Lokum for the eyes: iznik tiles

I must admit that Middle Asians are blessed with an eye for detail. Modern Turkey is still the home of fine textiles, beautiful ceramics and extraordinary craftsmanship of jewelry and interior pieces. Iznik tiles are among the most exquisite pieces of art, decorating both the mosques and palaces of Istanbul and the finest of collections in museums across the world.

The beauty and importance of Iznik tiles grew together with the power and prosperity of the Ottoman empire. Ottoman sultans, great lovers of Chinese porcelain desired to flood their mosques and palaces with the brothers and sisters replicas of their Chinese pieces. In contrast with other countries which created cheep looking imitations of the Chinese porcelain, the Ottoman possessed both the artistic eye and skill to produce wonderful extensions- Seljuk Turks are known to be involved in the production of ceramics since 100 B.C. Over the centuries they have perfected the style to such an extent to stand on the same level with their Chinese contemporaries.

The style of the Iznik tile evolved throughout the years depending on the changing desires and projects commissioned by the court, the discovery of new colors such as the coral red and adaptations to different techniques such as the Cuerda Seca from Spain. The dominant themes on the tiles are floral, natural with free hand artistic strokes, also common in Islamic Calligraphy. Depending on the period and dominant external influence, sometimes simplified patterns of fish and rabbits were used as well. According to the Koran the use of human images is forbidden, hence the abundant use of beautiful floral design in Mosques.

The Iznik tiles are all over Topkapi palace as well. Sultan Selim I commissioned many Iznik artisans to decorate the entire palace with the tiles. The most beautiful example of this is the Harem, which is delicate, feminine and floral. The combination of cobalt and turquoise beautifully pairs against the white background, although inspired by Chinese porcelain, provides the impression of a unique character reflective of the Ottoman style.

Iznik tile production seized by the end of the 17th century and it is incredibly difficult to find authentic pieces today because most of the pieces produced after the 17th century are significantly lower in quality. Most of the pieces from the later periods were created to be exported to other countries in the Middle East or in Greece as Sultans commissioned less and less artisans for domestic projects.

I am sharing some photographs with Iznik tiles from the Harem in Topkapi palace and the Blue mosque because I find them splendid, romantic and poetic, just like experience Istanbul. What do you think about Iznik tiles? Post a comment here or tweet @indigomemoirs

3 responses to “Lokum for the eyes: iznik tiles

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