Carnation: I have long lov’d you and you have not known it.
-Mary Wortley Montagu, on Turkish language of flower customs, 1718
For the Victorians, carnations symbolized fascination and romantic love, although certain colors could connote rejection. What you may not know is that the roots of Western language of flowers stems from the writings of an English woman, Mary Wortley Montagu, who accompanied her husband on his ambassadorship to Istanbul in the early 18th century. Through her access to the women in the harems she discovered that “there is no colour, no flower, no weed, no fruit, herb, pebble or feather that has not a verse belonging to it; and you may quarrel, reproach or send letters of passion, friendship or civility, or even of news, without ever inking your fingers.” In addition, during the Ottoman Empire flowers also had strong religious and political meanings for the Turks. Certain flowers, such as the rose, the tulip and the carnation were particularly powerful and it is not uncommon to find portraits of sultans and military leaders in which they are smelling a bloom. Carnations could signify everything from the political to the divine, which were of course intertwined. Evoking spiritual contemplation, they symbolized the power of the renewal of life and its intermingling with the heavenly gardens of paradise.
The town of Iznik in Turkey rose to prominence in the middle of the 16th century as advances in pottery making materials were coupled with the patronage of the Ottoman court and an emphasis on artistry under Suleiman the Magnificent. The newly developed floral artistic style of Kara Memi showed to advantage in the painted surfaces of the pottery. The fan-shaped carnations and three petalled tulips are my favorites among the spring flowers traditionally featured.
A great write-up on the chronology of the evolution of Iznik ceramics, as well as a peak into an extraordinary collection can be found on the Louvre’s Three Empires of Islam mini site. Like I mentioned in the textiles post, the “flowering” of this style happened post 1540, when the naturalistic floral designs rose to prominence via the influence of the imperial painting studio. At some point soon I’ll delve into the earlier pottery which was mainly blue and white and highly influenced by Chinese imports, but right now I’m loving the colored slips that characterize pieces from the 1550s…
..as well as those that show the emergence of a true polychrome palette with the clear red, green and turquoise we most often associate with this pottery in the 3rd quarter of the century. I got the full color and floral palette from these pieces at the V & A this summer.
I’ve got lots to learn on the subject but resources are forthcoming. The Museum of Islamic Art here yielded this treasure, Iznik: The Artistry of Ottoman Ceramics by Walter B. Denny, which I am slowly absorbing. The illustrations are outstanding! Denny was also the co-curator with Sumru Belger Krody of The Sultan’s Garden exhibition I mentioned previously.
There is quite a bit of Iznik buzz out and about in the blogosphere, much of it due to the Iksel‘s incredible printed wall panels which come to think of it, show up prominently in Tory Burch’s Southampton home – so she has definitely caught the bug. In Rebecca de Ravenel’s New York apartment – I told you I’d be mining her space for many posts too – you can spy an Iznik style bowl on the coffee table.
The Turkish pottery industry is alive and well, turning out wares of varying types and quality. Istanbul is high on my list of places to get to soon, but in the meantime, an easy fix can be had by ordering through online sites like Yurdan.
We saw quite a bit of modern Iznik-style wares being produced in the Old City in Jerusalem during our trip this winter. Armenian potters were brought over from Turkey in 1919 to repair the tiles covering the outside walls of the Dome of the Rock and they and their families never left. Over time they have created their own style of Jerusalem pottery, based on Turkish artistry.
I didn’t buy any because typically I am obsessed with age and patina. Antique Iznik pottery is not something you see frequently available for sale as it is both rare and quite expensive, but there is an unusual and fantastic (in multiple meanings of the word) new antique shop here in Doha that I will be profiling in the coming month. I saw this piece earlier this fall and while it doesn’t have carnations, I think I could make do with its lovely tulip and hyacinth pattern. I’m in love with its luminescent greens and blues and I have been stalking it for some time now.
If you remember this photo from this post, you’ll know I am game to add some regional pottery to my Japanese pieces – I think the mix would be fascinating.
And as little follow up to my last post, I have two photos that I forgot to include in a small case of blogger brain freeze (Does this happen to any of you? Things you planned to put in that you just simply forgot?) But the lavender in the early Carolina Irving room below certainly links nicely to the room above, so I’ll try not to feel bad about it. This photo is from about 1995, so it gives a good sense of how she was finding her style even then. Note the carnation pillow and the tiles on the wall.
And I absolutely meant to include this Tory Burch showroom photo with its giant carnation throw pillows, which look to be Robert Kime’s Palmette. Be sure to notice the other Turkish motifs in the wallpaper, including the three-pronged tulip and the great mix with the Asian blue and white porcelain.
So maybe it was actually a bit of luck that I forgot these photos the other day and could include them here. Because in addition to everything else in the room, the coffee table is basically the dream piece I have been searching for for the last five months to finish the living room here. It makes a perfect segway to next week’s post on brass, glass and lucite coffee tables.
Carnation Fixation…Ottoman Inspired Textiles
Colors of the Rainbow…Blue and White Porcelain is Neutral
Preferring Patina Over Perfection…Chipped Porcelain, Threadbare Rugs and Old World Glamour at Tissus Tartares
Image Credits: 1, 5 & 10 my Instagram, 2. Haydar Reis (Nigari), Admiral of the Fleet Hizir Hayrettin Pasa (Barbarossa) (Topkapi Palace Museum) via Sedef’s Corner, 3. via Bonhams, 4. via The Louvre, 6. Iznik: The Artistry of Ottoman Ceramics by Walter B. Denny, 7. APT with LSD: Rebecca de Ravenel’s New York City Apartment in Vogue, photo credit: Jeremy Allen, 8. via Yurdan, 9.via Sandrouni, 10. Domino, date unknown, 11. Elle Decor 1995 via Riviera View, 12. via Domaine Home.