NICAEA, town, northwestern Turkey. It lies on the eastern shore of Lake
Iznik. Founded in the 4th century BC by the Macedonian king Antigonus
I Monophthalmus, it was an important center in late Roman and Byzantine
times (see Nicaea, councils of; Nicaea, empire of). The ancient city's
Roman and Byzantine ramparts, 14,520 feet (4,426 m) in circumference,
remain. The town was besieged and conquered in 1331 by the Ottoman Turks,
who renamed it Iznik and built the Green Mosque (1378-91).
Iznik's prosperity, which was interrupted by the competing growth of nearby
Istanbul as an Ottoman center after 1453, revived in the 16th century
with the introduction of faience pottery making. Iznik subsequently became
famous for its magnificent tiles, but after the workshops
were transferred to Istanbul c. 1700, Iznik began to decline. Its economy
suffered a further blow with the construction of a major railway bypassing
the town. Today Iznik is a small market town and administrative center
for the surrounding district.
In Islamic ceramics, a school of Turkish
pottery making that flowered throughout the 16th and on into the 17th
century. There may have been potteries at Iznik, where there were deposits
of suitable clay, as early as the 12th century, but it was not until the
late 15th century that pottery making came into its own in Turkey. The
chief center of production became established in the city of Iznik. Early
16th-century Iznik wares were influenced by the blue-and-white porcelain
of Ming-dynasty China and by Persian wares. Iznik ware was soft and sandy,
being of grayish-white clay covered with a thin, usually white slip (a
mixture of clay and water). Flat dishes were the commonest shapes, but
bowls, jugs, and flower vases were also made. They were painted with stylized
and symmetrical designs of flowers, leaves, and fruits, along with abstract
linear motifs based on these natural forms and others such as fish scales.
By the mid-16th century the range of colors used in the decoration had
expanded from blue and white to include turquoise, several shades of green,
and purple and black. Red had become a frequently used color by the late
16th century. The quality of Iznik ware declined in the 17th century,
and by 1800 manufacture had ceased.
Iznik is located on the banks of a scenic
lake in the province of Bursa in the northwestern part of Anatolia. In
antiquity, the town lay within the borders of the Bithynian region. According
to one legend the town was established on the return of the God Dionysus
Iznik was colonized by the soldiers who
escorted Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) during his conquests. When Antigonas
Monophthalmus founded the city in 316 BC, there was already a settlement
of the Bottiaei people there called Elikore, and Antigonas named the town
Antigoneia after himself. Following the battle of Ipsus (301 BC), one
of Alexander's generals, Lysimachos (360-281 BC) took the city and named
it Nikaia after his wife and daughter of the Macedonian leader, Antipatros.
Throughout the centuries the name Nikaia went through phonetic changes,
becoming first Nicea and eventually Iznik in Turkish times.
In the course of its history from 316 BC
to present day, Iznik presents a picture of a city that has undergone
great cultural and architectural changes. In the true sense of the word,
Iznik is an archeological and historical art laboratory of the Romans,
Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman Turks.
Recent excavations of Iznik kilns tell us that the Ottoman ceramics in
Iznik had a Seljuk background. The latest research and analysis have revealed
that the white pasted hard ceramic consists of the same material as the
soft porcelain used in the Ottoman period. At first, blue and white were
the prevailing colors in the pots and wall tiles in this category. During
the 16th century, the Turquoise was introduced. The embossed red of the
wall tiles of the mihrab of Suleymaniye Mosque (1555) marks the peak of
Ottoman tiles and ceramics. During the Ottoman era, the Iznik tiles and
pottery were exported to other countries via the island of Rhodes, then
under Turkish rule.
A famous Turkish traveler, Evliya Celebi,
mentions the existence of 300 workshops in Iznik during the l7th century.
This number, also justified by the excavations, gives us an idea of the
importance of tile production in this town. Various reasons have been
put forward with regard to the decline of tile production in Iznik. The
most widely accepted theory is that the demand from Istanbul (then Constantinople)
for the use of these tiles in major public buildings such as mosques and
palaces had fallen during the period of decline of the Ottoman Empire.
