Turquerie and Visual Arts: 17th and 18th Century


The turquerie movement is a popular topic of study among historians today. This period of Pan-European emulation of the eastern Ottoman empire in the 17th and 18th centuries was characterized by a new level of acceptance and appropriation of Ottoman customs, philosophies and commodities. Turquerie was a testament of the European’s interest in the unknown. Interestingly, visual arts in the form of productions, paintings, writings and music that came out at the time can help historians reconstruct perspectives that Europeans had about the Ottoman Empire. Visual arts became a popular past time for people beginning in the 17th century, known as the golden age for theatre, as more and more people were able to access the theatre, the printing press spread important readings to most classes and plays and other readings began to be written in vernacular. Because this visual art can serve as a great tool, as valuable primary resources that can outline public sentiment and give historians a greater glimpse of what the general public thought at a given time. Visual arts had to align and satisfy the beliefs of the masses as this was the audience. There are four core components of visual art: production, writings, art and music. Through the collection of primary sources that fall under one of these core components, we are able to come up with two societal beliefs within Western Europe that progress over time.

In this Prezi presentation, I will use 8 sources outlined below to reveal two European perspectives merged over time. Europeans believed that the Ottomans were war-hungry savages who could not comprehend the structure of Western Europe. This outlook altered at the turn of the 18th century as Europeans began to see Turkish people as a mystical “other” and they attempted to emulate them to a greater degree.

Four primary sources, I will use:

  • The History of the Life and Death of Sultan Solyman—A review by T. Cooper (1639) as a production resource
  • Othello and Desdemona—An oil on canvas painting by Alexandre Marie- Colin (1719) as an art resource
  • The Persian Letters—A novel by Charles Secondat, baron de Montesquieu (1721)
  • Turcaria—A musical piece written by Johann Joseph Fux (1701)
  • Portrait of Laura In Costume—A watercolor painting by Jean-Etienne Liotard (1777)
  • Othello and Desdemona in Venice—An oil on canvas painting by Theodore Chasseriau (1756)
  • Portrait of John Gay on printing press (c. 1730)
  • Trone dans le salon du calife—A water color by Pierre-Adrien Pâris (1785)




Turquerie and Visual Arts 17th and 18th Century