The pattern of this charming dish is a variant of the so‑called chintamani (Sanskrit for "auspicious jewel") design. Appearing on ceramics as well as on carpets and textiles, this pervasive design originated in Buddhist iconography. Originally, the circles and wavy stripes represented auspicious flaming pearls, but in the Ottoman context this significance was transformed through their association with tiger stripes and leopard spots, symbols connoting strength and courage.
New economic pressures and market forces, among them a drastic inflation known in history as the "price revolution," meant that by the last quarter of the sixteenth century ceramic artisans of Iznik were increasingly exploring new frontiers in design. These artistic innovations were not the result of new templates sent from the court in Istanbul for the production of tiled decoration of royal buildings but rather focused on attractive and expensive items of one-of-a-kind decorative luxury tableware meant either for sale in local bazaars or for shipment to foreign markets in Europe. While the borders of dishes such as this, ultimately derived from a Ming prototype depicting foamy waves dashing against a rocky shore, became increasingly conventionalized as a pattern of tight spirals punctuated at intervals by S-shaped volutes, by the 1580s the designs of the central fields demonstrated a burst of artistic originality. Here the two components of the chintamani amulet motif beloved of Ottoman artists—pairs of tapered wavy stripes and groups of four circular eyelike spots—have been arranged to form a lattice pattern. Usually the spots appear in groups of three, but this artist has taken the unusual liberty of grouping them in fours. By the end of the sixteenth century, dishes such as this one were made in increasingly large numbers for the free market, where higher prices could more accurately reflect the new economic realities brought about by inflation, and the ceramic artisans could realize a decent profit from their labors. By contrast, the makers of tiles ordered by the royal court in Istanbul were compensated by a fixed price set at least as early as 1558, which eventually barely covered the cost of manufacture. A document sent in 1585 from Istanbul to an official in Iznik complains that the potters of Iznik "do not work for the State, but rather go away and prepare ceramic tablewares for the pottery merchants." This brilliantly colored and technically flawless dish is therefore not only an example of great artistry but a document of a struggle for economic survival by its makers. Walter B. Denny in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011] Footnotes: 1. On chintamani, see Paquin, Gerard. "Cintamani." Hali, no. 64 (August 1992), pp. 111ff. Another variation on this theme, almost certainly by the same artist but with the more conventional triple spots, is in the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon; Ribeiro, Maria Queiroz. Iznik Pottery and Tiles in the Calouste Gulbenkian Collection. Lisbon, 2009, p. 86, no. 48. See also Atasoy and Raby 1989, pls. 762, 763. 2. This document and many others on Iznik production were first collected, translated into German, and published by Robert Anhegger as an appendix in Otto-Dorn, Katharina. Das islamische Iznik. Archäologisches Institut des Deutschen Reiches, Istanbuler Forschungen 13. Berlin, 1941. .
W. B. Osgood Field, New York (until 1902; gifted to MMA)
New York. The Hagop Kevorkian Special Exhibitions Gallery. "Flowers and Leaves: The Ottoman Pottery of Iznik," September 25, 1991–November 15, 1992, no catalogue.
New York. Visual Arts Gallery. "Iznik, Legendary Ceramics from Turkey: an Art Reborn," January 15, 2005–February 26, 2005, p. 22.
Ettinghausen, Richard. "Islamic Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin vol. 33, no. 1 (Spring 1975). p. 43, ill. p. 43 (b/w).
Atasoy, Nurhan, and Julian Raby. Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey, edited by Yanni Petsopoulos. London: Thames and Hudson, 1989.
Hristoff, Peter. "An Art Reborn." In Iznik: Legendary Ceramics from Turkey. New York, NY: School of Visual Arts, 2004. p. 22, ill. (color).
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. 215, pp. 3, 306, ill. p. 306 (color).