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Dish with saz leaf and cypress tree

Place made: 
Asia; Turkey; Iznik
Dish with saz leaf and cypress tree, ca. 1580-1590 (Ottoman Period, 1299-1923)
Stonepaste; polychrome painted under transparent glaze
Overall: 2 7/8 in x 13 in; 7.3 cm x 33 cm
Purchase with the John Martyn Warbeke Art Fund and the Belle and Hy Baier Art Acquisition Fund
MH 2006.5

The city of Iznik was the Ottoman Empire’s center of ceramic production. Iznik potters drew upon two distinct artistic styles developed at the royal workshop: the floral style and the saz style, famous for its undulating serrated saz leaf. The fantastical botanical decoration of this plate exemplifies the harmonious commingling of these two styles. The blue saz leaf in the middle is pierced by a cypress tree, a composition unique to the saz style. The central scene is surrounded by hallmarks of the Ottoman floral style: red roses in bud and in bloom, blue hyacinths, and one three-pronged tulip.


This polychrome Iznik dish depicts bountiful varieties of flora drawn with impressive botanical accuracy. The interaction of disparate visual elements, variously piercing and yielding to each other, showcases the lyricism and poetry of Ottoman design. The central motif of this dish,
a saz leaf intertwined with a cypress tree, is often interpreted as the embrace of two lovers. The roses, depicted at various stages of life, take on a narrative quality, alluding as they do to the passage of time. While this dish retains Ming elements in its scalloped edge and border pattern, the polychrome design at its center (and on its reverse) is typical of the Iznik ware which would later inspire the makers of Italian Renaissance maiolica.