On 17 November 1922, Sultan Mehmed VI Vahideddin left the city of Istanbul on board a ship and sailed into exile. This marked the end of the Ottoman Empire, which had held sway for over 700 years (1299–1922) and at its greatest extent spanned the continents of Africa, Europe and Asia.
Finely embroidered textiles number among the masterpieces of Ottoman art. Embroidered cushion covers and wall hangings defined interiors, decorated tablecloths and serviettes made a special occasion of every meal and embroidered towels were important accessories for the weekly visit to the hammam. In combination with everyday objects, textiles made of linen or cotton and decorated exquisitely with silk and metal threads enhanced the regular activities of the urban elites, such as the reception of guests in their homes.
The names of the embroiderers were seldom recorded. An occupational guild of male embroiderers worked for the court and wealthy urban citizens, while further high-quality work was mass-produced by urban embroiderers of both sexes. A high proportion of the embroidery was created from templates in the homes of the needleworkers for their own use and special purposes such as a trousseau. In Anatolia woven dowry textiles with blue and red weaving patterns were also produced.
The exhibition All sewn up. Woven and embroidered textiles from the Ottoman Empire features articles from the 18th to the 20th centuries. The exhibits are artistically decorated with flowers, fruit or architectural elements. Their special feature is their reversibility: equal care has been devoted to both the front and the back so that either can be used as the show side. With around 70 textiles and everyday articles from the collections of Werner Middendorf and Ulla Ther as well as the inventory of the Museum Fünf Kontinente, the exhibition sheds light on various aspects of life in the Ottoman Empire.
Publication on the exhibition:
Anahita Mittertrainer (ed.) with articles by Hülya Bilgi, Beate Kränzle and Ulla Ther. In trockenen Tüchern. Gewebtes und Besticktes aus dem Osmanischen Reich, Arnoldsche Art Publishers, Museum Fünf Kontinente, 2022.
We are thankful to