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Simon Ray: Indian & Islamic Works of Art

ROSE AND TULIP IZNIK TILE
Turkey (Iznik), circa 1560
Height: 28.2 cm
Width: 27.8 cm

A large and magnificent polychrome tile underglaze-painted in vibrant colours of cobalt blue, sage green, sealing wax red and sky blue against a white ground.

The tile is framed to the top by a dramatic integral border of interlinked serrated leaf palmettes, painted in light blue, stippled and veined in a darker blue, and outlined in deep cobalt blue and black, so as to create a wonderfully shaded effect. The row of serrated leaf palmettes combine to form a wave-like pattern for a border design full of kinetic energy. The centre of each palmette has a crested wave in sage green and black against the white ground. A red horizontal border frames the design above and below.

The main field below focuses on a central sealing wax red rose depicted as a flower-head, bending to the right, its stem straining under its weight and perhaps being blown in the breeze. The flower has small cusped petals that radiate in concentric circles around a central green bud, spiralling simultaneously in clockwise and anticlockwise direction to impart a hypnotic sense of movement to the rose.

To the right is a tall thin hyacinth spray, its quivering blue flowers curving towards the large rose to echo in outline its spherical form. A spray of two twisting saz leaves rises from the bottom of the tile, each in a dappled blue with a bold red central vein. To the left of the saz leaves is a smaller rose depicted in flattened three-quarter profile, and a stylised composite rosette with serrated blue petals surrounding a delicate five-petalled red flower-head to the centre. Above these flowers is a lattice of crisscrossing rose vines leaves and a just-opening rose bud to the top enclosed in a dramatic calyx from which sprout attenuated leaves. The vines, leaves and flowers all provide an elegant framework for the large central rose.

The only spray to compete visually with the large rose is a tulip, placed to the left and only partly in view. Painted in a bold sky blue with cobalt detailing and raised red spots, it too echoes the curves of the rose, in slight contrapposto, as the hyacinth does on the opposite side. Next to the tulip is an unusual spear-shaped vine with red dots on its undulating surface. These compositional devices help create a feeling of cohesiveness in the variegated floral abundance of the tile. To the top of the main field, two delicate stylised chinoiserie cloud bands hang against the white ground, suggesting the sky above.

Several elements of the design of this tile may be compared with a tile in the Çinili Kösk Museum at the Topkapi Saray, Istanbul. This tile is illustrated in Gönül Öney and Banri Namikawa, Turkish Ceramic Tile Art, 1975, pl. 71. It has a very similar large rose with radiating concentric petals, a blue composite rosette, two thick curving vines with red dots and a wave border to the centre of the tile from which hang pendant chinoiserie cloud bands.


Provenance:
Krishna Riboud Collection, Paris

all text & images Simon Ray: Indian & Islamic Works of Art

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