Name of Object:

Group of four tiles


London, England, United Kingdom

Holding Museum:

The British Museum

About The British Museum, London

Date of Object:

Second half of hegira 10th / AD 16th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Stone-paste ceramic with blue, emerald-green and red painting under the glaze.


Height 21 cm, width 21 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Iznik, Turkey.


A group of four stone-paste ceramic tiles painted in blue, emerald-green and red underglaze with large split-palmettes and lotus blossoms. The four tiles together create a symmetrical formation of leaves and flowers that would have been part of a larger group covering the interior of a building. Split-palmettes form a geometric structure surrounded by softer swirling flowers and small green leaves. The brilliant flame-red was created from iron-slip made from the iron-rich bole found in Armenia. Introduced to the ceramics industry in Iznik in about AH 956 / AD 1550, the iron-slip was applied thickly to prevent it from running under the glaze. New forms of decoration appear with this striking red underglaze; alongside the so-called saz leaf found in tiles and vessels from the previous decades, are more realistic plant forms such as hyacinths, carnations and tulips, as well as large lotus blossoms.

View Short Description

These tiles feature the distinctive saz leaf next to flowers such as hyacinths, carnations, tulips and lotus blossoms. The bright red glaze on these tiles was a colour introduced to the Iznik ceramic industry in about AH 956 / AD 1550 and became popular for both vessels and tiles.

How date and origin were established:

A number of buildings from the second half of the 10th / 16th century feature tiles with similar designs painted with the same distinctive flame-red colour; for example, the Mosque of Rustam Pasha of 969 (1559) in Istanbul, or the mihrab and sultan's lodge in the Selimiye Mosque of 976–82 (1569–75) in Edirne.

How Object was obtained:

Part of the Godman Bequest of 1983.

How provenance was established:

It is not known where this particular group of tiles originated, but they were certainly produced in Iznik for a building in the Ottoman domain. In the second half of the 10th / 16th century, the major output of Iznik kilns was tiles rather than vessels. A number of documents record frequent missives from the imperial court in Istanbul pressing the potters of Iznik to concentrate on the tiles needed for imperial architectural projects.

Selected bibliography:

Atasoy. N., and Raby, J., Iznik: The Pottery of Ottoman Turkey, London, 1989.

Carswell, J., Iznik Pottery, London, 1998, pp.74–89.

Porter, V., Islamic Tiles, London, 1995, pp.104–9, fig. 97.

Citation of this web page:

Emily Shovelton "Group of four tiles" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021.;ISL;uk;Mus01;42;en

Prepared by: Emily ShoveltonEmily Shovelton

Emily Shovelton is a historian of Islamic art. She studied history of art at Edinburgh University before completing an MA in Islamic and Indian art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Since graduating she has worked on a number of projects at the British Museum. Other recent work includes editing and writing for a digital database of architectural photographs at the British Library. She is currently working on a Ph.D. on “Sultanate Painting in 15th-century India and its relationship to Persian, Mamluk and Indian Painting”, to be completed at SOAS in 2006. A paper on Sultanate painting given at the Conference of European Association of South Asian Archaeologists, held in the British Museum in July 2005, is due to be published next year.

Copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez

Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.

True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.

MWNF Working Number: UK1 58


Related monuments

 Artistic Introduction

 Timeline for this item

Islamic Dynasties / Period


On display in

MWNF Galleries


See also

Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail

EARLY OTTOMAN ART - Legacy of the Emirates


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