Helezoni Tugrakes Style - İznik Mavi Çini
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Helezoni Tugrakes Style

Helezoni Tugrakes Style

3 October 2021

The Haliç work is completely different from the other styles of the era or Baba Nakkaş Work of a previous era, in terms of adornment. It is an abstract style that has no pattern or depiction element that resembles a flower. It consists of a long, continuous stalk which forms rings around the rings that emerge from the center. The stalks are concluded with little patterns that are arranged in certain intervals; a rosette is followed by comma-shaped leaves that branch out to right and left, and these are followed by a little semi-circle, and then comma-leaves again and rosettes again, and this is how the composition continues. This way, the stagnant quality of the rosettes composes contrast with the fearful quivers of the semi-circles and commas. Still, no side pattern was big enough to block the helical movement of the main branch. Therefore, the traditional name of this group “Haliç work” is misleading in two ways. First, it cannot reflect the fact that this style is not an independent creation of the tile masters. The helical (helezoni) curved branches were very common in the Islamic adornment at the end of the Medieval Age, but the ones in the Ottoman ceramics resembled the ones on the illuminated background of the tughra of Suleiman the Magnificent (Kanuni Sultan Süleyman) in terms of the usage methods of the rosettes, semi-circles, and comma-leaves. In other words, this kind of helezoni style was used in palace illuminations and the tughrakash was trusted with the drawing of the tughra. In order to emphasize its palace relationship, we decided to name it Helezoni tughrakash style.

The tughra in question adorns the head of a dateless berat but the part of its text that has reached the present day gives the grand vizier odd titles. That is why the text must be talking about vizier İbrahim Pasha who was on duty on the dates which are in accordance with the evidence on the ceramic, namely between 1523 and 1536.

The second inconvenience of the name Haliç is about the origins of tiling. This suggests some production in Istanbul about which there is no supporting evidence. It is said that many samples of tiles are found near Aksaray and the rest come from the Post Office excavations in Sirkeci but there is no kiln residue to prove local manufacture in neither excavation site. It is a fact that there are written and documentary sources regarding tile manufacturing in Haliç both from the 16th and 17th centuries, but none of these proved that the masters had made glazed tiles. On the contrary, just like in Evliya Çelebi, the Narh Book dated 1604 and 1640 indicates that the Haliç products were non-glazed pots.

On the other hand, the forms in this group are the typical İznik forms of the 1525-50 period; this includes tondino which is the only common form of unquestionably Italian origin. So, in Ottoman tiling, the use of tondino reflects a wider source of inspiration for the patterns and forms which were the symbol of the era; and not evidence for an exportation demand in itself.

Many samples of this ceramic are found in İznik, but there is no datable kiln residue. However, one must not suspect that these were manufactured in İznik. Because both their forms and side patterns have a very close resemblance with the style groups of the second half of the 16th century.

The helezoni tughrakash style was widely spread in the second quarter of the 16th century, parallel with the general developments. Samples were not just found in Istanbul but in various places in Anatolia and Rumelia. It is not surprising that pieces were found in Fustat too after the Ottomans conquered Egypt. But the helezoni tughrakash work is the first Ottoman ceramic that is known to be exported to Italy. One among the group of Liguria lead-glazed ceramics dated 1572 is seen to imitate the curved branches of Ottoman; then this Liguria ceramic is exported to England.

The golden era of the helezoni tughrakash style lasted from the 1520s to the 1550s. This style was conservative in terms of concept and it reminded of the past. Regardless of its distinct and rare appearance it was close to Baba Nakkaş works in terms of meaning; we see that in both ceramics the curved branches play a major role and more importantly they share an introverted and closed aesthetic concern. This view reflects the conservative aspect of the Palace which was their mutual resource. (Atasoy Nurhan, “İznik”, p.108-113)

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