The End of an Era
This special installation of Ottoman Turkish ceramics from the Museum Collection is the direct result of one student's enthusiasm and year-long perseverence. When Aimee Froom (Brown University '91) chose to research the Museum's collection of Ottoman Turkish pottery for her senior Honors thesis, she little realized her quest would prompt a new inventory, cleaning, and special installation here at the Museum. Her spirited endeavour has led to new understanding and appreciation of this small corner of the Asian art collection. The Museum is indebted to Aimee Froom for her excellent thesis and to Walter Denny (Prof. of Islamic Art, University of Massachusetts at Amherst) for his photography. All of the text for the following introduction and object labels is based on Ms. Froom's thesis
The eleven ceramics on display deserve special attention for what they tell us of the sixteenth to seventeenth century Ottoman ceramic industry centered at Iznik, Turkey. The ceramics, although selected from a group of twenty objects catalogued as "Anatolian Rhodian ware," are, in fact, not from the Isle of Rhodes. Twentieth century scholarship has clearly disposed of old misconceptions of provenance, yet the "Rhodian" misnomer to describe the stylistic features of sixteenth to seventeenth century Ottoman Turkish ceramics has been to slow to die. In a sense, the term, "Iznik ware," by referring to a specific site in Turkey as well as the decorative ceramic style developed there, has inherited some of the problems associated with the old term, "Rhodian ware." A ceramic type with elements of Iznik ware design actually may have been created at any one of several active production centers in Turkey. For this reason, most of the ceramics on display are described as Ottoman Turkish unless a specific provenance has been determined.
The classic style designated in the past as "Rhodian" and now more appropriately as ''Iznik," features most significantly a rich, thick "sealing-wax red" glaze (perfected in the 1550s). The primary reason for the artistic and technical advancement of the ceramic industry at Iznik was due to the royal patronage of Sultan Suleyman "the Magnificent" (1520-1566) and the influence of nakkashane or Ottoman court artists. Iznik ware at its best featured an array of brilliant, jewel-like hues created by technical refinements in glazing, fine draftsmanship, and crisp outlines of reserve white slip to delineate arabesque floral motifs. The Museum has one superb example from this classic period of Iznik ware production (19.271). In contrast, ceramics of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries reflected the artistic and technical decline in production due to decreasing court patronage and an active open market, the effects of foreign competition, and deteriorating conditions affecting the potters' resources and environment.
The ceramics on display offer three perspectives of stylistic developments during the sixteenth to seventeenth centuries. First, a view of ceramics decorated with the S-curved saz leaf motif offers a comparison of a dish from the classic period (mid sixteenth century) of Iznik ware production, with dishes and a tankard from the seventeenth century. Second, a group of ceramics with abstract designs and unusual combinations of motifs offers a view of designs not inspired by the Court, but born from the potters' creative synthesis of a broad range of stylistic influences. Third, an installation of three ceramics reflect elements of the new court style of floral design associated with Kara Memi, chief of the nakkashane painters during the 1550s.