This magnificent polychrome dish, with its design of flowers on a blue ground, documents a crucial moment in the history of Iznik ceramics, when the use of an underglaze red color was first attempted about 1560. Within a traditional shape directly inspired by a Ming Chinese prototype, consisting of a cusped flat rim, a quarter-round cavetto (the curve from the rim to the bottom of the dish), and a flat central tondo, the Iznik artist responsible for this plate created a masterpiece of innovative design in three colors—reserve white, red, and turquoise—on a dark-blue ground. The design reflects the brand-new floral style that emerged in Ottoman court art in the mid-sixteenth century, created by the recently appointed chief of the royal design atelier, an artist known by the nickname Kara Memi (literally, dark Mehmed). The thinness of the red pigment made from an iron-rich clay, known as Armenian bole, and the zigzag red ornaments on the two tulips in the lower half of the central tondo help us to date this work to about 1560, when tile panels designed by Kara Memi, of an almost identical style, were being affixed to the walls of the just-completed Rustem Pasha Mosque in Istanbul. The rim is decorated with small white tulips and five-petal blossoms, which impart to the design a sense of rotational movement. Following a practice common by the middle of the sixteenth century, the curved cavetto and flat bottom of the plate are used as a single design surface. The stems of the central floral spray—which consists of two white tulips and two complex, imaginary floral palmettes, one decorated with a rumi split-leaf arabesque and the other with smaller flowers—typically originate from a single point at the bottom of the composition. A closer look at this animated design reveals the artist’s individual featherlike brushstrokes in the blue background, which contribute a three-dimensional visual texture to the surface. Walter B. Denny in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011] Footnotes: 1. On Kara Memi and his style, see Atil 1987, pp. 55–56; see also Denny 2004, pp. 79 and 117. 2. Discussed in Denny 2004, pp. 79–92; see also Denny 1998, pp. 37–56.
Mr. and Mrs. Isaac D. Fletcher, New York (until his d.1917; bequeathed 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.
Atil, Esin. The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. Washington, DC: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1987. pp. 55–56.
Atasoy, Nurhan, and Julian Raby. Iznik : The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey, edited by Yanni Petsopoulos. London: Thames and Hudson, 1989. no. 672, p. 292, ill. (color).
Denny, Walter B. Gardens of Paradise : 16th century Turkish Ceramic Tile Decoration. Istanbul: Ertug & Kocabiyik, 1998. pp. 37–56.
Denny, Walter B. Iznik: the Artistry of Ottoman Ceramics. London and New York: Thames and Hudson, 2004. pp. 79–92, 117.
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. 211, pp. 302-303, ill. p. 303.