Iznik pottery, named after the town in western Anatolia where it was made, is a decorated ceramic that was produced from the last quarter of the 15th century until the end of the 17th century. The town of İznik was an established centre for the production of simple earthenware pottery with an underglaze decoration when in the last quarter of the 15th century, craftsmen in the town began to manufacture high quality pottery with a fritware body painted with cobalt blue under a colourless transparent lead glaze. The meticulous designs combined traditional Ottoman arabesque patterns with Chinese elements. The change was almost certainly a result of the active intervention and patronage by the recently established Ottoman court in Istanbul who greatly valued Chinese blue and white porcelain. During the 16th century the decoration of the pottery gradually changed in style, becoming looser and more flowing. Additional colours were introduced.

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Iznik is in fact the name of a town previously known as Nicaea which lies some 90 kilometres southeast of Istanbul, and was the site of the potteries of the Ottoman Empire. A group of Iznik ceramics, purchased between and on the Greek Island of Rhodes by the Cluny Museum in Paris, led to a lasting misattribution of these wares to the island.

Excavations of the kilns at Iznik have since righted this misattribution, but many older publications will still refer to Rhodian ceramics. Are any rarer than others? Iznik vessels of all shapes and sizes were produced — for eating and serving food, and for functions relating to religious worship.

Of these, dishes, followed by jugs, are the most commonly found. Other forms occasionally come up for auction, but are rarer. The tiles we see coming to market are likely to have been the surplus of this large-scale production. An Iznik calligraphic pottery tile, Ottoman Turkey, circa Iznik can be dated quite precisely, largely on the basis of the colours and designs of specific works. The decoration is heavily informed by that of other media, such as manuscript illumination, although many designs are also borrowed from the Chinese porcelains that were prized at the Ottoman court.

Designs become simpler, but still frequently take Chinese motifs for inspiration. A blue and white hexagonal Iznik tile, Ottoman Turkey, circa Often large, round motifs with scale-like patterning are used in the decoration, which sometimes represents pomegranates or artichokes.

Increasingly, one sees the naturalistic design that comes to dominate production. Artists combine a rich repertoire of often naturalistic motifs. The Ottoman Empire is at its height and enormous quantities of Iznik are commissioned, including large numbers of tiles destined to cover the walls of the buildings built by the chief court architect, Sinan.

A strong turquoise, emerald-green, black and deep-red are added to the spectrum of colours, and outlines are often drawn in black. An Iznik pottery dish, Ottoman Turkey, circa Coarser versions of the productions of the previous century were produced, the colours of works deteriorated — with red often appearing slightly brown — and decoration became less detailed, more obviously executed freehand.

During this period, the quality of the paste and glaze also deteriorates, with the glaze taking on a bluish tone and becoming more prone to craquelure. Intact pieces can make significantly more than similar examples with repaired breaks. If a piece is repaired, the less loss of the original body, the better.

Often you will find small holes in the foot of a dish, drilled so that it could be hung. The red colour, made with Armenian bole an earthy clay should be thick and proud of the surface. Photographs can often misrepresent colours, particularly the white which is so crucial — ask for further images which may be taken in different light or, ideally, go and see a piece in person.

The reverse of a fine rimless Iznik pottery dish , showing old connection labels. Ottoman Turkey, c. A known or old collection can add to the attraction of a piece. Stickers or numbers on the underside of a piece often hold clues to the history. The old stickers on the back of the dish pictured above meant that we could trace its history all the way back to an auction held in Paris in March In the 19th century a trend for collecting Islamic works of art developed which in turn also became a source of inspiration for European craftsmen.

Production peaked when Iznik declined, and it is still produced today. Its wares are characteristically decorated in bright colours, including yellows and browns not familiar in Iznik. Kutahya had a large Armenian community, so the pottery produced there often incorporates Christian motifs. In London the British Museum hosts what is perhaps one of the best collections outside Turkey, with many examples that have really formed our understanding of the group.


Iznik : the pottery of Ottoman Turkey

These exquisite tiles and pottery represent the cultural and artistic zenith of the Ottoman Empire. The examples of these tiles and pottery are part of the best collections of museums in Turkey and around the world. Due to a number of reasons, the technical knowledge and documentation employed to create these tiles and pottery were unfortunately lost to mankind during the economic decline of the Ottoman Empire towards the end of 17th century. This art was passed on by the Master to apprentice or from father to son thus no record has been preserved. Beginning with the Seljuk era when "chini" tiles were used in architecture as decorative elements in buildings; this art was favoured by the Ottomans as well. Iznik pottery was the official gift of the Ottoman Palace to many other foreign dignitaries while the "chini" tiles were used in palaces, mosques and other edifices that have survived till today.


Iznik pottery

Overview: role of Chinese porcelain[ edit ] Left: Ming dynasty porcelain dish with grape design, Jingdezhen , China, — Right: Fritware dish with grape design, Iznik , Turkey, — Following the establishment of the Ottoman Empire in the early 14th century, Iznik pottery initially followed Seljuk Empire antecedents. After this initial period, Iznik vessels were made in imitation of Chinese porcelain , which was highly prized by the Ottoman sultans. As the potters were unable to make porcelain , the vessels produced were fritware , a low-fired body comprising mainly silica and glass. The originality of the potters was such that their use of Chinese originals has been described as adaptation rather than imitation.

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