This panel represents one of the ceramic tile workshops outside Iznik, in the Ottoman province of Syria. It is composed of six tiles, each almost a foot square in size and slightly larger than the standard size used at Iznik. It is designed with a repeating pattern of parallel undulating grapevines ornamented with distinctive dark-blue grape leaves, vine tendrils, and small bunches of grapes. Differences in the individual tiles suggest that the overall design may have been executed freehand over a large field of tiles, rather than each individual tile having been painted from the same paper template. Such variations, almost never found in Iznik production, are a common feature of Damascus tiles in the seventeenth century. Virtually identical tiles are found in the Darwishiyya Mosque in Damascus, erected in 1571.
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Title:Tile Panel with Wavy-vine Design
Geography:Probably made in Syria, Damascus
Medium:Stonepaste; polychrome painted under transparent glaze
Dimensions:H. 22 in. (55.9 cm) W. 33 in. (83.8 cm)
Credit Line:Rogers Fund, 1922
Panel of Underglaze-Painted Tiles
As demand for the ceramic production of Iznik increased by the end of the sixteenth century, especially in the area of tile decorations for public and private monuments, Iznik itself fell victim to a series of calamities, including catastrophic fires, the debilitating effects of silicosis (from the dust of the ground flint used for the white ceramic body), lead poisoning (lead is the flux used in the clear glaze that covers Iznik ceramics), the malaria endemic to the Iznik lakeshore that affected the ceramic artisans, and, as we have seen (no. 02.5.55), a price structure that forced Iznik artists to sell tiles at a price that did not cover the costs of labor and raw materials. As Iznik declined, however, new manufactories in the Ottoman Empire sprang up to meet the continuing demand for tiles. One of these, at Diyarbakir in southern Turkey, was briefly active at the end of the sixteenth century. Another arose in the sixteenth century in the provincial Ottoman city of Damascus in Syria, where tiles were produced for over a century.
The Metropolitan Museum’s Damascus tile panel utilizes a distinctive palette of dark blue, light blue, turquoise, and touches of pale green, with a black line, painted on a white slip and covered with a transparent glaze. The size of the six individual tiles, each almost a foot square, is slightly larger than the standard square tile used at Iznik. The panel combines two tile designs, each effectively a mirror image of the other, to create a repeating design of parallel undulating grapevines ornamented with distinctive dark-blue grape leaves, vine tendrils, and small bunches of grapes. Differences in the individual tiles suggest that the overall design may have been executed freehand over a large field of tiles, rather than each individual tile having been painted from the same paper template. Such variations, almost never found in Iznik production, are a common feature of Damascus tiles in the seventeenth century. Virtually identical tiles are found in the Darwishiyya Mosque in Damascus, erected in 1571.
Walter B. Denny in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
1. See Raby, Julian. "Diyarbekir: A Rival to Iznik." Istanbüler Mitteilungen 27–28 (1977–78), pp. 429–59.
2. Porter, V. 1995, pp. 116–19.
Lockwood de Forest (American), New York and Santa Barbara (until 1922; his sale,American Art Association, November 24–25, 1922, lot 443; to MMA)
"November 24–25, 1922." In Catalogue of the Rare and Valuable Examples of East Indian, Persian, and Syro-Damascan Art and Curios Forming the Private Collection of the Widely Known Artist and Connoisseur Lockwood De Forest, Esq. of New York City, All of Which Has Been Removed from h. New York: American Art Association, 1922. lot 443.
Jenkins-Madina, Marilyn. "Islamic Pottery: A Brief History." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New Series, vol. 40, no. 4 (Spring 1983). no. 50, pp. 44–45, ill. (color).
Porter, Venetia. Islamic Tiles. London and New York: Interlink Books, 1995. pp. 116–119.
Ekhtiar, Maryam, Priscilla P. Soucek, Sheila R. Canby, and Navina Haidar, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 219, pp. 310–11, ill. (color).
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