Lacking the clay necessary for the production of porcelain, potters in Turkey (and elsewhere in the Middle East) created stonepaste bodies that included clay and quartz to mimic the appearance of porcelain. The cluster of grapes in the center of this dish was inspired by fifteenth-century Chinese ceramics, which were first collected in Turkey in the sixteenth century.
Two Iznik Dishes (nos. 66.4.2 and 91.1.102)
The great British ceramics scholar Arthur Lane first set out the basic chronology of Iznik ceramic production, in which the earliest period, from about 1490 to 1525, was characterized by, among other things, a blue-and-white palette and a propensity to draw inspiration from Chinese Ming porcelain. Thus, at one time both of these striking blue-and-white Iznik dishes in the Metropolitan were conventionally assigned to the first quarter of the sixteenth century; more recent scholarship, however, has placed them more than fifty years later.
The larger dish (no. 66.4.2), clearly drawing its footed profile from an Italian form known as a tazza, is certainly one of the most successful Ottoman attempts at re-creating a well-known type of Ming ceramic decoration. Its blue-black color and the artist’s remarkable sensitivity to the texture of Ming floral ceramic decoration show a full understanding of the nuances of the Chinese original, unlike the Ottoman copies of the same original made early in the sixteenth century. Such technical mastery, including the very dark blue-black, is not evident in the early group of Iznik blue-and-white wares of the so-called Baba Naqqaş style, but was well within the abilities and technical repertoire of Iznik artists by the 1580s.
Also inspired by Ming blue-and-white ceramics, the other Iznik dish here (no. 91.1.102) is a fairly close Ottoman interpretation of a Ming design consisting of three bunches of grapes, a motif that continually appeared in Iznik ceramics from the 1530s to the early seventeenth century. The earliest Iznik works with this design utilize a cobalt blue in two values, light and dark, with a dark-blue outlining. Later examples of the 1550s add black and touches of turquoise, and by the 1580s the grapes are sometimes depicted in tomato red and the leaves in bright green. Consisting of tight little whorls executed in black line, the conventionalized border on the rim is a very common Ottoman adaptation of the original Chinese wave-and-rock rim design. The cusped edge and the small bunches of flowers in the cavetto show a continuing Ottoman fascination with the costly Ming originals, huge numbers of which were found in the royal porcelain collection in Istanbul’s Topkapı Palace.
Walter B. Denny in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. See Lane 1957.
2. See Denny, Walter B. "Blue-and-White Islamic Pottery on Chinese Themes." Boston Museum Bulletin 72, no. 368 (1974), pp. 76–99.
3. A very similar tazza from Copenhagen was published in Atasoy and Raby 1989, fig. 445.
Edward C. Moore (American, New York 1827–1891 New York), New York (until d. 1891; bequeathed to MMA)
Lane, Arthur. Later Islamic Pottery: Persia, Syria, Egypt, Turkey. London: Faber and Faber, 1957. ill. pl. 32B, -Similar plate in V&A. This type called 'Isnik, about 1525-40'.
Kühnel, Ernst. "(Translation of Islamische Kleinkunst)." In Islamic Arts. London, 1970. no. 117.
Atasoy, Nurhan, and Julian Raby. Iznik : The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey, edited by Yanni Petsopoulos. London: Thames and Hudson, 1989.
Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 213, pp. 304-305, ill. p. 304 (color).