Turkish-Islamic Art Section
    Ottoman Art
    Tombaks and Brass
    Enamel Ware
    İznik Tiles and Ceramics
    Chinese Celadons and Porcelains
    Kutahya Tiles and Ceramics
    Çanakkale Ceramics
    European Porcelains
    Turkish Porcelains
    Beykoz and Bohemian Glassware
    Calligraphy and Illumination
    Silk Fabrics
    Women’s Costume


   Silk Fabrics

Under the Ottomans, Bursa in the 15th century became a center for the working and trading of raw silk imported from Persia. The silk trade generated enormous revenues for the Ottoman fisc and the state took measures to supervise and support the industry's growth. When disputes with Persia threatened to cut off the supply of raw silk cocoons, sericulture was introduced and encouraged in Bursa after 1587.

The gold and silver thread used in silk-weaving was manufactured in state-controlled ateliers. Woven silk fabrics were subject to inspection and were offered for sale only after being stamped. In an attempt to economize on the use of precious metals, fabrics incorporating them (such as seraser and zerbaft) were woven only in specific quantities on looms belonging to the court. Fabric patterns were produced by the court studios according to the tastes of the day and this ensured that they were in stylistic harmony with the designs and compositions of Ottoman art. Bursa was particlilarly famous for its production of kadife (velvet) and çatma (a heavy silk brocade). Kemha and seraser (both types of silk brocade) were produced in Istanbul from the second half of the 16th century onward. Çatma brocades are actually a form of velvet in that they have a silk velvet ground with patterns worked in with silver thread; sometimes this was reversed with the ground consisting of silver thread and the patterns of silk velvet. Çatma brocades were popular as upholstery materials and for the making of kaftans (robes); they were also widely used to make cushion covers decorated with niched borders at the short ends.

At the Ottoman court, rich fabrics such as these were the property of the treasury and bolts of them or robes made from them were presented as gifts to high-ranking government officials or to heads of state or their ambassadors. Kemha, seraser, and zerbaft were the fabrics mainly used in the making of kaftans. The first had a silk warp and weft and the designs were worked in with additional wefts of silk or of silver or gold thread; the second had a silk warp and a weft of silver or gold thread. Zerbaft, the most precious of Ottoman silk fabrics, was a type of silk brocade whose designs were executed in gold.

The quality of silk fabrics began to deteriorate in the 17th century as the economic fortunes of the empire began to wane and the use of precious metals in their weaving was also prohibited. A weaving-shop was set up in Üsküdar (in the vicinity of the Ayazma mosque) in 1758 during the reign of Selim III in a short-lived attempt to revive the industry. Here were produced the selimiye and savat silk fabrics with their stripes and scattered floral patterns that were so popular in women's garments of the day. Çatma cushion covers and upholstery fabrics made in Üsküdar and Bilecik were decorated in a style known as Turkish rococo.