History of Ceramics 3

Polychrome ceramics (1560–1600)

An important object in the study of Iznik pottery is a mosque lamp that is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The lamp is believed to have made for the Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul which was completed in 1557. The lamp is the earliest dated object with the bole-red decoration that was to become a characteristic feature of Iznik tiles and pottery. The red on the lamp is thin, brownish and uneven. A few surviving dishes that use the same thin red colouring are believed to date from the same period.The Rüstem Pasha Mosque in Istanbul, completed in 1563, has a mihrab decorated with tiles painted with a similar thin brownish red but in other parts of the mosque there are tiles with the thick sealing-wax red relief that became a common feature of later Iznik tiles and vessels.



Dish with peacocks and flowers, c. 1575Dish with a saz leaf and flowers, c. 1575Dish with plain rim, late 16th-early 17th  centuryDish with a prunus tree reserved in white on a green ground, c. 1585Dish with plain rim, 1580-1600Dish with animals in reserve on a green background, c. 1580-1585

Other objects

Tankard with cypresses and flowers, c. 1560Tankard with ships, c. 1575-1585

Mosque lamp, c. 1580-1585



Ewer, last quarter 16th century



Bottle with roses, carnations and other flowers, c. 1560-1580Lidded bowl decorated with cypresses, tulips and carnations, c. 1560-1580Spherical hanging ornament, c. 1575-1585


Inscription panel on theSuleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul, c. 1559Two tiles, c. 1560Tile with saz leaves, tulips and prunus flowers, third quarter 16th centuryTile panel, second half 16th centuryTiled panel with a centralmandorla, c. 1580Detail of a tile in theRüstem Pasha Mosque, c. 1563Wall tile in the Rüstem Pasha Mosque, c. 1563


Decline (1600–1700)

Towards the end of the 16th century there was a marked decline in the quality of the pottery produced in İznik. This has been linked to the loss of patronage by the Ottoman court and with the imposition of fixed prices in a period of inflation. Another important factor was that from the middle of the 16th century increasing quantities of Chinese porcelain were imported into Turkey. The İznik craftsmen failed to compete with the high quality imports and instead produced pottery with crudely painted rustic designs. Although the Chinese imports did not compete with locally produced tiles, there was little new imperial building and therefore little demand. Even when the court required tiles such as for the mausoleum of Ahmed I built between 1620 and 1623, the low prices led to a drop in the living standards of the potters. They responded by finding new markets outside the Ottoman imposed price system. Tiles were exported to Cairo where they were used to decorate the Aksunkur Mosque which was remodelled by Ibrahim Agha in 1651-52. Tiles were also exported to Greece where in 1678 the Monastery of the Great Lavra on Mount Athos was decorated with polychrome tiles inscribed with Greek lettering. Nevertheless, there was a decline in the volume of pottery produced and by the mid-17th century only a few kilns remained. The last dated pottery are dishes with crude uncial Greek inscriptions from 1678
Dish with a ship, c. 1625-1650Dish with a pagoda like building and a uncial Greek inscription, dated 1666Dish with riderless horse, early 17th centuryDish with saz leaves and scale pattern, 17th century