JIAAW, Minassian Collection
Decorated with a symmetrical design of blue and green hues, object M167 from the Joukowsky Institute’s Minassian Collection is a rich example of Damascus ware. Damascus tiles were derived from the tradition of Iznik ceramics, a school of Turkish pottery that flourished between the 15th and 17th centuries. Inspired by Chinese porcelain wares and the intricate designs of Persian pottery, Iznik wares often depicted floral motifs in colors of deep blues and white. In the mid-16th century, the Ottoman sultan Suleyman the Magnificent sent Iznik potters to repair tiles at the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Once their work was completed, the Iznik potters traveled about 135 miles north to Damascus, a city in present-day Syria. The artisans settled in Damascus, continuing to create tiles and vessels rooted in the Iznik tradition. Yet, it was in Damascus that the color palette changed from bright whites and vibrant blues and reds to more muted tones inspired by nature. In object M167, one may notice blues inspired by the sky and sea, hints of sage green reminiscent of vegetation, and earthy brown accents.
Although Iznik ceramics are considered to be the emblems of the golden age of Islamic tile production, Damascus tiles found throughout the Ottoman Empire and in its capital city of Istanbul were more readily available to Western collectors in the 19th century. It is through this market that Western museums and many collectors were able to acquire Damascus tiles and may be how this particular tile ended up as part of the Minassian’s collection.
-Jinette Jimenez ‘21
Read about the history of the Minassian Collection here.
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