History and decorative characteristics of Turkish ceramics

The Byzantine and especially the Seljuk tradition served as a breeding ground for pottery in the 13th century. The Seljuks left behind a rich legacy in the form of unique tiles made during the heyday of the empire. The style of this period is called “rum”. Originally, the Rumi style originated in Rome, in Byzantine pottery painting techniques, adopted by the Seljuks who called themselves Rumi (Roman Seljuks). This style is characterized by lush, stylized shapes of leaves and buds.


The conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453 and its transformation into the capital of the Ottoman state – Istanbul, the growth of cities, the development of architecture increased the need for such an ideal building material as ceramics. There was a need to create a larger production center. Rich deposits of high-quality white clay have contributed to the prominence of the town of Iznik (Nicaea), located a few tens of kilometers from the capital.

The variety of shapes of the forms of early ceramics Iznik corresponded to their technical design and decoration. The objects are made of light clay. The painting is done in cobalt blue on a white background, under a transparent glaze. We used 2 shades of cobalt: light – for the main image and dark – for the outline. During this period, the technique of “reserve” painting became widespread, when the background was covered with paint, and the parts that were not touched by the color formed a pattern.

Iznik products from the early period were characterized by painting, magnificent art and elegance. The ornament was a very finely executed floral motif, among which the main place was occupied by flowers with rounded petals, curly stems with small leaves and curls, as well as traditional arabesques (stylized image of leaves or semi-leaves). At the moment, the lotus flower, called “khatai” in Turkish, predominates among the plant motifs. Both the lotus motif and Chinese clouds (a stylized loop-shaped figure) were an integral part of the decor at the time. The appearance of these decorative details is explained by the influence of imported Far Eastern goods, especially porcelain from the Ming period (1368-1664). Thus, the Turkish term cini (tile) reflects the influence of Chinese culture. In other words, the Turkish word means making or reproducing Chinese pottery.


Chintamani is a typical Central Asian motif, consisting of 3 circles, which not only played a role in Buddhism, but also represented the arrangement of stars and the moon, according to which the Ottoman court celebrated Novruz (spring holiday and beginning of the new year).

Highly artistic porcelain served the masters of Iznik as a model. But, borrowing these or those schemes, the potters of Iznik were far from a blind imitation. They interpreted them in their own way and presented their motives. In the 16th century, the transition to a new decorative solution was planned. I still apply blue flowers to round petals, lotuses, leaves on twisted stems, Iznik masters begin to decorate their products with a distinctive pattern of thin blue or dark green stems with small leaves, flowers in the shape of stars and curls, placed on the surface of pots in regular spirals. Gradually, the image began to include turquoise, then olive green, brown, purple and black for the outlines of the drawings.