Turkish Style And Status to Shine at Smithsonian

ANKARA, Sept. 26, 2005  â€“ The first international exhibition devoted to sumptuous and graphically stunning imperial Turkish robes (kaftans) from the 16th and 17th century - the embodiment of the maxim “clothes make the man” - will debut at the Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC Oct. 29 through Jan. 2006.  “Style and Status: Imperial Costumes from Ottoman Turkey” will present 68 garments that dazzle with their audacious play of colors, bold designs, and rich finish.

The exhibition’s curators are the internationally renowned scholar of Ottoman art Professor Nurhan Atasoy and Massumeh Farhad, chief curator and curator of Islamic art, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Atasoy is also the principal author of “Ipek: Imperial Ottoman Silks and Velvets,” which serves as the basis for the exhibition’s catalog.

The core of the exhibition is a group of opulent imperial robes from Istanbul ’s Topkapi Palace Museum , which boasts the largest collection of Islamic textiles in the world.  Additional robes are on loan from the Mevlana Museum , Konya , Turkey , the Hermitage Museum in St. Pete rsburg , Russia , and several national collections.  Koç Holding A.S., Turkey ’s largest industrial conglomerate, is the leading corporate sponsor. 

Broadly organized according to technique, the exhibition celebrates Ottoman artistic creativity and its success at transforming silk into the most potently visible symbol of the empire’s power and wealth.  Many of the garments will be shown on custom-made mannequins to maximize the effect of their splendor.  In addition to robes that belonged to Sultan Selim (reigned 1512-1520), Sultan Suleyman (reigned 1520-1566) and his son Bayazid the exhibition includes trousers, hats, cushions and floor coverings, as well as several large, inscribed textiles from the celebrated Topkapi collection.  Examples of ecclesiastic vestments made from Ottoman silks and velvets will be on display.

At its height in the late 16th and early 17th century, the Ottoman Empire (1281-1924) extended from present-day Iraq in the east to the Balkans in the west and to North Africa in the south.  Ottoman

society was rigidly hierarchical and luxurious ceremonial robes played a central role in court life.  The finest and most precious robes were reserved for the sultan and his family, but “robes of honor” (hilyat) were also bestowed upon foreign dignitaries, local courtiers and state officials, thereby conferring royal favor, political rank, and social status.  The number and quality of robes received represented a man’s status in the eyes of the sultan.

Three weaves were dominant: velvet (kadife), brocade (kemha) and cloths of gold and silver thread (seraser) - the most expensive and luxurious. In the mid-6th century, Ottoman taste increasingly favored large, bold designs, such as medallions, stylized tiger stripes, and a triple-spot design known as “çintamani” (literally, “auspicious jewel”).  By repeatedly combining similar motifs in different scales and patterns, the Ottomans were among the first to use recurrent motifs to create a dramatic and distinct visual language - a quintessential “Ottoman brand”- that became identifiable with the empire’s centralized political strength and economic power- its style and status.

The first major center for the Ottoman silk industry was Bursa in Northwestern Turkey , which, in the 16th century, became one of the richest cities in the world.  Because of the court’s increasing demands for silk fabrics, Istanbul also became an important center for manufacture.  Ottoman silks, both in raw and finished states, were coveted luxury items exported to Europe, the Balkans, Poland , and especially to Russia , the empire’s largest market.  Most were fashioned into ecclesiastical garments, such as chasubles and copes. 

The Ottomans, in turn, imported fur and ermine to line and adorn their outer garments.  They also greatly admired Italian silks, especially velvets, which they imported in great quantity.  Many Italian silks were made expressly for the Turkish market, where they were fashioned primarily into royal robes.  Locally produced velvet was used mostly for cushion or floor coverings because the quality was not considered high enough for such robes.

 â€śStyle and Status: Imperial Costumes from Ottoman Turkey” is organized by the Freer and Sackler Galleries in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey and the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C.

In addition to the Koç Holding A.S. sponsorship, the exhibition enjoys the generous support of the Promotion Fund of the Prime Ministry of Turkey, ITKIB Association USA, Turkish Cultural Foundation, The Packard Humanities Institute, Turkish Airlines, Hagop Kevorkian Fund, and an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

The Freer Gallery of Art ( 12th Street and Independence Ave., S.W. ) and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery ( 1050 Independence Ave., S.W. ) together form the national museum of Asian art for the United States . The Freer also houses a major collection of late 19th- and early 20th century American art. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day except Dec. 25, and admission is free. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information, the public may call (202) 633-1000 or TTY (202) 357-1729, or visit the special exhibition-related section of the galleries’ Web site at www.asia.si.edu.

Note to Editors: For high-resolution, downloadable images of objects and sites go to


For information about travel to Turkey, call 1-877-FOR-TURKEY 
or contact the Turkish Culture and Tourism Offices in New York at 212-687-2194 
or in Washington D.C. at 202-612-6800 or in Los Angeles at 323-937-8066
and visit www.tourismturkey.org 
or www.kulturturizm.gov.tr


<- Back   


 The offical website of Turkish Culture and Tourism Office    |    821 United Nations Plaza New York, NY 10017 Tel: 1-212-687-2194