Introduction To Ceramic Tiles

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Information about Introduction To Ceramic Tiles

Published on April 5, 2008

Author: Union42



Instructor shares symbolic relationships between disparate cultures and a brief summary of and the spectacular work of Islamic Ceramic Artists leading up to the present day. Cintamani motifs explored and interpreted.

Introduction to Ceramic Tiles How various cultures use pattern and color to decorate the everyday.


To trace the derivation of the word cintamani (pronounced chin'-tuh-mah-nee) is literally to take a trip around the world. Santa Barbara appraiser and Islamic tile expert Anthony Slayter -Ralph used the term at the Tucson ANTIQUES ROADSHOW to describe a design consisting of stripes and three balls. "It's possible they derive from early Buddhist symbolism, but so far, no one has come up with a definitive point of origin," explains Anthony, referring to the philosophy that bloomed far to the East of the Ottoman Empire. When used by Buddhist artists, the stripes might have connoted clouds, he says, or even tiger stripes when used by the Ottomans. "If you see it on textiles or ceramics, you know it's Ottoman. It's a real give-away," says Anthony of the design he calls both "startling and unusual."

Tiles of this type were employed in the Ottoman renovation of the Dome of the Rock undertaken at the behest of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent in the mid-sixteenth century. Similar tiles have been sold in our rooms, 25 April 1991, lot 932, and 22nd April 1999, lot 81. For the location of related tiles on the exterior of the Dome of the Rock, see Nuseibeh and Grabar 1996, frontispiece and pp. 154-5. Dome of the Rock Tile Ca 1550 lot 47

Ottoman Variations Early Islamic artists in Damascus, who made tiles using predominantly green, cobalt blue, turquoise and purple, also employed the cintamani motif. The Damascus tiles rarely use the bright red pigment wielded by tile artists in the Turkish part of the Ottoman Empire. Since Damascus was a provincial capital of the empire, artists there could paint without the formality that predominated tiles made in the capital. Observes Anthony: "The lines and drawings are a bit more free with a little more artistic license." Damascus. A rectangular stone paste border tile painted in underglaze cobalt blue and turquoise. The design, outlined in black, a double cintamani motif in white against a cobalt blue ground. Horizontal vivid turquoise border lines. 16th. century. 4.3 x 10.5 in. {11 x 26.6 cm.}

Cintamani~ this motif symbolizes Islam, the so-called "leopard spots" are in fact the three crescent moons of Islam The "Barzakh" or isthmus between worlds is symbolised by the so-called "tiger stripes". On page 573 reference is made to the Ottoman tents in European collections but not to the fine tents in the Military Museum in Istanbul.

the flaming jewel (cintamani) identifies the images as either Sarvanivaranavishkambin or Ksitigarbha Origins~ Below the top central image of Shakyamuni buddha is a blazing cintamani, or wish-fulfilling jewel, atop a lotus, symbolizing the radiance of adamantine wisdom which blazes forth as the five colors of the five Wisdom Buddhas.

Europeans began to appreciate the tiles during the 19th century, with many European museums buying them up between 1870 and 1910. Aristocratic Europeans saw these gorgeous Islamic tiles, so apparent in the fountains, walls, and gardens of its cities, on the Grand Tours that took them through the Middle East. The English artist and novelist William De Morgan was intrigued by these tiles, which clearly influenced his own extraordinary tile paintings as well as the work of Arts & Crafts practitioners such as William Morris. "People thought of the Middle East as a place of exoticness and virility," Anthony observes. "You could say it was fashionable to go there."


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