Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey.

Author:Highet, Juliet
Position:Book review

Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey

By Nurhan Atasoy and Julian Raby

Published by Lawrence King at 75 [pounds sterling].



Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey has been described as "the definitive, authoratitive work on the pottery of Iznik". Weighing in with 384 large format pages, and at a thumping 75 [pounds sterling], it is the only comprehensive survey of the genre, and--for aficionados--a worthy celebration of one of the most popular art forms of the Islamic world.

The book more than fully documents the typology and chronology of each group of Iznik ceramics, with illustrations from major global public and private collections. Its authors are Nurhan Atasoy, one of Turkey's leading art historians and President of the Department of Fine Arts at Istanbul University, and Julian Raby, Lecturer in Islamic Art and Architecture at Oxford University. They divide the book into three main sections: 1) Makers, Patrons, Function & Legacy. 2) 1480-1560: Development & Growth. 3) 1560-1650: Maturity & Decline.


As an artistic phenomenon, the creation of Iznik ceramics came and went like a shooting star. The high point of its production was for only about two centuries and after around 1580, it declined visibly in brilliance. But the veritable gardens of paradise depicted on these pottery vessels and tiles have an enduring appeal that crosses centuries and cultures. Iznik is now recognised as a great flowering of Ottoman culture, illuminating its architecture within Turkey, and regularly causing a frisson in major international auction houses nowadays, as it continues to fetch ever more record prices (even in credit crunch times).

How come that one small rural town, Iznik, was responsible for this huge and splendid production, when even during its heyday, it was sparsely populated and described as "a poor, pitiful place"? The key factor was Ottoman court patronage. This covered all the fine and applied arts of an extremely sophisticated era, not just in architecture and painting, but also in textiles, metalwork and bookbinding. The gardens depicted in miniature paintings are reflected in the formal floral imagery of Iznik ceramics. The same four flowers cherished by the Ottomans--the tulip, hyacinth, rose and carnation--also curl and swoop over opulent Ottoman silk and velvet textiles.

Before the production began in earnest at Iznik in the late 15th century, tiles were used to...

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