This underglaze painted square İznik tile is decorated with stylised peony blossoms/lotus medallions, facing in two directions, up and down, with small flowers in their centre and feather-like saz leaves interlaced at their base. The bold design is painted using a vibrant bole-red as well as several shades of blue and green with thin black outlines. The centralised design is surrounded by further half palmettes on all four sides of the tile, indicating that this piece was once part of a larger panel.
Throughout the sixteenth century İznik tiles represented one of the main decorative elements in imperial Ottoman architecture, expressing the wealth and power of Ottoman patrons. By 1557, the Süleymaniye Mosque was the first building to be covered with glazed tiles decorated with the “red bole” pigment which is also strongly apparent on this tile.
In particular, this tile is strikingly similar to the fine İznik tiles found on the walls and niches of the Has Oda (“privy chamber”) of the Sultan Murad III in the Imperial Harem of the Topkapı Palace in İstanbul.1 This splendid room was rebuilt, due to a fire, by the renowned architect Mimar Sinan in 1578.2 According to an imperial decree dating to 1575, the Sultan ordered İznik tiles from the tile-master Mehmed.3
Outside the Topkapı Palace, there are similar examples of this tile in the collections of several prestigious institutions; there are two examples in the Khalili Collection in London (Accession Number: POTI1688),4 a further nine examples in the Tareq Rajab Museum in Kuwait,5 one example in the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha (Accession Number: PO.468.2007), and a fragment in the Sadberk Hanım Museum in Istanbul.6 In addition, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon has a panel of 63 tiles which appears to come from the same collection (Accession Number: 1663).7
1. J.M. Rogers. 1988. The Topkapı Saray Museum: Architecture, The Harem and Other Buildings. London: Thames and Hudson. no.67.
2. Gérard Degeorge and Yves Porter. 2002. The Art of the Islamic Tile. Paris: Flammarion. pp.210-11.
3. Belgin Demirsar Arlı and Ara Altun. 2008. Tiles: Treasures of Anatolian Soil: Volume 2, Ottoman Period. İstanbul: Kale Group Cultural Publications. p. 105.
4. See, R.M. Rogers. 1995. Empire of the Sultans: Ottoman Art from the Collection of Nasser D. Khalili. London: The Nour Foundation. p.184, cat no.122.
5. See, Géza Fehérvári. 2000. Ceramics of the Islamic World in the Tareq Rajab Museum. New York: I.B. Tauris. p.314, no.377.
6. Ara Altun 1991. Sadberk Hanım Museum: Turkish Tiles and Ceramics. İstanbul: Sadberk Hanım Museum p.66.
7. See, Maria d’Orey Capucho Queiroz Ribeiro. 2009. Iznik Pottery and Tiles in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Lisbon: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian. p.118.