Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Kutahya Ceramics and Armenian Artisans

The production of ceramics in urban centers such as Kutahya, in Anatolia, where Armenians settled toward the end of of the fourteenth century, is to a large degree the result of the Ottoman appreciation for fine ceramics and of the declining quality of the work being produced elsewhere in Turkey-for instance, in Iznik.It is not widely known that in the sixteenth century Armenians were producing some ceramics— as is proven by the ewer and water bottle with with Armenian inscriptions, from 1510 and 1529, now in the British Museum,London.A considerable number of Christian Armenian craftsmen, who had contributed to the flourishing of Iznik ceramics in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, moved to the Anatolian interior, settling principally in Kutahya.
Bowl, 18th century
Kutahya ceramics are characterized by a siliceous paste without engobe, by an alkaline-lead glaze, and by a varied palette in  which yellows and greens, sometimes slightly acid in tone, predominate. Although the technique and decoration of Kutahya ceramics were inspired by Iznik wares, their originality resides in their use of yellow (achieved through a secret process originating in Greater Armenia) and in their relatively abundant religious motifs.In both public and private collections there are candelabra, pilgrim's flasks, bowls decorated with figures of the apostles, and other objects with the monogram of Christ or stylized seraphim intended for religious use. In addition, tiles covered  the walls of the cathedral and other churches in the New Julfa quarter of Isfahan and of the cathedral of Saint James in Jerusalem.

This bowl is decorated in green, yellow, and aubergine against a white ground. Its central element is a large rosette in the form of a six-pointed star, around which fish move in a circle. The bowl may have been meant for secular use. Fish, however, were a symbol of the early Christian church, and bowls decorated on the interior with fish are known to have been used for the distribution of the Eucharist to the faithful.

Only the Best: Masterpieces of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon
 By Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.)

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