Iznik polychrome pottery dish, Turkey, circa 1560
With a bracketed rim, decorated in underglaze red, cobalt blue, grey-green and black outline with a near-symmetrical design of chrysanthemum stems intermixed with tulips and hyacinth all issuing from a leafy tuft with a beribboned base, the rim with paired tulips, alternately in red and blue, on a ground outlined with a radiating petal design, the reverse with rosettes and three-petalled motifs alternately, the base applied with a circular label inscribed “JEAN LAGONICO 33”, a rectangular label with a red stripe inscribed “M”, a small scalloped label inscribed “1615”, and a brown label inscribed “2”
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 fritwarebody painted with cobalt blue under a colourless transparent 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 decade 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.