İznik Mavi Çini Helical Tuğrakeş Style: An Abstract Revolution in Ottoman Ceramic Art - İznik Mavi Çini
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Helical Tuğrakeş Style: An Abstract Revolution in Ottoman Ceramic Art

Helical Tuğrakeş Style: An Abstract Revolution in Ottoman Ceramic Art

3 October 2021

The Helical Tugrakesh Style holds a unique place in Ottoman ceramic art. Unlike Halic Work decoration and Baba Nakkaş Work, this style is based on an abstract design that does not include any flower-like motifs or pictorial elements. The characteristic of this style is the long, uninterrupted stems emanating from a center and forming rings around it. The stems are adorned with small motifs placed at certain intervals; a rosette is followed by comma-shaped leaves branching to the right and left, followed by small semicircular shapes. Thus, the static qualities of the rosettes create a contradiction with the timid movements of the semicircles and commas; however, the side motifs do not hinder the helical movements of the main branch.

The Unique Design of Helical Tugrakesh and Its Contribution to Abstract Art

The name 'Helical Tugrakesh Style' does not reflect that this style was an independent creation of tilemakers. The helical twisted branches were popular in Islamic decoration towards the end of the Middle Ages, and the rosettes, semicircles, and comma leaves in Ottoman ceramics resemble those on the embellished background of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent's tugra. Therefore, the name 'Halic Work' is misleading and it would be more accurate to call it 'Helical Tugrakesh Style' to emphasize the ceramics' connection to the palace.

Historical Origins of Helical Curls in Ottoman Ceramics

Associating this style with a tugra decorating an undated berat could point to Ibrahim Pasha, who served between 1523 and 1536. The second deception of the 'Halic' name, suggesting a production in Istanbul despite the lack of concrete evidence, is revealed by Narh Registers and works of Evliya Çelebi, indicating that Haliç products were unglazed pottery.

The Place and Significance of Helical Tugrakesh Style in Palace Art

The forms and side motifs of these ceramics align with typical Iznik shapes from 1525-50. The 'tondino' shape of Italian origin also finds a place in Ottoman pottery. Most of these ceramics have been found in Iznik, indicating Iznik as their place of production.

The Traces and Impact of Helical Tugrakesh in Iznik Tiles

The Helical Tugrakesh Style showed a wide distribution in the second quarter of the 16th century. Following the Ottoman conquest of Egypt, pieces in this style were found in Fustat. Additionally, this style was exported to Italy and from there spread to England. Particularly, Ligurian ceramics dated to 1572 seem to have copied the Ottoman twisted branches.

International Spread and Interaction of Helical Tugrakesh Style

The golden era of the Helical Tugrakesh Style, spanning from the 1520s to the 1550s, is conceptually conservative and reflective of the past. This style is close in meaning to Baba Nakkaş work, and in both ceramics, the curved branches play a prominent role. More importantly, these styles share an introspective and closed aesthetic view. This aesthetic, reflecting the conservative tastes and aesthetics of the Ottoman palace, sheds light on the rich and diverse history of ceramic art.

The Aesthetic and Cultural Value of Helical Tugrakesh in Ottoman Ceramic Art

The Helical Tugrakesh Style represents a striking and original aspect of Ottoman ceramic art. Deviating from traditional motifs to an abstract and innovative path, this style takes artistic expression to a new dimension. The delicate harmony and contradictions between the rosettes, semicircles, and comma-shaped leaves reflect the aesthetic depth and craftsmanship of this style. Moreover, the relationship of the Helical Tugrakesh Style with the Ottoman palace and its historical context show that these ceramics are valuable not only visually, but also culturally and historically. Therefore, the Helical Tugrakesh Style should be remembered in the history of Ottoman art as both a visual and historical richness.


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