Ottoman Ceramics

Ottoman Ceramics: Symbols of Love.

Turkey is a country that keeps its roots and traditions. All crafts here are made in the same way as thousands of years ago. The composition of the clay, paints, glazes, and, of course, technology absolutely the same as if we still were living in the Middle Ages. This is how we are able to admire the intricate patterns on all those well-crafted dishes, bowls, vases, and jugs now as sultans did before us ages ago.

The fact is that in Islam it is forbidden to portray people and animals. Therefore, Islamic art is full of wonderful geometric and floral ornaments. And, of course, there is a meaning behind each pattern.

For example. The rounds, which you may see on the plate at the top of the page, represents The Seven Hills of Istanbul. 


The tulip is the symbol of the ruling Ottomans dynasty. Also, the word “Allah”, written in Arabic letters, resembles a tulip in shape. The Arabic spelling of the word “tulip” (“lale”) contains the same letters as the word “Allah”, which makes it a special flower and gives it a high status in Islamic culture and art.

Turkish sultans adored tulip flowers. Tulip was revered as a sacred flower. It symbolized harmony and beauty.
It was one of the favorite motifs, the tulip was depicted in the pages of poetry books, on fabrics and carpets, clothing, weapons, the walls of mosques, jewelry, and tableware.

On the territory of Topkapi (the main residence of the sultans) located world-famous “Garden of tulips.” Even the first third of the XVIII century in the history of the Ottoman Empire is known as “The Age of Tulips”.  As you see, the tulips were loved.
But there was a special ottoman tulip, a red flower with pointed petals, which can only be seen in Istanbul. The taller and thinner were the petals of Istanbul tulip the more beautiful it considered. The shape of petals was compared with the tips of the swords, with the curves of the female eyebrow or with a graceful Arabic script. Persian poet Hafiz wrote about tulips: ” Even rose can’t be compared with the virgin beauty of the tulip”.

The story of Farhad and Shirin.

The legend says that Persian prince Farhad was unconsciously in love with a beautiful girl named Shirin.
Many guys had a dream to marry her. Envious rivals spread the rumor that Shirin was killed. Distraught, Farhad drove his frisky horse to the cliff and had crashed to death.
In the place where his blood fell to the ground, grew bright red flowers, is now a symbol of passionate love – the tulips.
During the Ottoman Empire, due to the fact that the tulip flower had a sacred meaning, going to the war every man used the image of a tulip or a harness horse, or a military helmet or on the shield. It was believed that the image of a tulip protect the soldier from injury and death… and will bring him safely to his beloved.


Another favorite motif was the carnation – a symbol of eternal love and rebelliousness.

Once upon a time, the goddess Artemis was hunting, when suddenly she saw a young shepherd, who kept staring at her in admiration of her unearthly beauty. Actually it was forbidden to look at the goddess but he didn’t mind any prohibitions, because he is instantly fell in love with her. For disobeying the young man supposed to be mortified. 
But nymphs felt sorry for the guy and begged the goddess not to kill him. Artemis did not take a shepherd’s life, but she came up with a weird punishment: she turned the eyes of the shepherd into the carnations. Since then, this flower became a symbol of courage, rebelliousness, and love.

So now you may choose a nice piece of ceramic for yourself. You may wear it, you may decorate your house, you may present it to your dearest. But the thing is, that in the age of technologies of the XXI century, we still able to use authentic handmade ceramics full of sacral meanings. And this is a true miracle!
Thanks, Turkey, for keeping those wonders for us!

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