During the Turkish war of Independence, Iznik endured turbulent times.
The town was invaded by Greeks in September 1920, and towards the final
stages of the war, Iznik was burnt to the ground by the defeated invaders,
forcing many inhabitants to flee. With the declaration of the Turkish
Republic, Iznik became home for an influx of Turkish immigrants from Greece
Iznik became a center of worldwide attention once again when the year
1989 was declared the year of Iznik. Several activities relating to Iznik
took place; a symposium, an international exhibition and the publication
of several books. The Iznik Foundation was established in September 1993.
The Characteristics of IZNIK Tiles
Iznik Tiles are admired worldwide for the
following reasons :
Iznik Tiles are made on a very clean white
base with hard backs and under-glaze decorations in a unique technique.
70-80 percent of an Iznik tile is composed
of quartz and quartzite. Its beauty arises from the harmonious composition
of three successive quartz layers and a paste-slip-glaze combination that
is extremely difficult to bring together. The mixture of quartz, clay
and glaze disperses in a very wide thermal spectrum at 900 centigrade.
After painstaking research, the problem of the fluctuating thermal behavior
of the tiles due to their quartz and rock crystal composition was solved.
The result; a tile made primarily out of a semi-precious stone, quartz.
Even though it may appear to be against the
principle of "ceramic textural unity", the unique structure
of the tiles cause dilatation in hot, and shrinkage in cold or freezing
conditions. Iznik tiles are extremely durable, and versatile for any decorative
or architectural concept.
In Iznik tiles, one can observe colors resembling
those of semi-precious stones such as the dark blue of lapis lazuli, the
blue of turquoise, the redness of coral, and the green of emerald.
Some of the colors observed on the tiles and utensils, particularly the
coral red, are very hard to obtain and apply. To obtain all of these colors,
the cornea white and opaque sheen glazes are required. The slightly opaque
quality of the glaze on the tiles cushions reflective light, producing
a relaxing expression.
The figures on the tiles and utensils reflect
allegorical and symbolic characteristics, namely the flora and fauna of
the region. The geometrical designs can be interpreted cosmologically
as a general description or depiction of the world or the Universe. Iznik
Tiles are never overpowering or overstated, and tend towards a timeless
discretion and moderation, blending beautifully with surrounding architecture.
The old masters kept their production techniques
very secret, even from their own families and students. They took production
secrets of their manufacture lay concealed for centuries.
Unlike current ceramic technologies, our production is fundamentally based
on the natural synthesis of its various components. This intensely difficult
ceramic production process is made possible through the synthesis of human
labor, creativity and patience.
IZNIK Tiles Today
Iznik Kiln excavations that have been carried
out for over 20 years by Archeology and history Departments of Istanbul
University, gives us clues as to the types of kilns and ceramics used
in the Art of Iznik tile making.
Excavations have revealed that Iznik tile
production was high on wastage owing to the large proportion of quartz
in the ceramic. Therefore, only through scientific research could a unified
Iznik tile concept be formed. Many experiments with the minerals in the
area were carried on in the course of which thousands of experimental
plates were produced only to be broken and thrown away.
Current outputs are not mere reproductions
of 16th Century masterpieces. Iznik Tiles today are the continuum of the
Iznik tradition and heritage after three centuries. Presently, our end
product is equal or better in terms of quality.
The Iznik Foundation has received the support
of scientific foundations and NGO's such as TUBITAK - MAM (Turkish Scientific
Research Institute - Marmara Research Center, I.T.U. (Istanbul Technical
University), I.U. (Istanbul University), in Turkey, in a vast range of
Old Iznik tiles reached their heyday in the 16th century, and the masterpieces
produced at that time are regarded as the most valuable specimens in the
art of ceramics by the leading museums of the world. Currently, Iznik
Tiles are used as an architectural element in old and modern buildings
by the discriminating decorators, architects and art lovers.