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Kütahya, an often overlooked destination in Turkey, is famous for its continued tradition of the production of fine ceramic ware. Kütahya is a city in western Turkey lying on the Porsuk River and is the capital of Kütahya Province. Kütahya has a long tradition going back to ancient times. Kütahya is famous for its ceramic products, such as tiles and ceramic ware, which are glazed and hand-painted in vibrant colors. These beautiful ceramics are fashioned after the ceramics known as Iznik from the town of the same name that produced the tiles seen in the old Mosques and Palaces built in Turkey hundreds of years ago like Topkapi, Sultanahmet and many others. The ceramics of Iznik were highly prized because of their quality, intricate designs and extensive use by the Sultans. The ceramics produced today in Kütahya are excellent examples of these highly recognizable ceramics that found such wide-spread use in public and religious structures for centuries. The ceramic producers in Kütahya also produce excellent ceramic ware that is more modern in nature and to be found in the finer hotels and retaurants in Turkey
The region of Kütahya has large areas of gentle slopes with agricultural land spreading towards high mountain ridges to the north and west. The city's Greek name was Kotyaion, latinized in Roman times as Cotyaeum, a name it retains as a titular Catholic see. In the 3rd millennium BCE it was settled and known as Kotiaion or Cotyaeum - the city of the goddess Kotys. It was an important stopping point on the road from the Marmara region to Mesopotamia. In the 12th century BC it was incorporated into the Phrygian kingdom, becoming one of the kingdoms most important cities. The ancient city became part of the Roman province of Phrygia Salutaris and was a center of heresy from the second century onwards. Centuries later in 1514 Sultan Selim I resettles the ceramic tile-workers from Tabriz in Kütahya and İznik after defeating the Persians. With this Kütahya emerges as a centre for the Ottoman ceramic industry, producing tiles and decoration for mosques, churches and official buildings in places all over the Middle East. But in the 19th century, With the fast growth of Eskişehir 70 kilometers distant, Kütahya lost much of its regional and economic importance. The various industry in Kütahya have long traditions, going back to ancient times. Kütahya is famous for its ceramic products, such as tiles and pottery, which are glazed and hand-painted in vibrant colors. Modern industries are sugar refining, tanning, nitrate processing and different products of meerschaum, which is extracted nearby. The local agricultural industry produces grains, fruits and sugar beet. In addition, stock raising is of much importance to the people of Kütahya as well as important mines extracting lignite. Kütahya is linked by rail and road with Balıkesir which is 250 kilometers or 155 miles to the west, Konya is 450 kilometers or 280 miles to the southeast, Eskişehir is 70 kilometers or 43 miles northeast and Ankara is 300 kilometers or 186 miles to the east. Kütahya preserves some ancient ruins, a Byzantine castle and church and the Kütahya Museum has a fine collection of arts and cultural artifacts from the area. Kütahya's old neighbourhoods are dominated by traditional Ottoman houses made of wood and stucco and some of the best examples can be found along Germiyan Caddesi. The house where Hungarian statesman Lajos Kossuth lived in exile between 1850-1851 is now preserved as a museum in Kütahya. The Main Campus and the Germiyan Campus of the Kütahya Dumlupınar University is located in the city. Nearby attractions are the Temple of Zeus at Aizanoi and the village of Tavsanli which has great old town center.
The rural town of Iznik, once ancient Nicea which was an important cultural center during the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent, is situated at a lakeside in northwest Turkey. It was in Iznik in the early 16th century that an Imperial ceramic ware, now known as Iznik, was made for the Istanbul court of the Ottoman Sultan - the wealthiest and most powerful ruler in Europe. Originally inspired by Chinese pottery, Iznik ceramics were so exquisite that European collectors in the mid 19th century thought it came from Persia. Only until the 1920s did scholars accept that Iznik ceramics were Ottoman, giving at last the recognition to Turkish potters for some of the world´s most beautiful designs. Iznik ceramics have survived to the present day and these tiles adorn palaces and mosques; the largest collection of ceramics being in the British Museum. The old Nicea, once a capital of the East Roman Empire it was an independent principality of the fragmented Byzantine Empire, founded in 1204 by Theodore I Lascaris from 1208–22. It served as a political and cultural center from which a restored Byzantium arose in the mid-13th century under Michael VIII Palaeologus. Theodore fled to Anatolia with other Byzantine leaders after the Latin Crusade conquest of Constantinople in 1204, establishing himself at Nicaea 40 miles or 64 kilometers to the southeast. Crowned emperor in 1208, Theodore gradually acquired control over much of western Anatolia. He and his successors sponsored a revival of Greek studies at their capital. The next Nicaean emperor was John Vatatzes, who sought to retake Constantinople before his rivals Theodore Angelus, despot of Epirus, or John Asen II of Bulgaria. He defeated Theodore at Klokotnitsa in Bulgaria in 1230. Between 1240 and 1250 he negotiated with the western Emperor Frederick II for help in reconquering Constantinople, but nothing came of their pact. Theodore II Lascaris and John IV Lascaris maintained Nicaean strength against the invading Mongols during their brief reigns and in 1261 a Nicaean general, Michael Palaeologus, retook Constantinople, where as Michael VIII, founded the last dynasty of the Byzantine emperors. It is the city where the Iznik ceramics was produced during the 15th and 16th century when it was at its most beautiful. Both the Rüstem Pasha in Istanbul, or the Cinili Kösk at the Archeological Museum in Istanbul contain examples of these exquisite ceramics. Iznik today is a bit sleepy, but still a fine traditional Turkish village located next to a beautiful lake.
