here to see my little film showing you round the madreseh – and here to read Renata Holod’s article on the building.

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