İznik Mavi Çini Types and Shapes of Iznik Tiles - İznik Mavi Çini
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Types and Shapes of Iznik Tiles

Types and Shapes of Iznik Tiles

3 May 2023

A comparison of pots mentioned in Ottoman miniatures and written documents with surviving İznik specimens yields interesting results. Since these documents were mostly written by scribes and administrators and not by craftsmen or professionals, there is a lack of descriptive information about the types of pots. It is therefore very difficult to establish a link between the cups mentioned in these documents and the preserved specimens. A study of the documents has shown that İznik tile pots have a wide variety of types and shapes. Let us now take a closer look at the characteristics of these tiles.

Tile Pots Decorated with Precious Stones

İznik tile pots decorated with gold-encrusted gemstones are not mentioned in the documents. This technique, which the Ottomans used to refine Chinese porcelain, was also applied to İznik pottery. Two bottles found in the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, one in the Museum of Turkish Islamic Art and the other in the Tile Pavilion, were decorated using this method. In both examples, the stones have fallen off, but the burrows are clearly visible.


Samples of pottery that survived to this day but not mentioned in the documents are oil lamps and hanging globes. Perhaps having only been used in buildings such as mosques and tombs, they were not included in the expenditure books. Since most were used in fire-resistant places made of stone or brick, they withstood time without major damage. Of the 25 lamps surviving from the 16th century, the oldest is the one in the Bayezid II Tomb, dated ca. 1512. All the early oil lamps are small (22-28 cm high). Beginning with the gilded white oil lamp from the Selim I Mosque, the dimensions get bigger and the lower part begins to take on a pear-shape. The most extreme example is the 49 cm high oil lamp, which is said to come from the Sokullu Mehmed Pasha Mosque. Lamps would get smaller again following this extreme example. In contrast to similar glass lamps, richly decorated earthenware lamps do not provide sufficient illumination in interior spaces. Therefore, they are believed to have a symbolic rather than a functional meaning. It is also said that ceramic hanging globes and oil lamps were utilized exclusively for acoustic effects.

Footed Basins

Large basins with hemispherical legs are among İznik craftsmen's most ambitious creations. These enormous pieces, which measure 40 to 45 cm in circumference and 20 to 28 cm in height, were created with a level of technical expertise second to none in the Islamic world. Their extremely rich and ornate decoration suggests that they were a symbol of prestige for the Ottoman elite. The surviving specimens are dated to somewhere between 1500 and 1550. There is not much information about the function of footed basins. They are not mentioned in miniatures depicting banquets and gatherings, nor in records from the palace kitchen.


İznik workshops produced not only plates with wide rims, but also pans with flat bottoms and with or without rims. The term "pan" first appears in documents in the early 16th century and was used consistently until the early 18th century. As can be seen from the miniatures, most earthenware pans had metal lids. Metal pans with earthenware lids were even rarer. However, the presence of both types gives the impression that these pots were interchangeable.


In İznik workshops, plates were the most frequently produced items. Both miniatures and written documents show that they had very different shapes and sizes. In the Narh book, dated 1640, 6 plates of different sizes were recorded. The diameters of these plates were 21 cm, 25.2 cm, 28 cm, 30.8 cm, 33.6 cm and 42 cm. The publication of this list in 1640 marked the beginning of the standardization of the shape of İznik plates.


Earthenware candlesticks with bell-shaped bases are among the few surviving samples of İznik earthenware. The classical Islamic metal candlesticks are purely Ottoman in form, as they derive from Ottoman models. Unlike most of the large-sized metal candlesticks in mosques and mausoleums, they are all small, so it is assumed that they were used in private homes. That they were also used for non-religious purposes is evident from the fact that a candlestick with tray was among the gifts presented to the palace by the Guild of Tile Traders in 1582. Candlesticks were not among the standard products made in İznik's workshops, but only made to order ('İznik, Nurhan Atasoy and Julian Raby, pp. 37-48).


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