beautiful textiles were strongly redolent of an exotic way of life
-one bathed in sunshine and heady perfumes, a way of life that was
slow and gracious and, above all, permeated with the fondly imagined
sensuality of the harem. They must have seemed a far cry from the
industrial mass- production that was celebrated in the Great Exhibition
of 1851. Products from the Ottoman Empire were included in those
displays and a towel bought from the Exhibition ; a second towel
may also have been displayed at the Great Exhibition because the
family of its embroiderer is known to have contributed to the Ottoman
stands. The collection of Ottoman embroidery in the Victoria &
Albert Museum numbers over 680 pieces ranging in date from the middle
ofthe sixteenth century to about 1900. The pieces illustrated in
this book are worked in the six most characteristic Ottoman techniques:
surface darning, laid and couched by a couched line, double running,
double darning, muşabak and
mürver. Two pieces have been included from a private collection
because they illustrate specifıc variations which the Museum's collection
the sixteenth century up to the 1720s , the pieces which have survİved
are whole, or fragments of, covers and hangİngs decorated with large-scale,
bold desİgns in a limited palette of red, blue, green and yellow
with some white and black. There are three main pattern types.
1. The oldest patterns are formed by the intersecting lines
of a lattice, which enclose spaces fılled with floral motifs. In
some examples the space and the lattice are gİven equal emphasis,
while in others either the lattice or the space is dominant.
2. In the seventeenth century the lines of the lattice were
broken apart and separated into wavy parallel stems running along
the length of the fabric. Sometimes equal weight is given to the
stems and to the flowers and leaves but often the stems become secondary
, being overwhelmed by the size or sheer abundance of blossoms.
In some later examples the stems have disappeared but the diagonally
placed flowers, in bands facing alternately left and right, remain.
3. At the same time as textile designers worked with separating
the lattice into parallel stems as the basis for some designs, they
focused on the complete absence of the lattice for others. As strong
medallion-shaped compartments were often combined with thin or delicate
lattices , İt was a simple step to abandon the lattice and work
only with medallions.
Ottoman embroideries that have survived from before the eighteenth
century retlect what was popular in the magnificent imperial court.
They were frequently produced as less expensive versions of woven
silk and velvet fabrics; until the mechanization of weaving in Europe
in the early nİneteenth century, embroidery was a cheaper alternative
to weaving. It is tempting to suggest that Ottoman embroidery was
not regarded as an art form until the 1720s, when it stopped copying
woven designs and became truly creative. Wİth an interest in European
art came a quiet revolution in embroidery: new , realistic tloral
motifs were introduced and many of them were depicted in great detail.
They were allowed to sway naturally and sweep across the fabric
and were embroidered in a new, softer and brighter palette enhanced
with metal thread.For the first time dress accessories, and furnishings
other than covers and hangings,have survived.At the end of the eighteenth
century and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries, embroidery
designs began to develop into rigid and stylized borders for towels
and napkins: the colours were stronger and more stable and greater
quantities of metal were used. The designs were consistently inventive
and the technical skill is astonishing; wheter it is in crowded
borders or within isolated motifs, it is pure Turkish delight.