Underglaze-painted tiles

Ottoman, about AD 1550
From Iznik, modern Turkey

A pattern of interwoven flowers and leaves

This set of four brightly-painted tiles would have been part of a group covering a large surface area, as can be seen today in Turkey in the tiled interiors of many major buildings of the Ottoman period. Large double and split-palmette leaves intertwine with smaller leafy stems and blue flowers against a serene white background. The regular pattern overlaps the borders of the four tiles, and can continue endlessly with the addition of identical tiles.

The distinctive flame red is a striking feature of the mature style of Iznik pottery. It comes from an iron-rich red earth, or bole, found in Armenia. Armenian bole is also used in medicine as an astringent, and as a base for gilding on wooden panel paintings. The potters of Iznik applied it thickly to their stonepaste wares, beneath a clear glaze. The result is a bright underglaze red - a technical innovation at the time. Tilework with blue, green and especially bole red decoration became highly fashionable between the 1550s and 1570s in Istanbul, when Ottoman sultans and officials sponsored large and elaborate building projects. These projects almost completely occupied the workshops of Iznik, to the near exclusion of other production.

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Underglaze-painted tiles

Ottoman, about AD 1550 From Iznik, modern Turkey


More information


N. Atasoy and J. Raby, Iznik: the pottery of Ottoman (London, Alexandria Press, 1989)

J.M. Rogers and R. Ward, Suleyman the Magnificent (London, The British Museum Press, 1988)

J. Carswell, Iznik pottery (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)


Length: 21.000 cm
Width: 21.000 cm

Museum number

ME OA G 1983.77


Godman Bequest


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