Alternating symmetrical rumis and palm leaves surrounding a central hatai
D E S I G N I C O N O G R A P H Y , M O T I F S
Seljuk and early Ottoman ceramics and tile production utilized glazed earthenware. But by the 1470s high-quality vessels of pure white quartz paste were producedat Iznik, painted with bright pigments and fixed with clear glazes. By 1550 imperial Ottoman tile production, then earthenware, was transferred from the capital at Istanbul to Iznik to serve the ambitious building projects of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, including the refurbishment of the Dome of the Rock at Jerusalem (1545 – 1552), the construction of the Suleymaniye mosque and the madrasah of Suleyman the Magnificent in Damascus (1554), and the Suleymaniye mosque in Istanbul (1557). With the move to Iznik, glazed earthenware production was replaced with quartz production. The medium of quartz provided a pure white field for the application of designs, which provided a brighter field for the pigments that had been used on the more drab earthen-colored clay of the earlier technology.
As interest in tiles awakened in the mid 1500s, a new range of floral motifs was introduced to design, including tulips, hyacinths, carnations, roses, serrated saz leaves, overblown lotus flowers, pomegranates and others. Ottoman design adhered to rigid conventions and Ottoman tile patterns used a limited range of visual motifs of stylized plant forms, each with recognized symbolic meaning. Ottoman designs arranged these motifs in sequences that repeated regularly across expanses of pristine white space and disappeared beyond their frames. This detail suggested they continued infinitely, without interruption, so that their effect was to create an image of a perfect and and immortal Garden, which metaphorically represented Paradise.
Turks in Central Asia had a close relationship with animals, admiring their strength and ferocity. Animals embodied fertility, valor, courage and nobility for many early civilizations. The early Seljuks adopted animal forms as visual symbols of such concepts. The central Anatolian design tradition stylized animal forms to become decorative elements. The rumi form is a winglike structure, similar to that of a bird or even such mythological beasts such as sphinxes and dragons.
After the conversion of the Turks to Islam, the depiction of naturalistic animal forms was rare, especially in Ottoman art. As the rumi became more stylized in the 15th century, it lost its animal appearance and became an ornament in itself, surviving in Ottoman design as a recurring motif. At this point the rumi references the idea of the animal without depicting it literally; in this sense a true visual language is developing.
Rumi motifs were used according to established rules. They were designed (unless symmetrical) along curved lines and in the form of spirals, always heading in the same direction. Where lines intersect, the rumi is always placed on the thinner line. A certain distance is left between motifs. Where there is more than one rumi, they do not trespass on each other's lines.
As they developed as an Ottoman motif rumis appeared in various shapes and conceptions, sometimes plain, sometimes lobed, sometimes foliated.
The hatai motif originated in central asia and developed under Chinese art. It is characterized by a profusion of floral patterns and trefoils. The hatai was first seen in the seventh and ninth centuries by the Uygur Turks and was later simplified by the Anatolian Seljuks. During the 15th century hatais were characterized by folding leaves of flowers; in the 16th century the dimensions enlarged and and the leaves and petals became more profuse, creating more ornamental forms.
III. Saz Yolu
The saz yolu motif can be traced to the far east via Iran. The motif attained prominence under Suleiman the Magnificent. It is characterized by long, serrated leaves in combination with profusely decorated hatais. The backbone or organizing axis of the composition is defined by the thickest line weight, with other secondary and tertiary motifs painted under the dominant line.
Clouds are among the most cherished of ornaments in Turkish design. They were adopted from the far east (and therefore often referred to as "Chinese clouds") and popularized during the 16th century in the court of Istanbul under Bayezid II.
The chintamani sequence consists of a pair of parallel undulating lines alternating with a triangular configuration of spots or disks. This sequence is frequent in Ottoman designs from the 15th century on.
Originating in the Far East, the sequence originally was said to represented the three teachings of the Buddha. But for the Ottoman Turks who adopted it, the sequence referenced the power and virility of wild animals, specifically tigers and leopards. Woven into the textiles that clothed the sultans and the crown princes of the court, the sequence was intended to impart animal attributes to the wearer.
The two parallel lines have been interpreted to symbolize tiger stripes or alternatively lightning or clouds, while the spots symbolize leopard spots or sun disks or moons.