Turquerie

Alice Mason/The Princess Jülide
London, England 1718

At some points in our lives we come to crossroads and are forced to choose a path that we do not necessarily desire. A year ago I came to such a place and was forced to reinvent myself entirely. My guise was that of a Turk, a figure at once made fashionable and desirable by the European obsession with Oriental culture that has persisted for some two hundred years now and shows little sign of abating. ca. 1730 Elizabeth Howard (1701-1739), eldest daughter of Charles Howard, 3rd earl of Carlisle, in Turkish costume by George Knapton

England, like many other European countries, is enamoured of the perceived exotiscm of Turkey. When I first perceived that I must give life to the role I would play, I found a ready supply of research material. Portraiture in the Turkish style is common amongst the European elite. The women often leave off their stays and clothe themselves in the luxurious garments worn by Turkish women, such as loose robes of ermine, flowing silk robes called entari, and elaborate turbans. ca. 1717 Mary Wortley Montagu with her son Edward, by Jean-Baptiste van Mour.

Operas and the theater are also rife with Orientalist extravagance. The opera Mehmed II by Reinhard Keiser and many others based on the various military conflicts, palace intrigues, and passionate romances of the Ottoman court are accompanied by elaborate sets and musical scores that attempt to recreate the ideal exotic fantasia. Attendees, the men in particular, clothe themselves in extravagant Turkish fashion.

The political arena was my final area of study, though the most important as it opens the doors to all the rest. Alhough they remain a strong military presence in the world and maintain their occupation of the Balkans, the Ottoman Empire is no longer perceived as a dire threat to England and all of Western Europe. With their declining importance in the eyes of Europeans, it has become fashionable to make use of their culture as something decorative and original.

Thus you can see, through these many avenues of fashionable influence, my path was easily laid before me. I need not travel to any distant land to acquire a new style; a new persona- my own silk road was paved directly through the heart of Europe.

Alice princess 2

* First Painting: ca. 1730 Elizabeth Howard (1701-1739), eldest daughter of Charles Howard, 3rd earl of Carlisle, in Turkish costume by George Knapton

** Second Painting: ca. 1717 Mary Wortley Montagu with her son Edward, by Jean-Baptiste van Mour

Copyright June 18, 2013 S.W.Permenter

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3 Responses to “Turquerie”

  1. Well done. I enjoy reading your posts because when I was in college one of my professors was a scholar in Oriental dance, and I am often reminded of her. I also minored in classics and art history, so I have developed quite the affinity for your aesthetic and historical knowledge. Very quality. I love that your posts are always filled with substance.

  2. Jean l'Marquis de Eglise Says:

    Bonjour Lady Alice. Love thou blog.

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