EBN BĀBAWAYH (Bābūya), family of Persian builders, luster potters, and tile makers, descended from the Shiʿite scholar Ebn Bābūya al-Ṣadūq (d. 382/991) and active in the 6th to 8th/12th to 14th centuries in central Persia. Several members are known.
1. Emām Jamāl-al-Dīn Bābūya Rāfeʿī, a builder (meʿmār), who in 572/1176-77 rebuilt the city walls of Qāzvīn and faced them with baked brick (Nozhat al-qolūb, ed. Le Strange, p. 58).
2. ʿAlī b. Aḥmad, a well-known luster potter who signed three important pieces: a medium meḥrāb dated 705/1305, taken from the Emāmzāda Yaḥyā at Varāmīn (St. Petersburg, Hermitage); a small meḥrāb tile (London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1527-1876), pair to the “Salting” meḥrāb; and a medium meḥrāb dated 713/1313-14 or 723/1323 (Watson, p. 179).
3. Ḥasan b. ʿAlī b. Aḥmad, son of the above, active in the early 8th/14th century. In Šawwāl 709/March 1310 he made a set of three luster tiles decorated with an epigraphic arch supporting a hanging lamp (New York, Metropolitan Museum, 09.87). The tiles were probably designed for the cenotaph in the tomb of Shaikh ʿAbd-al-Ṣamad at Naṭanz, for Ḥasan’s name is inscribed in interlaced Kufic on the capitals below the superb stucco inscription dated 707/1307-8 around the tomb. He may well have made the molded and carved units for the moqarnas dome in the tomb. He signed a stucco meḥrāb dated 736/1335-36 in the shrine of Emāmzāda Abu’l-Fażl wa Yaḥyā at Maḥallāt-e Bālā, a village twenty-five km from Delījān in central Persia (Wilber, p. 137, pls. 66-67). Its shallow and stiff carving and misspellings suggest that he was an old man by this point.
Sheila S. Blair, “A Medieval Persian Builder,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 45, 1986, pp. 389-95.
O. Watson, Persian Lustre Ware, London, 1985.
D. Wilber, The Architecture of Islamic Iran. The Ilkhanid Period, Princeton, 1955.
(Sheila S. Blair)
Originally Published: December 15, 1997
Last Updated: December 6, 2011
This article is available in print.
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