Updated: Jan 9
Iznik is a town and an administrative district in the Province of Bursa, Turkey. It was historically known as Nicaea (Greek: Νίκαια, Níkaia), from which its modern name also derives.
The town became more important with the development a pottery and tile making industry during the Ottoman period in the 16th century, known as the Iznik Cini. Iznik ceramic tiles were used to decorate many of the mosques in Istanbul designed by Mimar Sinan.
In the second half of the sixteenth century, there was a brief window of opportunity during which the ceramic workshops in Iznik produced an extraordinary red colour on their wares. The time frame was 1550 to 1580, at a point when the Ottoman Empire was at its peak, during its classical period. Iznik as well as Kutahya had long been centres of tile-making because the clay soil in their vicinity was particularly suited to the production of ceramic wares. Tile production was carried out in Iznik in the Roman, Byzantine, Anatolian Seljuk and Beylik eras.
The period when Iznik – and Kutahya tiles to some extent – reached its zenith is usually given as 1550 to 1580; however, some experts suggest this time frame stretched from 1540 to the end of the 17th century. The shorter frame coincides with support from the imperial palace in Istanbul. Tile designs were developed in the palace workshops, transferred to paper and sent to Iznik for execution. Some of the most important architectural works of the Ottoman Empire were erected during this period thanks to the interest of Süleyman the Magnificent (r. 1520-1566) and the genius of Mimar Sinan (1490-1588).
The red Iznik ceramics were popular in the Mediterranean and Near East, the Balkans and Europe, and some ceramics with inscriptions and coats of arms show they were made to order.