City of Iznik has an important place both in Roman and Ottoman history. Roman Emperor Constantine gathered the first consul in this city, known as Nicaea at the time, in order to establish the early principles of Christianity. During the Ottoman period, the same city was famous for its Iznik tiles.
Iznik became an Ottoman city in 1331. As a center of pottery even before the Ottoman rule, it became even more famous during the Ottoman period as the city with the highest quality tiles. Pottery workshops in Iznik adopted Islamic art in their works with the rule of Ottomans.
The period when the production capacity and workforce quality peaked was during the 16th century, the area which was the apex of classical period Ottoman architecture. It is believed that Mimar Sinan guided the workshops in this glorious period.
History and Facts about the Iznik Tiles
Although Iznik became famous for its tiles later on, tiles that decorated the mausoleums, mosques and palaces in the early Ottoman period were not yet Iznik tiles.
Ottomans were important importers Chinese ceramic and Chinese porcelain were used in the palace for protocol. Since Chinese civilization were very much advanced in pottery, influence of Chinese motifs can be observed in the early period of production in Ottomans.
Similarly, in the early periods, Tabriz pottery (Iranian) influence can be seen in historical artefacts. Craftsman from Tabriz contributed to the structures in the earlier capitals Bursa and Edirne.
After the conquest of Istanbul, an empire style was established with the encouragement of Mehmed The Conqueror. Ottomans managed to create a harmony in tiles out of different styles just like they did for carpet and calligraphy.
The person who combined the Chinese style called Hatayi and Byzantine style called Rumi and adopted a new one is called Baba Nakkaş. After this period, Iznik tile started to earn fame.
Another reason why art of tile making is prominent in Iznik is that the siliceoussoil can abundantly be found in the area. Iznik workshops managed to meet the increasing demand of the capital during the enrichment period.
During the magnificent century of the empire, the 16th century, large productions to cover inside the mosques with tile panels and for dinnerware were made.
Peak of the Iznik Tiles: Mimar Sinan Period
Iznik workshops in this era managed to furnish their tasks with extra creativity and even add new colors to tiles to make them more alluring and glamorous. Heavily produced as blue and white, tiles were added turquoise in 1530 and olive-brown and light purple colors were added in 1540. Finally, in 1550s, tomato red was used and this color caught on since it represented abundance and richness.
Best Examples of Turkish Pottery in Istanbul
The best tile examples in the colors mentioned can be seen in Hürrem Sultan, or Roxelana, Mausoleum; Rüstem Pasha Mosque and Selimiye Mosque. In Harem of Topkapı Palace, Privy Room of Murad III is another place where you can see the examples of this artistic richness.
Withering Away of Iznik Tiles
The last biggest production when the Iznik tiles were renowned was for the interior space for Sultan Ahmed Mosque. The fact that Sultan Ahmed Mosque is called Blue Mosque by foreign visitors is due to this incredible Iznik tiles within the mosque.
Tiles that decorated mosques, mausoleums and palaces during the rise of Ottoman Empire lost its fame when the Empire came to a standstill. Big empire mosques couldn’t be built with the booty collected after the conquests. Because war started to be a burden instead of bringing profit.
Rise of Kutahya Pottery
With the end of the 17th century, the production potential of Iznik tiles began to fall down. Kutahya became a new center of tile production. However, Kütahya tiles never reached the magnificence of Iznik tiles.
Iznik tile style still represent the highest quality in tile artistry.
Written by Serhat Engul