October 15, 2011

Istanbul. June, 2007

Which country has more tiles, Turkey or Portugal? A tough call, as both lands seem to put tiles just about everywhere -- on mosques, on homes, you name it. But whereas there seems to be a commercial, “downtown” appeal to Portuguese tilework, there is a reverential, almost sacred perspective to those found in Turkey. Take these Iznik tiles, for example, at the somewhat hidden and so seldom-touristed Rüstem Pasha Mosque in the Eminonu neighborhood. The famous blue is here. Legend holds that 15th-century tilemakers in the town of Izmik were influenced by the blue-and-white porcelain of the Chinese Ming dynasty. They gradually added turquoise and the difficult-to-produce red to their palette. And because Iznik potters’ skill was unsurpassed, the sultans soon brought them to Istanbul to fashion tiles only for the great mosques. Look closely and you’ll see there’s also an homage paid to the respected tulip, seen here in several stylized forms.

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