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1 / Converging Cultures

Dish with Grape Design
Dish with Grape Design
Artist / Origin Unknown artist, Iznik, Turkey
Region: West Asia
Date Ottoman period, late 16th century
Material Stone-paste painted under colorless glaze
Medium: Ceramics
Dimensions H: 2 5/8 in. (5.9 cm.), W: 12 ¾ in. (32.5 cm).
Location Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Credit Courtesy of the Freer Gallery or Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

expert perspective

Ladan AkbarniaAssociate Curator of Islamic Art, Brooklyn Museum

Additional Resources

Atasoy, Nurhan. Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey. London: Laurence King Publishers, 2008.

Atil, Esin, ed. Turkish Art. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1980.

Carswell, John. Iznik Pottery. Northampton, MA: Interlink, 2006.

Denny, Walter B. Iznik: The Artistry of Ottoman Ceramics. London: Thames & Hudson, 2005.

Irwin, Robert. Islamic Art in Context. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2003.

Arts of the Islamic World. Smithsonian Institution. Freer & Sackler Galleries Web site. http://www.asia.si.edu/collections/islamicHome.htm.

Ribeiro, Maria. Iznik Pottery and Tiles. London: Scala, 2009.

Dish with Grape Design

» Unknown artist, Iznik, Turkey

The trade of goods and exchange of culture between China and Persia dates back to the pre-Islamic period.

This interaction grew with the development of the Silk Road and eventually reached maximum intensity after the thirteenth century, when the Mongols conquered both territories, establishing the Yuan Dynasty in China and the Ilkhanid, or Lesser Khan, Dynasty in present-day Iran. By the fourteenth century, vast quantities of Chinese ceramics were being created for export to Iran and other Islamic territories, including the regions that now comprise Syria and Turkey. The desire for Chinese porcelain, in particular, was strong and remained so throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Demand prompted not only importation of porcelain wares, but also local attempts to emulate them.

From as early as the twelfth century, potters in the Islamic world were experimenting in the attempt to find an equivalent to the hard, white, translucent porcelain produced by the Chinese. Fritware, created by adding a material comprised mainly of silica and glass to clay, was the product of such experimentation. The town of Iznik in western Anatolia (present-day Turkey) emerged as a leading producer of fritware in the fourteenth century and remained an important center of ceramic production for some three hundred years thereafter.

This plate has a body of stone-paste, a kind of fritware consisting primarily of crushed quartz. Produced in Iznik during the Ottoman period, the plate was covered in white slip (liquid clay) and decorated with a blue design under a transparent glaze. This attempt to imitate Chinese blue and white ware is characteristic for the period, as are the departures from Chinese techniques and iconography. Although the floral patterns echo Chinese design, the grapes at the center of the plate were inspired by regional vegetation. The Iznik plate also adds green to the standard blue and white decoration. Polychrome underglaze painting began appearing on Iznik pottery around 1570 and stayed in favor until the decline of Iznik ceramic production a little over a century later.

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