Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

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Dish with flower sprays

Glossary (2)

fritware, underglaze painting

  • fritware

    Ceramic material composed of ground quartz and small quantities of clay and finely ground frit (frit is obtained by pouring molten glass into water).

  • underglaze painting

    Painting applied to ceramic material before a transparent, or monochrome or coloured glaze for Islamic objects, is applied. The technique was initially developed in China.


    • First floor | Room 31 | Islamic Middle East

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Collection trails

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  • Islamic ceramics, by James W. Allan

    Islamic Ceramics

    Flowers were as popular among the Ottomans as they are in England today. In 1554, for example, the Holy Roman Emperor’s Ambassador to the Ottomans records how visiting Janissaries would offer him a bunch of hyacinths or narcissi. (In fact it was this same Ambassador, Augier Ghislain de Busbecq, who introduced tulips into Europe). The appearance of recognisable species of flowers on Iznik ceramics was due to the rise to eminence of one particular artist, Kara Memi, at the court of Suleyman the Magnificent. Kara Memi transformed Ottoman illumination by introducing naturalistic flowers, such as tulips, roses, hyacinths and carnations, to replace the traditional, stylised, Islamic floral motifs and arabesques.

    Although some traditional elements were still retained, like the peony in this dish [EAX.3277], the naturalistic flower designs clearly captured the imagination of the Iznik potters. First making their appearance in the 1540’s, they were accompanied by a new colour scheme. To the blue and turquoise of the preceding decade were added a soft sage-green, a manganese-purple, and a soft greenish-black for outlines. Experiments were made with colouring the background, and a fish-scale pattern introduced to help alleviate the monotony of a large area of single colour. The final phase (nos. 46-47 [EAX.3268 & WA1888.CDEF.C324]) was the introduction of a new, vibrant colour - ‘sealing-wax’ red.

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