Collection Highlights

The ‘Damascus School’ influence on the Arts and Crafts Movement

Museum of the Order of St John Louise Hill-Hottinger, Collections Volunteer
A pair of round stud earrings with blue flowers and green leaves
William Morris Gallery Shop

This blog starts with these nice earrings, which you can buy online. Or you could buy some cushions instead.

As mentioned in the last blog, the 16th– early 17thcentury ‘Damascus School’ of pottery is not seen as the Golden Age of Islamic tile production, this accolade belongs to the master potteries based in Iznik. But these Damascus ‘provincial tiles’ of the Ottoman Empire – its shining capital being based in Istanbul –  were the ones more readily available to Western collectors of the 19th century, and it was these tiles which made their way back to the major collections and museums of Europe and America.  And it was these collections that William Morris and William de Morgan looked at.

The ‘Damascus School’ influence on the Arts and Crafts Movement

A view of blue, white and green Damascus wall tiles, and a marble pillar
© Louise Hill-Hottinger, by kind permission of Leighton House Museum

19th century collectors loved the Middle East, it was rich pickings for antiquarian bounty hunters.

The leading aristocratic Victorian painter, Lord Leighton, brought back several room’s worth of Damascus tiles from crumbling buildings in Syria. Happily for Londoners, these tiles are today on display in the ‘Arab Hall’ at the Leighton House Museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This blog will continue in pictures as they really do speak for themselves.

Detail of blue, white and green Damascus tiles with a foliate design
© Louise Hill-Hottinger, by kind permission of Leighton House Museum
Blue white and green Damascus wall tiles, with parrots drinking from a fountain, and vases of stylised tulips, with a busy foliate background
© Louise Hill-Hottinger, by kind permission of Leighton House Museum

And here are some of the Museum of the Order of St John’s collection of (probably) Iznik Damascus tiles

A glazed ceramic tile with a stylised tulip motif with a green foliate background and blue decoration
© Louise Hill-Hottinger
A blue, white and green glazed tile with a stylised tulip and abundant floral decoration
© Louise Hill-Hottinger
A glazed tile with white background and small, repeated blue flowers with leaves
© Louise Hill-Hottinger

And here are some more familiar designs from closer to home: some scatter cushions, a nice apron, some hand towels and lovely tiles to go behind your cooker.

A stack of cushions covered in foliate and floral William Morris textiles
Linen Lace and Patchwork
An apron with folaite and floral William Morris design
Linen Lace and Patchwork
Hand towels with a William Morris
Linen Lace and Patchwork
Large foliate and floral tiles, predominantly blue and green in colour.
Victorian Ceramics

The muted sage and cobalt blue on cream are unmistakably ‘Damascus

Although all histories of the Arts and Crafts movement will mention the influence of Islamic decorative art on their designs, it was specifically the ‘Damascus School’ of Iznik tiles which were the most influential.  Their muted sages and blues on a cream background were repeated in the many of the textile designs of William Morris and in the fireplace tiles of William de Morgan.   And their influence endures today, as the British Avant Garde of the 19th century re-surfaced as mass market design in the 1980s and still thrives to this day.

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