Dish with grapes

On display


  • Handbook text

    Sultan Selim the Grim’s conquest of Tabriz in 1514, and of Damascus and Cairo in 1517, led to the Ottoman acquisition of huge quantities of Chinese porcelain, subsequently no doubt stored at Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. The result was that the Iznik potters had access to a whole range of designs which they had never previously encountered. Among the most popular with the Iznik potters was the early fifteenth century Chinese design of three bunches of grapes amid vine leaves. In the Ming models the design was usually surrounded by twelve sprays of flowers in the cavetto, and a wave-and-rock pattern border.

    The Iznik derivatives, through very similar, are by no means identical. In the first place, the central grape design is often reversed, indicating the use of stencils in the copying process. Secondly, the Iznik potters felt free to use a border which, though similar to that on Ming dishes, was actually derived from Chinese fourteenth century (Yuan) design. Thirdly, the Chinese dishes have moulded panels around the cavetto, so that the twelve floral sprays are regularly spaced. The Iznik potter used a smooth cavetto and, painting by eye, felt free to vary the number of sprays according to his taste. Finally, the Iznik potter was not bound by the limitations of high-fired porcelains, in particular the restriction of the colour palette to cobalt blue. Instead he was free not only to vary the tones and strengths of the blue itself but also to add turquoise. The result is a design with a lightness and spontaneity quite different from the Chinese prototype.

    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. 42 on p. 66, illus. p. 67

Reference URL

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