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Gallery Text

The Ottoman dynasty established the largest Islamic empire of the early modern era. At the peak of their powers in the sixteenth century, the Ottomans built numerous large architectural projects, especially in the capital city of Istanbul. Many of the projects were designed by the renowned head architect Sinan. Ceramic tiles were part of his carefully planned interior and exterior decorations. Working with court-supplied designs, potters in the city of Iznik created some of the world’s best-known and most coveted ceramics.

Ottoman tiles of the early sixteenth century, such as the hexagonal examples here, are indebted to earlier Persian tiles in their colors and shapes. In the 1550s, Ottoman potters developed an underglaze emerald green and a bright red that yielded a powerful palette visible at a distance. These colors, along with the newly developed modular square tiles, worked well for decoration that covered great expanses of wall. Larger, single tiles were used to highlight architectural elements such as doors and windows.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Hexagonal tile with floral and cloud pattern
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Hexagonal tile with Blue-and-White Decoration. Iznik Hexagonal tile with cloud bands, arabesque medallions, & stylized lotus flowers
Architectural Elements
Work Type
architectural element
Creation Place: Middle East, Turkey, Iznik
Ottoman period
Level 2, Room 2550, Art from Islamic Lands, The Middle East and North Africa
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Physical Descriptions
Glazed hexagonal fritware
Underglazed, painted
H: 1.5 x W: 24.4 x Depth: 2.5 cm (8 7/16 x 9 5/8 x 1 in.)
Edwin Binney, 3rd, (by 1985), bequest; to Harvard University Art Museums, 1985.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, The Edwin Binney, 3rd Collection of Turkish Art at the Harvard Art Museums
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Label text from exhibition “Re-View,” an overview of objects drawn from the collections of Harvard Art Museums, 26 April 2008 – 1 July 2013; label text written by Mary McWilliams, Norma Jean Calderwood Curator of Islamic and Later Indian Art, Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art:

Two Hexagonal Tiles with Floral Arabesque
Turkey, Iznik, Ottoman dynasty, c. 1540
Fritware with painting under glaze
Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of John Goelet, 1960.102; The Edwin Binney, 3rd Collection of Turkish Art at the Harvard Art Museum, 1985.322

For about a century, beginning in the late 1400s, Ottoman potters in the town of Iznik in western Anatolia produced what are arguably the finest ceramics in the history of Islamic art. Working with a white frit body and perfectly transparent glaze, Iznik potters experimented to expand the palette for their underglaze technique. Starting out with a blue-on-white scheme, they added turquoise in the 1520s. By the mid-1550s, they had perfected a dark black, brilliant red, and vibrant green, as can be seen on the floral dish in the case at right.
Publication History

Edwin Binney III, Turkish Treasures from the Collection of Edwin Binney, 3rd: 1981 Supplement to the 1979 catalogue, exh. cat., San Diego Museum of Art (San Diego, CA, 1981), 20-1 (Ceramic 3C)

Yanni Petsopoulos, ed., Tulips, Arabesques, and Turbans: Decorative Arts from the Ottoman Empire, Alexandria Press (London, England, 1982), pl. 84

Exhibition History

The Edwin Binney 3rd Collection of Turkish Art at the Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 05/16/1987 - 08/02/1987

A Grand Legacy: Arts of the Ottoman Empire, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 10/09/1999 - 01/02/2000

Overlapping Realms: Arts of the Islamic World and India, 900-1900, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 12/02/2006 - 03/23/2008

Re-View: Arts of India & the Islamic Lands, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/26/2008 - 06/01/2013

32Q: 2550 Islamic, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu