John Carswell & Mina Moraitou with contribution by Melanie Gibson (eds.), Iznik Ceramics at the Benaki Museum, Benaki Museum, 2023; 312 pages, over 800 colour illustrations 160 b&w drawings; ISBN9781914983047; Language: English.

The Benaki Museum in Athens has a wide-ranging collection of Iznik ceramics with a number of rare and important pieces, including some with Greek inscriptions. Although individual pieces have long been known, this is the first time the collection, comprising 112 objects, 59 tiles and panels and 223 sherds, has been published in its entirety.

A large part of the collection was acquired by the Benakis brothers, Antonis and Alexandros. Their collecting interests included important examples of Iznik ceramics which were mainly acquired in Egypt and prominently exhibited at the museum when it first opened in 1931.

John Carswell (1931‒2023) was Professor of Fine Arts at the American University of Beirut, Director of the Smart Museum and Curator of the Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago and Director of Islamic Works of Art at Sotheby’s, London. He published extensively on Turkish ceramics, as well as Islamic ceramics more generally, and on blue-and-white Chinese porcelain.

Mina Moraitou has been the curator of the Benaki Museum of Islamic Art since 2012. She has coordinated and curated several exhibitions: Thomas Hope: Drawings of Ottoman Istanbul (Athens, 2016, Sharjah 2017); Iznik—A Fascination with Ceramics (2017); Islamic Calligraphy: The Art of Iranian Writing (2018) and Roads of Arabia (2019).

Melanie Gibson is Senior Editor of Gingko’s Art Series. She lectures widely and her publications focus on the ceramics, glass and sculpture of the Islamic world.


“This is undoubtedly a book for specialists—the book contains illustrations not just of complete plates, vessels and tiles, much also hundreds of shards—but, as is Gingko’s wont—the photographs are so extraordinary and the text (brief as it is) so clear, that anyone with even a modicum of interest (or who has one of those souvenirs) is likely to come away engaged and illuminated.” (Peter Gordon, Asian Review of Books)

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“This publication, the fruit of meticulous examination and research, presents one of the most distinguished collections of Iznik ceramics in a sophisticated and systematic way. Enriched with elaborate section drawings and examples of pottery sherds, it will appeal not only to scholars, connoisseurs and collectors but will also become a reference book for all admirers of Iznik ceramics.” (Hülya Bilgi, Director of the Sadberk Hanım Museum, Istanbul)

“A practical and comprehensive guide to the mostly unpublished collection of Ottoman ceramic vessels, tiles and sherds in the Benaki Museum in Athens. Lavishly illustrated and enriched with drawings by John Carswell, it highlights the hitherto underestimated role of the Greek community of Egypt in the recognition and collection of Iznik ceramics from the end of the 19th century onwards.” (Charlotte Maury, Curator, Department of Islamic Art, Louvre Museum)