Turkish Arts // Ottoman Tiles
The most common and best-known Ottoman tiles and pottery are the underglazed polychrome wares manufactured in İznik and also as a secondary center in Kütahya from the middle of the 16th century to the end of the 17th century from a kind of hard, white clay. Up to seven colours were employed in these tiles, a distinctive feature being the beautiful slightly embossed tomato red. This unique colour was destined to be lost forever after the middle of the 17th century. The other colours are white, blue, turquoise, dark blue, green and black. A white slip under the clear, high, quality glaze, make the colours shinier. The same process and colour scheme are used both in ceramics and tiles. The most popular designs use naturalistic floral motifs but Chinese motifs are still to be found. These original creations of the Ottoman period with realistically drawn tulips, carnations, roses, rosebuds, violets, hyacinths, pomegranate, blossoms, peonies, spring branches, apple and cypress trees, branches of grapes, bouquets, vases, oil-lamps, large palmette leaves, medallions, arabesques, large thuluth lettering, imitation marble, animal figures, and birds give the impression of a veritable garden of paradise. Chinese three balls and clouds continue the Far Eastern influence begun in the blue and white group. We encounter several motifs peculiar to pottery, such as galleons, sailing boats and various animal motifs like birds surrounded by flowers, hare, deer, dogs, hunting animals, sphinxes, monkeys and fish, together with fighting scenes between lions and stags or between lions and bulls, all treated in the stylized manner of Seljuks.
Ottoman polychrome pottery is encountered in various forms like plates, bowls, vases, jars, pitchers, decanters, mosque lamps, mugs, jugs, etc. Tiles were employed in Ottoman times in mosques, masjids, türbes, sarcophagi, imarets, Madrasas, hammams (baths), palaces, pavilions, libraries, houses, fountains and even churches. They were usually confined to the interiors. In Topkapı Palace, İstanbul the harem apartments and the various pavilions form a veritable museum in which a varied collection of tiles of the highest quality are displayed. Both the inner and the outer walls are covered up to the roof with tile panels, while tiles also decorate the corridors, the insides of the windows, the fireplaces, mihrabs, hammams, cupboards, niches, courtyards and fountains.
Polychrome tiles and ceramics are famed throughout the world and have a prominent place in leading museums of the world and private collections. The famous red colour in this ware is unique and it disappears forever after the middle of the 17th century. The motifs used on these tiles and ceramics have been perpetuated on fabrics, frescoes and the like for centuries as distinct Ottoman creations.
İznik production center stopped activities towards the end of 17th century. Kütahya city as a tile and usage ceramic production center since many years is still carrying this art over.
During the so called “Tulip Period” there has been some efforts for reactivating tile art and in İstanbul Tekfur Palace, the artists brought from İznik and Kütahya produced wall tiles and tiles with Kaaba figures. The tiles produced in this period has been used in the decoration of the mosques like Hekimoğlu Ali Paşa in Silivrikapı, Kocamustafapaşa area, Kaptan Paşa in Üsküdar, I.Mahmut in Kandilli, Ferruh Kethuda in Balat and fountains like III.Ahmet in Ayasofya and Eyüp Sultan, but this enterprise could not last for long time.