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A9636-6 Tile fragment, part of collection, earthenware / glaze, maker unrecorded, Iznik, Turkey, c.1570-1580. Click to enlarge.

Turkish tile fragment

Made in Iznik, Turkey, c.1570-1580.

The height or classic phase of the imperial style of the Ottoman Empire's long reign can be seen in this Iznik tile of c. 1575. This tile is an example of how high-points in world history can remain represented long after a period's demise by splendid survivors of art, literature and music. It is no accident that when a political power reaches a certain economic stature, it has the means to support, encourage and patronise 'luxury' activities that for the rulers benefit their lifestyle, promote ...


Object No.


Object Statement

Tile fragment, part of collection, earthenware / glaze, maker unrecorded, Iznik, Turkey, c.1570-1580

Physical Description

Rectangular tile (cut portion of once square tile), earthenware, Iznik, Turkey, c.1570-1580.

Silica / frit body giving clear white ground with a part-pattern showing a spray of plum/prunus blossom overlaid with a feathery saz leaf, the upper right corner with a quarter of a large pomegranate flower, the lower right hand corner with a portion of a palmette. Outlined in black and painted in two shades cobalt blue, raised sealing-wax red (Armenian bole) and green glazes. Forming part of a larger pattern, Iznik, Turkey, c.1570-1580.



245 mm


170 mm


15 mm



Iznik, Turkey c.1570-1580


Within a century of Ottoman control of Byzantine Constantinople, the rebuilding into Istanbul began apace. It was with the construction of the Süleymanye Mosque (beginning 1550) that there arose a dramatic demand for tiles met for the next half century by the Iznik workshops 100 kilometres to the south west of the capital. Iznik already had a history of ceramic production as ancient Nicaea but it found renewed fame through experiments in crafting a stark white body of quartz (silica and frit) in imitation of Chinese porcelain, and decorating it with a startling but controlled palette of black-outlined designs in 'sealing wax red', turquoise, blue, purple, and green. The designs were dominated by the celebrated red which stands proud of a tile's surface for which the first dateable occurrence is a mosque lamp of 1557 (Atasoy et al. 1989: 224). The Powerhouse tile fits stylistically with this height of Iznik production in the last half of the 16th century. Between 1550 and 1620 some of the most celebrated monuments were completed under Suleyman II (the Magnificent, 1520-1566) and his immediate successors including the Süleymanye Mosque, sections of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, and the mosque of Rüstem Pasha. The crucial link in this period was Sinan (1489-1588), the justly-famous and prolific chief Ottoman architect.

The Powerhouse tile's crisply applied and fired motifs of are in the hatyayî style dominated by a combined turquoise serated saz (reed) leaf and tulip with quarter palmettes at opposite corners in purple and 'sealing wax' red respectively. Tying the design together are Chinese-inspired sprigs of blue and red prunus flowers on brown stems - with one idiosyncratically 'snapped' at an angle to fit the field.

Paul Donnelly, Curator, September 2009

Atasoy, Nurhan, and Julian Raby, 1989. 'Iznik: The pottery of Ottoman Turkey', Alexandria Press with Thames & Hudson, London



This tile is from the Ayub Ansari complex in Istanbul, built by Muhammad II in 1465-1496. The Powerhouse tile is a portion of a once complete tile. Comparison of the Museum's tile with illustration of walls decorated with the same tile design (Saunders 1987: 11, pl. 3) shows that the Powerhouse tile is a rectangular portion cut on two sides leaving approximately 55% of the original square tile. Closer scrutiny of the tile itself shows the glaze of the uncut sides gathering along the edge whereas the glaze of the cut sides end abruptly. Interestingly only one of the cut sides is angled at 90 degrees, whereas the remaining cut side mirrors the manufactured sides in being undercut at 75 degrees.

It is safe to guess the Powerhouse tile was trimmed either through necessity at the time it was originally used, or because it was damaged during removal and the edges straightened later for sale. The mosque, mausoleum and bathhouse architecture upon which tiles were affixed is typically complex and tiles frequently required cutting to fit around pillars, and within panels, mihrabs etc. The difference in finish of the cut sides of the Powerhouse tile might be significant in suggesting different times for the trimming; possibly a combination of pre and post use.

The tile was purchased in 1983 along with thirty-five others from the region using funds from the 'Patrons of the Powerhouse Museum'.

Paul Donnelly, Curator, September 2009

Saunders, Gill, 1987. 'Tile Paintings' Victoria & Albert colour books, Webb and Bower, London

Cite this Object


Turkish tile fragment 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 28 January 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Turkish tile fragment |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=28 January 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
This object is currently on display in Collection Gallery 5 at the Museums Discovery Centre.

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