THE STORY OF IZNIK CHINI TILES AND THEIR REVIVAL
İznik pottery, named after the town in western Anatolia where it was made, is a decorated ceramic that was produced from the last quarter of the 15th century until the end of the 17th century.
The town of İznik was an established centre for the production of simple earthenware pottery with an underglaze decoration when in the last quarter of the 15th century, craftsmen in the town began to manufacture high quality pottery with a fritware body painted with cobalt blue under a colourless lead glaze. The meticulous designs combined traditional Ottoman arabesque patterns with Chinese elements. The change was almost certainly a result of the active intervention and patronage by the recently established Ottoman court in Istanbul who greatly valued Chinese blue-and-white porcelain.
During the 16th century the decoration of the pottery gradually changed in style, becoming looser and more flowing. Additional colours were introduced. Initially turquoise was combined with the dark shade of cobalt blue and then the pastel shades of sage green and pale purple were added. Finally, in the middle of the century, a very characteristic bole red replaced the purple and a bright emerald green replaced the sage green. From the last quarter of the century there was a marked deterioration in quality and although production continued during the 17th century the designs were poor, as the city’s role as primary ceramics producer was taken up by Kütahya.
The ceramic collection of the Topkapi Palace includes over ten thousand pieces of Chinese porcelain but almost no İznik pottery. Most of the surviving İznik vessels are in museums outside Turkey, but plentiful examples of the city’s tile production exist in numerous cities throughout Turkey, such as İstanbul, Bursa, Edirne, Adana, and Diyarbakır. In Istanbul alone examples of İznik tiling can be seen in at least 40 mosques, tombs, libraries, and palace buildings, such as the Rüstem Pasha Mosque, the Sokollu Mehmet Paşa Mosque, the tomb of Selim II in the Hagia Sophia complex, and certain buildings of the Topkapı Palace complex such as the Circumcision room and the Baghdad Kiosk
The ceramic tiles produced in Iznik (historic Nicaea) during the 15 and 16th centuries represent the cultural and artistic zenith of the Ottoman Empire. These tiles still grace the walls of many mosques and palaces. The examples of these tiles are part of the best collections of museums in Turkey and around the world. Due to a number of reasons, the technical knowledge and documentation employed to create these tiles were unfortunately lost to mankind in the 17th century.
After a span of 400 years, and after years of research and countless experiments; the Iznik Training and Education Foundation have been successful in reproducing Iznik tiles of the same high quality as their predecessors with the ancient traditional methods of 16th century.
Iznik Foundation has managed to attain this major achievement through the unsparing efforts of the 85-member team of the Iznik Ceramic Research Center along with the efforts enlisted by Istanbul University, Mimar Sinan University and Tubitak; the Turkish Research Institute.