This piece of garment was purchased by Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli from Kerry Taylor Auctions, London in 2019 to add to and enhance The Zay Initiative Collection.
This is a blue felt sleeveless waist-length jacket (Yelek) of possibly Balkan origin with heavy (Couching) embroidery done with metal threads possibly gold and silver.
The front (Yoke) features six floral roundels or medallions connected to each other with foliage branches in a chain. A central long branch featuring long curling stylised foliage connects each medallion. This is followed by three vertical panels – two featuring the repeats of the (Endless_knot) style pattern, and one featuring a wavy branch. This is followed by five thin trimmings of gold herringbone patterned braids. Finally, a series of knotted faux (Frog_fastener) style buttons are encased by a long wavy vine.
The back of the Yoke has the same design except for the buttons in the centre of the field. This central field of the Yoke is flanked by thick panels featuring geometric as well as zigzag wavy ribbons made of metal threads – gold and silver – Appliqued on a gold net base. All the metal thread (Sirma)/(Tel_Sirma) embellishment is done with Couching style embroidery and is completely hand-stitched and hand-embroidered. The piece is lined with a royal blue silk fabric of (Satin) weave.
At its peak, the Ottoman Empire spanned three continents and served as the crossroads between the east and the West – the Fertile Crescent, the Levant, Eastern Europe including the Balkans till the southern edge of the Great Hungarian Plain, Northern Africa, and Eastern Mediterranean.
After the conquest of the Arab world in c. 1516-1517 CE its control over the Middle East lasted for four centuries until the early 20th century with the onset of WW I and the Arab Revolt. These four hundred years witnessed many instances of mutual Arab and Ottoman cultural influences and exchanges. Through areas such as social life and art – decorative and performing –we come across several instances of Arab and Turkish culture blending together through the centuries.
Just as European fashion was often inspired by the French court this socio-cultural blending between Ottoman Turkey and the Middle East was clearly reflected in its fashion and material culture.
Thus, while emulating Ottoman fashion as the mark of class in the Arab world was one side of the puzzle adapting Eastern European fashion particularly Balkan as part of mainstream couture culture because of the sizeable Balkan population within the Empire was another. Therefore, it is not surprising to find several articles of clothing and their terms similar between the two cultures.
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