Iznik Tiling

The Blue Mosque Interior
Iznik Tiling within the Blue Mosque

The interior of The Blue Mosque and The Rustem Pasha Mosque incorporate Iznik tiling, in the form of complete areas, as top borders and within corners, as well as around window frames and entrances. Their pattern and surface are used to transform these interiors into a path to the divine. They fill the space with subtly reflected light and colour. The tiles themselves have no material value (clay and glaze). Through the time and care of the maker they are invested with symbolic meaning and value. They are hand painted with the exact pattern transferred using a pin-stencil technique to ensure the patterns continue across tiles once installed.

Iznik Tiling within the Blue Mosque: Patterns incorporating various leaves and petals as well as tulips and carnations

Iznik tiles sit within two main types: those inspired by animals (Rumi) and those inspired by plants (Haiti). Rumi are very stylized. The motifs mean courage, faithfulness and abundance. Haiti are inspired by flowers and plants of the place including tulips, carnations, jacinth flowers, pomegranates, scarlet pimpernels and stylized roads of reeds. They are symbolized in part or whole including:

Petals only of a variety of flowers

Penc: A stylized top view of a flower. Their names stem from the number of petals.

Haiti: The stylized anatomic lines in transverse section of flowers (carnations, tulips).

Semi-stylized flowers importantly not losing the character of the original flower.

There are also Cloud, Cinemani, Muhani and The Life Tree motifs used in Iznik Tiling. Clouds bring forth rain and abundance and so are important in their symbolic meaning. They occur as rain clouds, or the stylized line of a cloud and include Free Cloud, Tepelik Cloud types and Cloud in the Circle. Each has a different role within the composition either filling space, particular position (top/bottom), as exit points for the design or joining elements together (pedicles of bouquets).

Iznik Tiling Within Aya Sofya including The Life Tree (R)
Iznik Tiling within The Blue Mosque with Cinemani featuring as well as tulips, leaves and jacinth

Cinemani are made up of two undulating lines and three spheres (one at the top and two at the bottom). It represents the pelt of the striped tiger and spotted leopard. These motifs acquired great associations symbolizing power, strength and sovereignty.

This style of tiling was based in Iznik because it was close to Istanbul, on the Silk Road and had an abundance of hornbeam (used as combustible material for firing) and the raw materials for tile and ceramic. It declined in the 17th Century when the trading route changed its path, coupled with Iznik Tile Masters (originally from Tabriz) being exiled to Rhodes. Their knowledge was passed from Father to Son so the knowledge left with them.

Collated from information from The Blue Mosque, V&A Museum and  The Islamic and Turkish Works Museum.


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