Extract

Rhapsody in Blue

The tiles of the Murad II Mosque in Edirne

John Carswell reveals the fascinating story of the tiles of the Murad II Mosque in Edirne, and the clues they provide to a collection of prized Chinese porcelain assembled by the Ottoman sultans two decades before they captured Istanbul

I have long been intrigued by this 15th-century building and its decoration, for it represents a landmark in the history of Ottoman architecture, yet it still does not entirely explain itself. Briefly, it is apparent that the Persian tile-makers from Tabriz who worked on the Yeşil Cami and Yeşil Türbe in Bursa in the 1420s moved on to Edirne: the same cuerda seca, or enamelled, tiles can be seen in all three structures. The novelty was the introduction of a new technique: painting the design under the glaze. And it is in the mihrab tiles at Edirne that one can specifically trace the transition from those older, more traditional methods to underglaze, which was to become the corner stone of the Ottoman ceramic industry when it developed half a century later.

A further distinction can be observed in the designs of the individual tiles, for they clearly show the influence of 14th- and early-15th-century Chines blue and white porcelain. Here it should be pointed out that blue and white itself only appeared in China during the second decade of the 14th century. The tiles at Edirne show that the potters were conversant with the designs on both Yuan and early Ming porcelain. To have been influenced in such a manner, they must have been exposed to the originals. This in turn argues for a royal collection of porcelain at Edirne well before the court moved to Istanbul 20 years later.

The Murad II Mosque was tragically vandalised a few years after this article was published. The photographs commissioned by John Carswell are therefore a unique record. The mosque has not been reopened since.

To read the full article, purchase Issue 19

Issue 19, 1999 Forgotten Riches
£12.00 / $15.44 / 54.59 TL
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Buy the issue
Issue 19, 1999 Forgotten Riches
£12.00 / $15.44 / 54.59 TL
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