This was another one of my "rescues." For the last few decades these beautiful tiles with Mayan and Aztec motives were stuck in someone's garage, covered in dirt and spiders. When I cleaned them and laid them all out, I realized that this was no less than a complete fireplace mantel by Muresque.
Muresque Tiles (1925 - 1935) was a tile company in Oakland, CA, owned by William Muir. The company produced hand-pressed deep-relief tiles, and a lot of the designs were reminiscent of those by Claycraft and Batchelder. Most tiles were installed in fireplaces across the Bay Area.
This particular fireplace mantel is listed in Muresque Tiles catalog issued in 1930 as design No. 727 (page 56), and it appears that it was one of the largest mantels the company produced. It was certainly the most expensive at the time - $109.60 for a complete set of tiles.
The tiles are 1" thick, with incised designs, and have matte green glaze or stain inside the outlines. They are covered with varnish. Many of the tiles are marked with Muresque stamp on the back. It's clear from their condition that the fireplace was in use quite a bit as some of them have gained a smoke patina over the years. Unfortunately, whoever removed the tiles from the original installation wasn't particularly careful, and 4 out of 11 tiles have fairly significant damage. The largest tile of the mantel - the one that would have been installed over the shelf above the fireplace - is missing. However, the 11 tiles constitute a complete arch and the corbels.
- Dimensions: two 12 1/2" x 23 1/2", two 11" x 13 1/2", two 9 1/4" x 9 1/4", two 13 1/2" x 5 3/4", one 13 3/8" x 14 3/8", two 5 7/8" x 3 3/4" (corbels)
- Acquired: Soquel, California, August 2013