Damascus Tiles: Mamluk and Ottoman Architectural Ceramics from Syria par Arthur Millner, Sheila R. Canby

Damascus Tiles: Mamluk and Ottoman Architectural Ceramics from Syria par Arthur Millner, Sheila R. Canby

Titre de livre: Damascus Tiles: Mamluk and Ottoman Architectural Ceramics from Syria

Auteur: Arthur Millner, Sheila R. Canby

ISBN: 3791381474

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Architectural ceramic decoration is one of the most celebrated manifestations of the arts of Islam. Spanning a period from the 13th to the 20th century, the tiles featured in this book exhibit a rich range of influences from Persia, Turkey, China and even Europe. A renowned specialist in the field of Islamic and Indian art, Arthur Millner explores the historical context that allowed the uniquely creative achievement of Syrian craftsmen to flourish, and why tiles from this region are less restricted in artistic expression than those from better-known centers of production. The complex and interconnected nature of tile designs, techniques and color palettes is explored, highlighting what is distinctive about Damascus ceramics and how they relate to tiles produced in other parts of the Islamic world. Finally, the author traces the journey made by many of these tiles to the West, embellishing the interiors of wealthy clients as Islamic art became both fashionable and influential in late-19th-century art and design.

Review
DECORATIVE ceramic tiles are at the heart of Islamic architecture. Though they vary in shape, finish and pottery technique, the vivid colour and geometric patterns are consistent features of the tiles produced under Ottoman rule (1517-1918). This superb coffee-table book celebrates the beauty of Damascus before its recent destruction. Former Sotheby's expert Millner's stunning work leaves us with a permanent record of the tiles we can no longer see as tourists. --The Daily Mail

Until now, the lovely tiles produced in Damascus under the Ottomans (1517-1918) and their Mamluk predecessors (1260-1516) have not received the attention they merit. While their use of geometrical figures is integral to all Islamic design, there is a particular freshness to Damascus tiles; sometimes the glaze has bubbles and irregularities, or a slight blue or green tint. Their glazed surfaces and cool colours evoke tranquil gardens and courtyards, and undulating plant forms are contained within the structure - usually square, or hexagonal - of the tile panel. Few are better qualified to write on the subject than Arthur Millner-, a former head of Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian auctions in Sotheby's whose research is the work of years; this resulting book is a tribute to his dedication, and also timely given the destruction being visited on Syria's fabric. The richness of the illustrations, with many tiles shown life size, and its superb anthology of designs would be hard to pass, while the technical description of the manufacture of tiles and glazes is phew! blessedly clear and straightforward. While Damascus is the focus, tile manufacture did not take place in isolation, and other centres of production are drawn into the story in a complex web of interconnections. In 1400 Timur laidwaste to Damascus, and transported skilled Syrian craftsmen to his capital, Samat-kand, where they worked for more than ten years before many returned home. The next major influence was the import of blue and white Yuan dynasty porcelain from China. During the Mamluk period, similar tiles were made in both Cairo and Syria. Typically Chinese designs such as the cloud collar and spiked, lobed leaf began to appear; undulating vegetal forms were based on Chinese eel weed; while Yuan motifs such as the banana tree gradually mutated into familiar local plants such as palms and succulents. In 1516, Sultan Selim I conquered Syria. The Ottomans had endured a period of Mongol invasion, which had left its mark on their Iznik ceramics in the form of a blue and white colour scheme, cloud bands and lotus palmettes, which appear alongside typically Ottoman flowers -carnations, tulips, hyacinths, irises, prunus blossom and motifs such as tiger-stripes, dots and arabesques. All these found their way into Damascus designs, but with a different palette. Both Ottoman and Syrian tiles can be black and turquoise, or black and green, but there is a particular green clear, light which the French call meadow green, that is only seen in Damascus, while the sealing wax red of Iznik does not appear. As Ottoman power waned in the second half of the 19th century, a new phase in the story emerged: European and American interest in the Middle East, and the growth of scholarship and collecting. Syrian tiles inspired Arts and Crafts decorators such as William de Morgan and William Morris, and were imported here to decorate buildings such as Leighton House, where they may still be admired today --World of Interiors

Damascus Tiles is not simply another pretty face, but a timely and useful resource, and inspiration for future research --Walter B. Denny


Arthur Millner is a specialist consultant in Islamic and Indian art. After working as head of Indian, Himalayan and South East Asian auctions at Sotheby's in London, he later opened a gallery in Kensington. More recently he has returned to organizing auctions, as well as writing and lecturing on Indian and Islamic art. Sheila R. Canby is the Patti Cadby Birch Curator in charge of the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She previously worked at the British Museum, where she was a curator of Islamic Art in the Department of The Middle East.