interior, after-treatment (2004) © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, three imperial powers dominated the Islamic world—the Ottomans, the Safavids, and the Mughals. Militarily, the Ottomans were the most formidable, and their realm was the most extensive. With the capital in Istanbul, the empire spread at its height to Africa, Europe, and Asia. Despite the empire’s diversity, the Ottomans developed a remarkably unified artistic idiom. The court established a design studio whose models were disseminated to court workshops specializing in particular media. Two artists who directed the design studio during the sixteenth century—Shahquli and Kara Memi—created distinct styles that defined Ottoman visual art for centuries.

Working with court designs, ceramic artists in Istanbul and Iznik experimented with an increasing range of colors from the late fifteenth through the sixteenth century. The taste for the blue-and-white palette of Chinese porcelain expanded to include turquoise, then purple and sage green, and ultimately the famous bright red and emerald green. In the sixteenth century Ottoman rulers preferred Chinese porcelain for their tableware, though the wealthy favored Iznik ceramics, which were also exported in great quantities to Europe.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Plate with floral decoration including carnation, tulip, and cypress
Work Type
c. 1575
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
Underglaze painted composite body
6.5 x 30 cm (2 9/16 x 11 13/16 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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This dish is an example of the polychromatic wares with floral motifs that were widely produced in the town of Iznik and exported in large quantities to Europe in the second half of the sixteenth century. From the 1550s onward, the signature tomato red color and naturalistic motifs such as carnations, tulips, and cypress trees, as seen on this dish, started to emerge in Iznik ceramics and tiles, contributing to the creation of a classical Ottoman aesthetic. This was carried out under Kara Memi, the head of the imperial atelier in Istanbul, and represented a move away from the Persianate taste that permeated diverse Ottoman objects in the first half of the sixteenth century. Motifs borrowed from Chinese porcelains, such as the wave-and-rock border that runs along the rim of this dish, were also widely used in Ottoman pottery, attesting to the intercultural milieu in which Iznik wares were produced.
Publication History

Edwin Binney III, Turkish Treasures from the Collection of Edwin Binney, 3rd, exh. cat., Portland Art Museum (Portland, OR, 1979), page 212-213 & 215/figure 7

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

Pride of the Village: Rugs and Kilims of Turkey, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 07/08/1988 - 10/09/1988

The Ottoman Empire: A Culture and Its Impact, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 03/25/1989 - 05/21/1989

Earthly Paradise: Gardens in Islamic Art, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/08/1993 - 08/22/1993

Pattern and Purpose. Decorative Arts of Islam., Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 02/19/1994 - 07/03/1994

Shadows of God On Earth: Arts of the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Dynasties, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 06/21/1997 - 08/31/1997

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

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at