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The art of çini has been defined among the public as the production of both fired, earth-glazed wall panels and earthenware for daily use. In the scientific literature, however, this definition has changed in time with an emerging differentiation between cook- and bake-ware such as bowls, plates and vases and wall panels; the former is known as ‘ceramics’ and the latter as ‘tile art’ (1). 

The Turkish tile and ceramics art occupies an important place in the history of Islamic Arts and dates back to the period of the Uyghur Civilization in the 8th and 9th Centuries. Its development was initiated with the Seljuks and continued by the Anatolian Seljuks.  

In the formation of the ceramics art of Anatolian Seljuks, the main influences were the cultural heritage of the region and the ceramics techniques of the Great Seljuks. However, the unique Seljuk architecture that developed in Anatolia in the 13th Century is the product of a successful synthesis and this development was also marked with the successful utilization of tiles in architecture as elements of ornamentation for the first time. Significant works ornamented with tiles can be seen in such cities as Konya, Sivas, Tokat, Beyşehir, Kayseri and Malatya.

The first technique of importance utilized by Anatolian Seljuks is ‘Glazed Tile Technique’ (in this technique, glazed and non-glazed tiles are placed together in horizontal, vertical, zigzag or diagonal rows. Most frequent colours are turquoise, cobalt blue, and eggplant purple and, at times, black). In addition to this technique, ornamentations on solid-coloured tiles also drive attention. The turquoise tile panels covering the external walls of Bursa Yeşil Sepulcher (1421) are the only first examples that have not been repeated since.

The second most frequently used is the ‘Mosaic Tile Technique’ granted to our art by Seljuks. This technique was successfully applied specifically to interiors, mihrabs, interiors of domes and domed passages. Pieces are custom cut for the patterns and the non-glazed surfaces are conical. These are lined up with their glazed parts at the bottom and mounted together with mortar applied over. Inlaid examples of the mosaic tile technique are referred to as ‘Inlaid Mosaic Tile Technique’. The patterns are dominated by turquoise, cobalt blue, eggplant purple and black colours and geometric compositions with occasional use of plant motifs and  kufi and sülüs scripts in ornamentation.

Beside such religious buildings as mosques and tombs, palaces were also ornamented with tiles in ‘Minai’, ‘Overglaze Technique’ and ‘Lustre (Gloss) Technique’. Tiles covering the walls of Konya Alaeddin Palace in the Minai Technique are made up of mobile miniature scenes reflecting the royal life. The most beautiful examples of tiles in Overglaze and Lustre Techniques can be seen at Beyşehir Kubadabad Palace.  

In the Lustre Technique, the pattern is prepared and applied onto a previously glazed and fired base with a mixture of metal oxide and silver and copper alloy known as lustre. Then, the piece painted with the lustre is fired for a second time. This technique is dominated by shades of brown and yellow. 

The successful ornamentations of Anatolian Seljuks enjoyed great support from the palace in their development in the Ottoman Period and works in new techniques and styles were thus produced. The first technique known in the Early Ottoman Period and continued in the 16th Century is the ‘Coloured Glaze Technique’.  The colour of the white-undercoated dough is red. In this technique the patterns were carved and pressed onto a red dough, coated with paint and then kiln-dried. In order to prevent bleeding of colours during firing, the gaps between the contours are filled with wax or chemical. Various colours such as turquoise, cobalt blue, lilac, yellow, black, green and golden are used together. This technique is most frequently observed in the tiled buildings of Bursa, Edirne and Istanbul (2). 

The early Ceramics of the Ottoman or Beyliks Period were produced with white undercoat on red dough and referred to as ‘Miletus Work’ due to their origins in Miletus. It is well known that these first examples were specifically produced in Iznik. 

The most important centre in operation during the 15th and 16th Centuries was Iznik. Patterns created by master muralists at the Workshop sponsored at the Ottoman Palace were sent to Iznik for application, where the works were also fired. The first and new style of this period is the ‘Blue and White’ group. (For ‘Haliç işi ’, see) When compared to previous examples, these tiles and ceramics were produced with a very advanced technique and their most important feature is the use of frit-ware technique. The patterns were applied with brushes in the Overglaze Technique, which would be maintained until the 17th Century. 

Tiles and ceramics produced in the second half of the 16th Century represent the ‘Red Overglaze Technique’ that attained perfection in patterns and colours and promoted the most widely known and brightest period of tile art. The overglaze was skilfully applied with shades of cobalt blue, turquoise, green, black, brown and embossed coral red. Apart from known compositions, a free approach to composition allowed for new arrangements along with the adoption of floral patterns in the naturalistic style, known as the school of ‘Karamemi’, the head royal muralist of the time. 

Ceramics for normal use were also produced in Iznik with fritted dough in 1470; but, it was in the 1506-1507 that these were utilized in architectural buildings (Süleymaniye Mosque (1557), followed by various mosques such as Hürrem Sultan Sepulcher (1558), Rüstem Paşa Mosque (1561), The Mausoleum of Suleiman The Magnificent (1566), Sokollu Mehmet Paşa Sepulcher (1572) and Piyale Paşa Mosque (1573)).

The transition to the multi-coloured period was marked with ceramics produced in various pattern styles such as Baba Nakkaş (Father Naqqash) in the Blue and White technique and ceramics created in violet and green, known as Damask. In the multi-coloured period, the dominant colours were red, blue, green, brown, turquoise and black (in the contour line). The red colour is frequently seen in the ceramics of Iznik specifically in the period of the Muralist Karamemi.

After the second half of the 17th Century, the Ottoman Empire experienced a tumultuous period aggravated with economic problems, which were reflected onto the workshops of Iznik with a resulting deterioration in the quality of tiles and ceramics (3).

With the complete close-down of the Iznik workshops in the 18th Century, Kütahya has come forward as an alternative centre of tile work. In this period, Kütahya produced imitations of blue and white patterns of Iznik, as well as works in new styles. Produced in various forms, these products were decorated in yellow and red, green, cobalt blue, black and purple with the overglaze brush technique on white dough.           

See, Kütahya Çini (tile) and Ceramics Art

See, İznik Tiles on the Ottoman Structures   (presentation)


For more information, see...



(1) Techniques and development of the Tile Art, see..
Ara Altun, Osmanlıda Çini ve Seramik Öyküsü/The Story of Ottoman Tiles and Ceramics, İstanbul 1997-1999
     Arthur Lane, Later Islamic Pottery, London 1957
     B.Demirsarar, Anadolu Türk Sanatında Çini ve Seramik, Kültürlerin Kesiştiği Ülke, Türkiye, İstanbul 1993
     Can Kerametli, Asya'dan Anadolu'ya Türk Çini ve Keramik Sanatı, Türkiyemiz 9,İstanbul 1973
     C.Krefer, Les  Ceramiques Muslümanes D'Anatolie, Cahiers de la Ceramique,4, 1956
      Faik Kırımlı, İstanbul Çiniciligi Sanat Tarihi Yıllığı Xı, İÜ  Ed. Fak. Yayını, 1981, İstanbul
Gönül Öney, Türk Çini Sanatı, İstanbul 1976
     Gönül Öney, Anadolu’da Türk Devri Çini ve Seramik Teknikleri, Türk Çini Sanatı, İstanbul 1986
     Gönül Öney, Anadolu Türk Çini ve Seramik Sanatı, İstanbul 1976
     Gönül Öney, İslam Mimarisinde Çini, İstanbul 1988   
     Gönül Öney, Erken Osmanlı Mimarisinde Çini, XV-XVI yy Başı İznik-Bursa-Edirne, Osmanlı 11, Yeni Türkiye Yayınları, Ankara 1999
     Gönül Öney, Turkish Ceramic Tile Art, Tokyo 1975
     Gönül Öney, Bursa Çinileri, İstanbul 1996
     Hakan Arlı, Mehmet Emin Efendi The Story of Ottoman Tiles and Ceramics, İstanbul, 1997
     Hadi Tamer, Türk Çinicilerinin Terkip ve Tekniğine Daİr Bazı Tahlil, Müşahade Ve Mukayeseler, Ankara Üniversitesi, Türk Ve İslam Sanatları Tarihi Enstitüsü Yayını , 1962, Ankara
     Friedrich Sarre, Die Keramik der Islamische Zeit von Milet, Berlin 1935
     J. Carswell, Iznik Pottery, London 1957
     J. Soustiel, La Ceramique Islamique, Fribourg, 1985
     Nurettin Yatman, Eski Türk Çinileri, Ankara 1942
     Otto-K.Dorn, Turkische Keramik, Ankara 1957
     Oktay.Aslanapa, Anadolu'da Türk Çini ve Keramik Sanatı, İstanbul 1965   Şerare Yetkin, Anadoluda Çini Sanatının Gelişmesi, İstanbul 1986
     Oktay Aslanapa, Türk Sanatı El Kitabı, İnkilap, İstanbul
     Şerare Yetkin, Anadolu'da Türk Çini Sanatının Gelişmesi, İstanbul 1986
     Şerare Yetkin, Türk Çini Sanatında Bazı Önemli Örnekler ve Teknikleri, Sanat Tarihi Yıllığı I, İstanbul 1964    
     Şerare Yetkin, Mimar Sinan'ın Eserlerinde Çini Süsleme Düzeni, İstanbul 1988
     Şehabettin Uzluk, Selçuklu ve Osmanlı Çini İşçiliği, İstanbul, 1930
     Tahsin Öz, Yıldız Çini Fabrikası Arkitekt, Sayı 161-162, 1945, İstanbul 
Tahsin Öz. Çinilerimiz ,Güzel Sanatlar, Sayı 2
     Tahsin Öz. Turkish Ceramics, Ankara 1955

(2) İznik Tiles, see
     Kaynak;Sitare Turan Bakır, İznik Çinileri ve Gülbenkyan Koleksiyonu, Kültür Bakanlığı,Ankara 1999
     Ara Altun, İznik, Türk Çini ve Seramikleri,İstanbul 1991
     Ara Altun, Osmanlı'da çini ve Seramik Öyküsü, İstanbul 1997
     O.Aslnapa-Ş.Yetkin-A.Altun, İznik Çini Fırınları Kazısı/The İznik Tile Kiln Excavations, II.Dönem,İstanbul 1989
     O.Aslanapa, Tabriser Künstiler am Hofe der Osmanischen Sultane in İstanbul, Anatolia 3, 1958
     O.Aslanapa, Peportbon İznik, Anatolians Studies, 17,1967    
     Nurhan Atasoy-J.Raby, İznik Çiniciliğinin Gelişmesi ve Büyümesi, İznik,Londra/Singapur,1989
     Nurhan Atasoy-J.Raby, İznik, The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey, London 1989
     A.Kolsuk, Haliç-İşi Denilen İznik Çinileri,Kültür ve Sanat15, İstanbul 1977
     Şerare Yetkin, Mimar Sinan'ın Eserlerinde Çini Süsleme Düzeni, İstanbul 1988
     Otto-K.Dorn, Das Islamische İznik, Berlin 1941
     W.Denny, Islamic Blue and White Pottery on Chinese Themes, Bulletin of the Museumof Fine Arts, Boston 72,1974
     Zick-J.Nissen, Some Rare Pieces of Ottoman Blue and White Ceramics,4th International Congress of Turkish Art, 1971
(3) Nurhan Atasoy-J.Raby, 1600-Sonun Başlangıcı

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