'Young Turkish woman', watercolour, 18th century

Alla turca

The fashion for all things Turkish in the Habsburg empire


Oriental chic. The courtly collection for autumn/winter 1743: harem pants, silk and lashings of fur! Courtiers dressed in the latest fashions, attending celebrations in Turkish costume, The Abduction from the Seraglio was playing at the Burgtheater and Empress Maria Theresa was impaling Turkish heads – turquerie wherever one looked!

Since the sixteenth century the West had been interested in the culture of the exotic ‘Other’ – or what was commonly understood as such. Art disseminated images of an erotic and sybaritic Orient, the court and the wealthy middle classes decorated their interiors alla turca. The pioneer of decorative exoticism was France, which had a more relaxed relationship with Ottoman culture than the Habsburg monarchy, for whom the Turks had time and again constituted a real threat.

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