İznik Mavi Çini The Masters of Tabriz and Their Contributions to Ottoman Architecture - İznik Mavi Çini
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The Masters of Tabriz and Their Contributions to Ottoman Architecture

The Masters of Tabriz and Their Contributions to Ottoman Architecture

3 July 2023

The Battle of Ankara, which took place in 1402, marks a challenging period for the Ottoman Empire. In this battle, the Ottomans, defeated by Timur, suffer their first major defeat in history. However, this defeat actually sows the seeds of a cultural evolution in the long run. After the battle, Timur takes many Ottomans as captives to Samarkand. These captives gain new skills, knowledge, and artistic understandings by getting acquainted with the Timurid culture. In this article, we will be examining in detail how 'Nakkaş Ali', one of these captives, and other masters who returned from Samarkand with him, influenced Ottoman architecture and decorative arts, and how this influence contributed to the later development of the Ottoman Empire.

Nakkaş Ali and Sultan I. Mehmed Complex

'Nakkaş Ali', one of these captives, is actually Ali İlyas. Ali İlyas worked in the Sultan I. Mehmed Complex in Bursa, which was built between 1424-1429. This complex is considered one of the most important architectural breakthroughs in the history of the Ottomans. Ali İlyas marked the year 1424 by signing his own pencil works drawn on the walls.

Fatih Mosque and Iranian Style Decoration

The Fatih Mosque in Istanbul, although it has an Ottoman architectural structure, attracts attention with its Iranian style decoration. The interesting feature of this structure is that it forms the only example of a tiled interior seen in Anatolia until that time with its cut stone structure and marble walls, and it attracts attention with the contrast between these two elements.

The gilded single-color glazed hexagonal tiles inside the mosque were used to enhance the richness of the interior. In addition, there are tiles made with the cut tile and colored glaze technique, namely cuerda seca. The cuerda seca technique uses an oily paint substance in thin lines to define contours. This paint substance prevents the colors from mixing during firing. This technique has not been used by the Ottomans before.

Green Complex and Iranian Aesthetics

The exterior of the Green Complex is covered with the tiles that give it its name. This decoration style was developed with an aesthetic view from Iran, not as an extension of 14th century Ottoman art. This suggests that Nakkaş Ali was influenced by the magnificent tiles of Samarkand and Herat and contributed to the application of this aesthetic in Bursa.

The masters also added their names to the mihrab and wrote 'Amel-i Üstadan-ı Tebriz', meaning 'The Work of the Masters of Tabriz'. The signature of one of these masters, Muhammed el Mecnun, is also found in the Green Mosque. The use of colored glaze and cut stone techniques side by side has only been seen in Samarkand until that time.

Other Works of the Masters of Tabriz

After the completion of the Green Complex, the masters of Tabriz also did the tile works in the II. Murad Mosque in Bursa, the Shah Angel Mosque in Edirne, the Muradiye Mosque and the Three-Balconied Mosque. These works have both narrowed and expanded the technical varieties used by the masters of Tabriz.

The cut tile technique was abandoned after 1425. However, underglaze blue-white tiles were used in the Muradiye Mosque in Edirne. In the worship area of this mosque, there is a huge colored glazed mihrab like the one in the Green Tomb in Bursa. Small chinoiserie motifs are seen in the underglaze tiles in the mihrab.

Underglaze blue-white tiles are important in many respects. In addition to being the first examples of underglaze tiles in Ottoman Turkey, they are also the first examples of blue-white tiles and chinoiserie decoration in the Ottoman period. In addition, these tiles are related to the blue-white tiles made by other Tabriz artists in Syria and Egypt.

Last Works of the Masters of Tabriz

After the completion of the Muradiye Mosque in 1436, the masters of Tabriz did not continue with the blue-white color scheme. Instead, they started to use colored underglaze techniques and expanded their color palettes. The known last works of the masters of Tabriz are the Three-Balconied Mosque in Edirne and the shops under the arch in the courtyard of the Fatih Mosque in Istanbul.

Contributions of Timurid Influence to Ottoman Culture

It is true that the Timurid invasion dealt a heavy blow to the Ottoman State; but it should also be noted that this event also had positive aspects. The Timurids transferred the features of the culture and art they developed in Central Asia and Iran to the Ottomans. This situation has been a significant turning point in Ottoman culture and art. In particular, the techniques and aesthetic understanding used by the masters of Tabriz in tile craftsmanship have left a deep impact on Ottoman architecture and decorative arts. This interaction has contributed to the diversity and richness of Ottoman culture, and this has been a part of the long-term success of the Ottoman Empire.

Restorations We Made Using the Cut Stone Technique and Colored Glazed Tiles Used by the Masters of Tabriz

The effects of the masters of Tabriz on Ottoman architecture and tile art are a fascinating history lesson. At this point, we are proud to share our own experiences with you. Our company carried out the restorations of the Sivas Gök Madrasa and the Twin Minaret Madrasa using the cut stone technique and colored glazed tiles used by the masters of Tabriz. Would you like to see the details and results of our restoration projects? You can click on the links below to learn how these unique historical artifacts were revived and how the art of the masters of Tabriz was kept alive:

Witness the process of reviving these unique pieces of history and art!


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