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Iznik Pottery (16th Century)

PEACOCK DISH,TURKEY, IZNIK, c. 1550.

PEACOCK DISH,TURKEY, IZNIK, c. 1550.

This Turkish dish is one of the finest examples of Iznik ceramics anywhere. Painted with a masterful flourish, both delicate and striking, it features one of the earliest known combinations of flora and fauna in art produced in the Muslim world. It was created during the zenith of the Ottoman Empire, which once ruled the lands from Central Europe to the Indian Ocean. Made and painted by hand, it is an outstanding example of what’s now known as the Golden Age of art produced under the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent.

This dish offers the viewer a complex vegetal composition combining elements from the saz repertoire – long serrated leaves, composite flowers and buds – with a more naturalistic style of plant motif – artichoke stems in bloom, flowers with swirling petals, tulips, and perhaps delicate violets. In the center is an errant peacock, lost in this fantastic garden.

The decoration is exceptional in all respects: a subtle harmony of blue, turquoise, and pink monochromes, accentuated by the dark green color of the outlines; a surface made uniform through a composition that runs unbroken onto the flange; the superimposing of vegetal forms to create a three-dimensional effect. Most of the vegetal motifs, and the palette of hues, may be seen on other Ottoman ceramic wares from the 1540s and 1550s. Alongside the elements specific to the saz style blooms a more naturalistic style of vegetation: the thick central stem bearing an artichoke flower with a fish-scale pattern can be found on a series of dishes attributed to between 1540 and 1545; as for the tulips, they are to be seen on many dishes from the middle of the century, including pieces ascribed to the circle of the artist Musli; the dainty violets, executed in the same color as the tulips, are more rarely found in ceramics and herald the violets that graced the margins of the Divan-i Muhibbi (1566) overseen by the illuminator Kara Memi. While it is an accepted fact that workshops of the city of Iznik could produce very high quality works, the extreme finesse of this dish and the mastery of its composition also suggest a production from Istanbul, linked to the palace craftsmen (elh-i hiref). Istanbul archives attest to close links existing between the ceramists and ornamentalists working in the palace workshops, and it is highly probably that there was a production outlet in Istanbul itself. The choice of the peacock is therefore perhaps not without significance here: in the Persian culture that spread to the Ottoman court the bird is a symbol of royalty and power.


 

AN IZNIK POLYCHROME POTTERY DISH, TURKEY, CIRCA 1575

AN IZNIK POLYCHROME POTTERY DISH, TURKEY, CIRCA 1575

Of deep rounded form with bracketed rim, decorated in underglaze blue, viridian green, relief red, outlined in pale greyish-black, with tulips and roses emanating from a leafy tuft, the rim with breaking wave pattern, the reverse with alternating floral motifs.

This dish displays the characteristics of the first period of Iznik vessels produced with underglaze red. In several ways, it represents a transitional phase in which the decorators of Iznik drew on established practices whilst learning how to use the red to greatest effect (Atasoy and Raby 1989, p.230). The flowers, notably the long-stemmed tulips, sway in a style that is continued from the so-called ‘Damascus’ dishes, a style that was in keeping with that favoured in illumination by the then court artist Kara Memi. The grassy tuft from which an array of Ottoman flowers emerge was also his invention (ibid., p.222). The grey-green of this piece was phased out after this decade to be replaced by a richer emerald green which was able to establish a more equitable colour balance with the red.

Similar bowls depicting a spray of tulips and roses, the rim with a breaking wave pattern, appear in the same volume, p.222, especially nos.481 and 484. The first was sold at Sotheby’s, 9 Oct. 1979, Lot 85, and the other is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Comparable pieces are in the Musée National de la Renaissance, published in Hitzel and Jacotin 2005, p.140, no.152, and the Gulbenkian Museum, shown in Ribeiro 1996, no.52.


 

A LARGE IZNIK POLYCHROME DISH, TURKEY, CIRCA 1580

A LARGE IZNIK POLYCHROME DISH, TURKEY, CIRCA 1580

of deep rounded form, decorated in underglaze cobalt blue, pale turquoise, and relief red and outlined in black, with a central foliate motif issuing sprays of rosettes, a large carnation and a tulip, the rim with breaking wave pattern, the reverse with alternating circular and floral motifs.

Dishes comparable in shape and size, depicting full red roses with sinuous stems, speckled tulips and almondine leaves with serrated edges, and rimmed with the breaking wave pattern, are published in Atasoy and Raby, Iznik: the Pottery of Ottoman Turkey, 1989, p.232, nos.415 and 418; both sold through Sotheby’s: 20 Apr. 1983, lot 158 and 27 Apr. 1981, lot 238, respectively.

Other related pieces are in the Musée National de la Renaissance, published in Hitzel and Jacotin, Iznik, Paris, 2005, nos.142 and 152.


 

A RARE IZNIK POTTERY DISH WITH LION DESIGN, TURKEY

A RARE IZNIK POTTERY DISH WITH LION DESIGN, TURKEY, SECOND HALF 16TH CENTURY

of deep rounded form, decorated in underglaze cobalt blue, viridian green and relief red, outlined in black, with a lion surrounded by tulips and hyacinth flowers, the rim with circular and spiral motifs, the reverse with alternating floral motif.

