David Ohannessian and the Armenian Ceramics of Jerusalem

Lecture | January 29 | 7-8:30 p.m. | 3335 Dwinelle Hall

 Sato Moughalian, Author

 Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ISEEES), Armenian Studies Program

The brilliant blue-green glazes of Jerusalem’s Armenian pottery have become a distinctive feature of the Holy City, but the origins of this iconic art spring from the historic ceramics center of Kütahya, in today’s northwest Turkey, and are entwined with the genocide and deportation of Ottoman Armenians during the First World War. Ms. Moughalian’s illustrated talk will trace the historic participation of Armenians in the Kütahya art, David Ohannessian’s re-creation of his ceramic tradition in post-WWI Jerusalem, and the survival of this luminous art as an emblem of Armenian endurance.

Following the 1908 Ottoman Young Turk revolution, restorations of historic tiled monuments and the rise of a nationalist architectural style incorporating tiles accelerated a
revival of Kütahya’s storied tradition. David Ohannessian (1884-1953), a master ceramist, led one of the city’s three major workshops in the years before the World War I, executing tile commissions for Ottoman governors, architects, and European notables, including Sir Mark Sykes. Ohannessian survived arrest and deportation to Syria in 1916-17, and subsequently resettled in Jerusalem in order to create tiles for a planned British restoration of the Dome of the Rock. In Palestine, he founded a successful workshop, designing and creating monumental tile installations, and training a generation of Armenian orphans to make colorful, elaborately painted pottery. The Armenian ceramics tradition he established in Jerusalem in 1919 continues to flourish today.