| The long tradition of Armenian pottery and ceramics
dates from ancient Armenia. The motifs used in Armenian ceramics can be found
on the walls and floors of its early Christian churches, and in artifacts of wall
panels, lamps, urns, and utilitarian items. |
a nation has been subjected to numerous, often brutal invasions, which have resulted
in the present land mass and population of Armenia being much smaller than in
past centuries. Armenia was invaded in the Middle Ages by Seljuk, and in the thirteenth
century by the Mongols. Large regions of the Anatolayan plain that was previously
Armenia has been carved up in parts of what are now Iran, Turkey, and Azerbijan.
Because of Armenians’ geopolitical location, and its
tragic history, many Armenians were forced into exile. Over the centuries, Armenian
communities have established themselves around the world, integrating into their
new societies, while maintaining their culture. For example, the Armenian ceramic
tradition flourished in the eighteenth century, in Kutaya, among Armenians in
Historically, Armenian pottery normally was either shaped
into vessels, or pressed with molds into tiles. The bare tiles were fired, using
the biscuit firing process. The fired tiles were then configured into large panels,
covered with paintings. The master painter planned the design and outlined the
drawing in ink, free-hand; for intricate paintings, the master painted painted
the entire piece. Assistants were used to paint the more repetitive figures or
geometric designs. Once the painting was complete, the individual tiles were dipped
in glaze, and fired again. …
In early years, wood was
used for firing; more recently, diesel or electricity is used to fire the kilns.
Commonly, stylized floral designs are incorporated, including
tulips, hyacinths, the rosette, blossoming plumb, olive branches, and long serrated
leaves are typical. These naturalistic patterns are arranged in a variety of compositions.
Branches grow out of the ground, clusters of leaves form complex, symmetrical
patterns, foliage is interlaced with arabesques and more geometric configurations.
Figurative motifs are abundant in Armenian ceramics.
Animals, birds, and fish abound. Human forms are used occasionally. Often, figures
are arranged in a frieze at the center of the painting. Or animals, fish or birds
are scattered among the floral design. Birds are frequently depicted nesting among
branches. While the deer may have been borrowed from Iranian pottery, an ancient
Armenian favorite is the gazelle, depicted with its graceful tail, standing out
against the vegetation.
Old Armenian motifs have inspired
motifs used in synagogues and churches of Jerusalem. Near Damascus Gate, a chapel
from the nineteenth century depicts a bird mosaic in memory of an Armenian martyr
and the souls of “unknown Armenians whose names only the Lord knows.”
The mosaic depicts forty-one birds, placed in a medallion, with wine scrolls,
amphora. Similar motifs are found in synagogues and churches in Jerusalem and
elsewhere in Israel.