These tiles most probably came from Lahore, one of the principal centres of cuerda seca tile manufacture and home to some of the greatest Mughal monuments constructed under the patronage of Emperors Jahangir (1605-27) and Shah Jahan (1628-58). The cuerda seca technique uses a ‘resist’ application between the colours which gives a distinct separation between them and clarity of line that is particularly effective on architectural decoration. Robert Skelton has made the observation that “[…] even in recent times, the makers of glazed tiles (kashigars) have been Muslims whereas Hindu builders (sutradhars) have restricted themselves to working with unglazed terra-cotta” (Arts of India, 1550-1900, ed. J. Guy and D. Swallow, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1990, p. 46).
It is uncommon for Mughal cuerda-seca tiles and tile-panels such as the present example to appear on the market which makes these from Hodgkin's collection even more exceptional. In light of the artist’s passion for India, it follows that he should have amassed such a beautiful group. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has a large collection of Indian cuerda seca tiles, most of which came from Richard Poyser, Veterinary Major, Army Veterinary Department, Meert, NWP. Published on the museum’s website is an interesting anecdote on the way in which the group was acquired by the Lieutenant-Colonel, and is very telling of their origin: “On his return to England in 1898 as Lieutenant-Colonel, he wrote to Caspar Purdon Clarke, Director of the South Kensington Museum, 'I may add for your private information, that the old Indian tiles, which took me nearly 7 years to collect & which, as you are aware, are exceedingly difficult to obtain for many reasons, all came - excepting two - from Lahore & its neighbourhood where the tombs still stand to which they belonged, & some details will be found on the back of each & of an authentic nature.”