Exhibition: Embroidered Gardens – Ottoman Textiles from the Borg Collection (Pergamonmuseum)

Date of event:   16/12/2022 − 16/04/2023

Title: Embroidered Gardens: Ottoman Textiles from the Borg Collection
Duration: 16 December 2022 to 16 April 2023
Location: Pergamonmuseum, Berlin, Germany

This exhibition showcases towels, serviettes and sashes from the 16th to the 19th century from the Borg Collection. These exquisite works were generally produced in domestic settings, though a number of the particularly intricate embroideries were produced in workshops by professional embroiderers.

Embroideries with Prestige

The embroideries were made on a rectangular frame on four legs, in front of which the embroiderers would sit on the floor. Finely woven fabrics made of silk, linen and cotton were used to make the works. The embroidery threads were coloured with natural dyes and were usually made of silk, and were sometimes embellished with silver or gold thread. Usually, a border was embroidered on the shorter ends of the fabric. The embroideries are so finely wrought that they look identical from both sides, meaning there is no front and back. We can assume that these fine towels and serviettes have never been used. What is certain, though, is that their primary role was as part of a bride’s dowry, and they would have been placed on display in this function.

Tradition and Variation

The motifs, patterns and techniques of these embroideries were passed down over centuries. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify trends and fashions alongside these traditional forms of ornamentation. For example, from the 18th century onwards, we see an increased use of European and Chinese designs and embroidery techniques. Looking at the motifs, a strong preference for flowers and depictions of flora becomes apparent. A pronounced interest in these forms can be discerned as far back as the 16th century in Ottoman art, and can be found on almost all materials and in various techniques, be it tiles from Iznik, velvet from Bursa or the miniature painting of Ottoman book arts. In the embroideries, however, these forms are interpreted more freely, sometimes diverging dramatically from the classical courtly style of the Ottoman Empire. At the same time though, we can also make out regional techniques and motifs.

For more information, please visit the website here.


Image: Serviette with embroidered pommegranate and hyacinth patterns, Turkey, 2nd half 18th century © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum für Islamische Kunst / Claus Uhlendorf.