A large, deep bowl depicting an advancing lion and rimmed with a breaking wave pattern, is in the Gulbenkian Museum (inv. no.853) published in Ribeiro 1996, pp.248-9, no.88. A dish showing lions with round eyes and lobed snouts in the style of the Sotheby’s piece is in the Musée National de la Renaissance, published in Hitzel and Jacotin 2005, p.282, no.417. Two tankards with similar lions appear in Atasoy and Raby 1989, p.257, nos.543 and 545, in the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, respectively.


 

AN IZNIK POLYCHROME POTTERY DISH, TURKEY, CIRCA 1580

AN IZNIK POLYCHROME POTTERY DISH, TURKEY, CIRCA 1580

of shallow rounded form, decorated in underglaze cobalt blue, pale turquoise, dark relief red, outlined in black and olive green, with a symmetrical design of hyacinths and rosettes issuing from curving stems, emanating from a leafy tuft in a vase, the narrow rim with breaking wave pattern, the reverse with alternating bouquets and rosettes.

One of a rare group of elegant, rimless dishes. Two with sprays of ornate flowers and leaves are published in Atasoy and Raby, Iznik: the Pottery of Ottoman Turkey, as nos.351 and 352, in the Louvre and an American private collection, respectively. A shallow rimless dish with flowers painted in shades of blue and sage was sold at Sotheby’s in 2008 (Sale L08220, Lot 310). Two examples with designs of tulips and roses are in the Gulbenkian Museum, published in Maria Queiroz Ribeiro, Louças Iznik: Iznik Pottery, 1996, pp.168-9, no.44 and pp.170-1, no.45.


 

AN IZNIK POLYCHROME CINTAMANI DISH, TURKEY, CIRCA 1580

AN IZNIK POLYCHROME CINTAMANI DISH, TURKEY, CIRCA 1580

of deep rounded form, decorated in underglaze blue, pale viridian green, relief red, outlined in brownish-black on an off-white ground, with rosettes stemming from a large palmette on a ground of cintamani pattern, with traces of gold leaf, the rim decorated with alternating pairs of tulips and flowers, the reverse with a repeating decorative motif.

On a number of Iznik dishes, a fabulous blossom surrounded by flowering stems appears on a field of minute cintamani rendered as cloud scrolls. Some are published in Atasoy and Raby 1989, p.238-9, including pieces in the British Museum and the V & A. The cintamani is also adapted as an allover floral pattern on two dishes in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, published in Ribeiro 1996, p.96, no.3 and p.122, no.16.


 

AN IZNIK POLYCHROME POTTERY DISH, TURKEY, CIRCA 1585

AN IZNIK POLYCHROME POTTERY DISH, TURKEY, CIRCA 1585

of rounded form with flattened sloping rim, painted in underglaze cobalt blue, bole red, copper green outlined in black with a central stylised eightpetalled flowerhead set within a blue ground roundel, the cavetto with stiff lotus petal panels on a green ground, the rim with a breaking wave border, the back with cloud scrolls and leaves, footring drilled for suspension, old French exhibition label on the underside.


 

AN IZNIK POLYCHROME POTTERY DISH, TURKEY, CIRCA 1600

AN IZNIK POLYCHROME POTTERY DISH, TURKEY, CIRCA 1600

of deep rounded form, decorated in underglaze blue, pale turquoise, black and dark relief red, outlined in black on an off-white ground, a footed ewer at the centre with a palmette on a red ground, encircled by a garland of saz and composite palmettes, the rim with breaking wave pattern, the reverse with alternating rosette and wave motif.

An earlier example with similar ewer motif can be found on a dish dated circa 1575, now in the Musée Nationale de Céramique, Sèvres (inv.no. 22695; see Hitzel & Jacotin 2005, p.314).


 

A LARGE IZNIK POLYCHROME POTTERY JUG, TURKEY, CIRCA 1575

A LARGE IZNIK POLYCHROME POTTERY JUG, TURKEY, CIRCA 1575

with pyriform body and flaring neck, on slightly everted foot, an S-shaped handle attached at the rim and shoulder, decorated under the glaze in cobalt blue, bole red and apple green outlined in black with pomegranite cartouches enclosing small floral bouquets framed in prunus wreaths repeated in miniature on the neck, minor chain bands at the mouth, shoulder and above the foot, the handle with blue stripes.

This beautiful piece is a fine example of the larger and rarer version of the Iznik jug which has a pear-shaped body and flaring trumpet-shaped mouth.


 

AN IZNIK POLYCHROME POTTERY JUG, TURKEY, CIRCA 1575

AN IZNIK POLYCHROME POTTERY JUG, TURKEY, CIRCA 1575

the body of bulbous form on an everted foot, with high cylindrical slightly flaring neck, an S-shaped handle attached at the rim and shoulder,
decorated under the glaze in cobalt blue, bole red and apple green outlined in black with a glide repeat design of sprays of flowers and a splitpalmette arabesque between minor bands, the design repeated in miniature on the neck, the handle with blue stripes.


 

AN IZNIK POLYCHROME POTTERY JUG, TURKEY, CIRCA 1575

AN IZNIK POLYCHROME POTTERY JUG, TURKEY, CIRCA 1575

the body of globular form on an everted foot, with high cylindrical slightly flaring neck, an S-shaped handle attached at the rim and shoulder, decorated under the glaze in cobalt blue, bole red and apple green outlined in black with sprays of roses and rosettes interspersed with cloud scrolls, the design repeated in miniature on the neck, minor bands of scrolls and darts, the handle with blue stripes.

 

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