Brick panel with inserted stucco tiles
Among the elements of architectural decoration found in the palace of Mas‘ud III there are numerous panelings (approx. 200 finds) characterized by the combination of baked brick with stucco, of which this piece is a representative example. The baked bricks are placed sideways and bedded on a layer of mortar, the latter being distributed on a base of baked bricks laid down flat. The arrangement of the bricks generates several geometric patterns which constitute lodgings for the embedding of stucco tiles; the latter, in various sizes and shapes, are mostly characterized by a vegetal decoration, the epigraphic one being less frequently used (the word Allah is the only documented one). The tiles are generally molded directly in loco, after inserting the stucco in the designed slots. The color palette of the paint coating is common to the rest of the architectural decoration in both brick and stucco: the surface of the brick in yellow-ocher, its contours in red and the tiles in blue and red. The size of this fragment suggests it was originally part of a big paneling. This evidence is further confirmed by the discovery in situ of fragments of the same type that covered the entire top section of the elevations of the palace antechambers overlooking the central court, above the marble dado (see No. 2) and in line with the wall. Coatings realized with the same technique are also attested in the palace on leaning columns and squinches. The great quantity of fragments of this type unearthed by the excavations and their retrieval in different rooms suggest they were frequently used in the decoration of the palace during the late-Ghaznavid dwelling phase. A similar panel was found in situ in the presence chamber of the southern palace of Lashkar-i Bazar. The presence of two fragments made only of stucco, bearing the same decorations featuring geometric patterns and tiles, could be suggestive of a substitution of elements in baked brick and stucco during the Ghurid restoration and dwelling phase. This decorative style is widely used in the Islamic art of the eastern territories of the 12th century, both simply in stucco and as a combination of baked brick and stucco.