Dish with flower sprays

On display


  • Handbook text

    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.

    In: Allan, James W., Islamic Ceramics, Ashmolean-Christie's Handbooks (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1991)

Glossary of terms


underglaze painting

Further reading

Allan, James W., Islamic Ceramics, Ashmolean-Christie's Handbooks (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1991), no. 44 on p.70, illus. p. 71

Reference URL

q-seffron-icon q-white-icon pluse-seffron-icon pluse-white-icon minus-seffron-icon minus-white-icon close-seffron-icon close-white-icon close-black-icon prv-gry-arrow prv-arrow print-seffron-icon print-black-icon next-arrow next-gry-arrow next-white-arrow up-arrow-black up-arrow black-up-arrow black-down-arrow white-up-arrow white-down-arrow hr-list-gry-icon hr-list-white-icon vr-list-gry-icon vr-list-white-icon eye-icon zoomin-icon zoomout-icon fullview-icon contact-black-icon contact-seffron-icon basket-seffron-icon basket-black-icon share-black-icon share-seffron-icon go-arrow search-white-icon