İznik Mavi Çini The Style of Kara Memi: Dancing with Nature in Iznik Tiles - İznik Mavi Çini
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The Style of Kara Memi: Dancing with Nature in Iznik Tiles

The Style of Kara Memi: Dancing with Nature in Iznik Tiles

3 June 2023

The Iznik tile is a unique reflection of history and culture. Various styles and manners have become evident in the development of this art form over time. One of these styles is the 'Four Flowers Style'. The tiles of Prince Mehmet's Tomb, made with colorful glaze technique, are striking examples of the reed leaf and rosette style in tile art. However, in the second half of the 16th century, a more naturalist style called the 'Four Flowers Style' evolved, these flowers were tulip, hyacinth, rose, and carnation. The first tulip depicted in tile is seen on a colorful glazed panel in Prince Mehmet's Tomb.

Kara Memi and His Innovative Perspective

It is known that the person who developed the 'Four Flowers Style' was Kara Memi. In the records of the Topkapi Palace Museum Archives, it is stated that Kara Memi served as a decorator and painter in the palace and was still alive during the reign of Selim II. Kara Memi's contribution to patterns is to collect the bud flowers found in the previous Ottoman ornamentation and to re-exhibit them as full-flowered branches coming out of a bunch of grass. His style, mentioned by his name in illumination, focuses on axial compositions and these compositions are generally taken into small panels.

The flowers are drawn in proportion to their natural sizes, which explains why the reed leaf and rosette style in his art was preferred for multi-part compositions, and naturalistic flowers were used as side motifs or small-scale repetitions. However, there was no measurement problem in ceramics, and the ceramic masters quickly adopted the style. The direction and simplicity of the style were giving the ceramic painter's point. They would place the flowers and their stems according to the size of the pot, and fill in the remaining spaces later. This means that the time and attention required when applying the Baba Nakkaş style was not much needed for this style.

Natural Realism and Kara Memi

In the style of Kara Memi, there was a more skillful reality in the flower picture than the style of Shah Kulu. Shahkulu's style was of Iranian origin, Kara Memi's belonged to the Ottomans. Another motif that Kara Memi and his students loved was the blooming spring and plum tree flower. The Ottomans took the spring tree as a decoration motif from China through Iran, often known as 'the three friends of winter' along with bamboo and pine tree, forming a trio symbolizing virginity.

The spring tree motif has played an important role in Islamic painting and Ottoman art. It is known that this motif first appeared in Islamic paintings in the 14th century and was first used in Ottoman art in the '40 Hadiths' manuscript dedicated to Prince Mehmet. Spring tree-themed tile panels have been placed in important places carrying a symbolic value mostly from the 1550s to the mid-1570s. These panels can be seen especially in the tombs of Hürrem Sultan and Rüstem Pasha and in the Edirne Selimiye and Sokollu Mehmet Pasha Mosques (Source: 'Iznik' - Nurhan Atasoy and Julian Raby).

So, how about discovering the unique beauty and original artistic features of Iznik tile, molded with history? To own the most original Iznik tile designs and learn more about this unique art, click here to browse our collection of Iznik tile plates. Own this unique piece of history and art yourself!


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