Iznik pottery, named after the town in western Anatolia where it was made, is highly decorated ceramics whose heyday was the late sixteenth century. The largest collection of vessels is in the British Museum and Iznik tiles may be seen in quantity in the imperial and religious buildings of Istanbul. Following the establishment of the Ottoman Empire in the early 14th century, Iznik pottery initially followed Seljuk Empire antecedents. After this initial period, Iznik vessels were made in imitation of Chinese porcelain, which was highly prized by the Ottoman sultans. As the potters were unable to make porcelain, the vessels produced were fritware, a low-fired body comprising mainly silica and glass. The originality of the potters was such that their use of Chinese originals has been described as adaptation rather than imitation. Chinese ceramics had long been admired, collected and emulated in the Islamic world. This was especially so in the Ottoman court and the Safavid court in Persia which had important collections of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain. Such Chinese porcelains influenced the style of Safavid pottery and had a strong impact on the development of Iznik ware. By the mid-16th century, Iznik had its own style of floral and abstract motifs in tight designs making use of a limited palette. Decoration progressed from pure symmetry to subtle rhythms. The main development of Iznik pottery is said to have taken place during the second half of the 16th century, after the 1514 capture of the city of Tabriz by the Ottoman Sultan in the Battle of Chaldiran. The ceramic artisans of Tabriz were forcibly relocated to Iznik to practice their techniques.
From the late 15th century, red earthenware from Iznik began to be replaced by a white body made of 80 percent silica, 10 percent glass frit and 10 percent white clay. Lead and sodium compounds were added to reduce the firing temperature. Fritware had been made in the Near East from the 13th century, but Iznik fritwares, achieving a white surface, were a major innovation. As the body was difficult to work on the wheel, due to its lack of plasticity, vessels were seldom thrown in one piece and often were moulded or turned. The wares were coated with a very white slip before bisque firing. Decoration was applied underglaze on the bisqued wares, the outlines pounced through a stencil. Seven colors were used in various combinations even though there are many effective Iznik designs using only two, three or four colors. These colors were: blue (cobalt oxide), purple (manganese), red (silica and iron oxide), green (copper oxide), turquoise, grey and black. Before 1520, Iznik ware was decorated mainly in blue. From the 1520s turquoise was added. The polychrome palette developed from 1540-1560. The wares were glazed with a lead-alkaline-tin glaze, whose composition has been found from analysis to be lead oxide at 25-30 percent, silica at 40-55 percent, sodium compounds at 8-14 percent and tin oxide of 4-7 percent. The use of tin oxide, normally employed to render glaze opaque, is surprising, but in İznik glazes it remains in solution and is transparent. Firing was done in an updraft kiln at about 900°C.
Jugs, hanging lamps, cups, bowls and dishes were made, inspired by metalwork and illuminated books as well as Chinese ceramics. Under Süleyman the Magnificent, demand for İznik wares increased. Many large dishes were made with looser designs, incorporating ships, animals, trees and flowers. The dishes appear to have been made for display, as most have pierced footrings so that they can by hung up, but they have been observed also to be scratched from use. Designs in the 1520s include the saz style in which a long, serrated saz leaf, dynamically arranged, is balanced by static rosette forms. In the latter 16th century, the quatre fleurs style used a repertoire of stylised tulips, carnations, roses and hyacinths.
After the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman Sultans started a huge building programme. In these buildings, especially those commissioned by Süleyman, his wife Hürrem and his Grand Vizier Rustem Pasha, large quantities of tiles were used. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul - known as the Blue Mosque alone contains 20,000 tiles. The Rüstem Pasha Mosque is more densely tiled and tiles were used extensively in the Topkapı Palace as well. As a result of this demand, tiles dominated the output of the Iznik potteries.
The so-called Golden Horn Ware, or Tuğra style was a variation of blue and white ceramics and was popular from the 1530s to 1550s. Golden Horn ware was so named because the first samples were excavated in the Golden Horn area of Istanbul, but it was later deducted that they were manufactured at Iznik, due to the number of shards and discarded firing trials found at Iznik. This type of decoration consists in series of thin concentric spirals adorned with small leaves. This design was inspired from calligraphy, and especially the Tuğra Imperial signatures such as that of Suleiman the Magnificent, the design has recently been more accurately named as the ‘Tugrakes spiral style.’ For it is derived from the illuminated spiral scroll used on royal documents as a background design for the Sultan’s tughra, or imperial monogram. In particular, it relates very closely to that on a document dating from the reign of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. So therefore, we have a ceramic design which directly reflects the taste of the imperial court. The so-called Damascus ware was popular under Suleyman the Magnificent from 1540 to 1550. They used for the first time the colors green and purple, in addition to cobalt blue and turquoise, and form a transition towards full-fledged polychrome ceramics. There were again mistakenly labeled Damascus after some were found in Damascus, Syria, but were later understood to be derived from Iznik.
Polychrome ceramics form the longest and most successful period of Iznik ware. They were made from the mid-16th century to the end of the 17th century. They used hard white clay, with soft green and coral red designs on a transparent underglaze. The decline of Iznik pottery has been linked with the decline in Ottoman power and with the Sultans' imposition of fixed prices in a period of inflation. The reduction in imperial demand inevitably affected the Iznik economy and by the mid-17th century only twenty kilns remained and knowledge had been lost. The design of later Iznik wares is generally regarded as weak. The white clay Fritware is still produced in Kütahya, about 200 kilometers south of Istanbul principally for the tourist trade, but still is valued as good imitation of Iznik ceramic ware. In Kütahya you can still purchase these exquisite and colorful ceramic tiles, plates, cups and bowls, as well as tile wall panels comprised of anywhere from 6 to 18 tiles that when positioned correctly on a wall make a beautiful mural. They are often used in the building of the *Çeşme in Turkey - The name "Çeşme" means fountain and often refers to the water fountains built by Muslims in celebration of having made their Hajj to Mecca.
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