Loeb Danish Ardt Collection - page 298

atre stage, “the Turk” had become a recurrent character since the beginning of the
s, easily recogniz-
able in moustache, turban and balloon pants.
A masquerade participant with turban can be seen in a grand
ceiling painting from
by Benoît le Coffre (
) at Frederiksberg Castle, just outside of
Copenhagen. The phenomenon is an expression of the Western fascination with the exotic. It also charac-
terizes the work of the Danish artist Melchior Lorck (
), who travelled in Turkey
an embassy from the Holy Roman Empire, and brought home a multitude of drawings of Turkish motifs,
architecture, military, attires and tombs, that were to provide designs for graphic prints. Meanwhile, at that
time the expanding MuslimOttoman Empire with its capital in Istanbul was a feared force in Europe, where
Muslims were considered a threat towards Christianity itself. In
, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent
) lay siege to Vienna, and in
, the city was again in danger of being conquered. Wars with
Turkey continued in the
s, but gradually the threat against Europe weakened, and the Turkish influence
became safe and considered merely an exotic element.
Portraits of Europeans in Turkish costumes are seen in the
s, and especially in the
s, in several
European countries. Around
, the Turk appears in theatre plays performed by the Italian troupes in
France, among other places, e.g.
Harlequin grand vizier
). An embassy from the Ottoman Empire to
gave new inspiration to the theatre, which is reflected in paintings by Antoine Watteau
). In
, Voltaire (
) wrote his Eastern tragedy
, which was performed in Copen-
hagen in
on the King’s order and ran for several seasons. Christian VII himself played the main char-
acter at several performances at the Court Theatre of Christiansborg Castle. He also performed in Turkish
attire in a so-called carrousel, a tournament held on his brother-in-law Prince William’s visit to Copenhagen
Turkish music in Western Europe also inspired the great composers of the time, among others, C. W.
Gluck (
) and W. A. Mozart (
The Abduction from the Seraglio
). It was music of the
Turkish elite soldiers, the Janissaries, and their use of timpani, drums and wind instruments that conjoined
in the era’s new music, to become motifs known as “alla turca.” Several operas with Turkish inspiration
were performed in Copenhagen, some at the Court Theatre, some at the Royal Theatre. The mother of
Christian VII, the English-born Queen Louise, had been a student of G. F. Händel (
) and became
fond of operas and promoted this art form in Copenhagen, and her interest was passed on to her son. In the
s and the
s, the play
Suleyman II
was performed, from which there exists drawings by Peter Cramer
) showing the actors in Turkish costumes, as well as a portrait by Jens Juel, depicting Marie
Cathrine Preisler (
) playing the part of Roxelane (Ellen Poulsen no.
). Moreover, in
Willibald Gluck’s
La rencontre imprévue
, which also has elements of Turkish music, was per-
formed. It was in the same period that the Danish explorer Carsten Niebuhr (
) published the
accounts from his travels in the Arabian and surrounding countries. Turkey was in vogue.
It is in this context that the portrait of the Princess in Turkish attire should be seen. She is painted in full
figure, wearing a yellow silk dress that is open at the sides, with a close-fitting buttoned bodice and a thin
white petticoat. At her waist, she wears a belt adorned with two blue medallions by the buckle. Over all is
a short-sleeved blue velvet coat with an ermine lining. On her feet, which are crossed, she wears flat, pointy,
golden shoes. In her hair, she carries a tiara, and over this, a thin, white veil fastened with a brooch, that may
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