Oriental or Orientalist? A Study of the Orientalist Perception in the Ottoman Empire from the Perspective of Furnitureİlona Baytar
Orientalism, attributed to the 19th century and to Orientalist discourse, is often expressed in cultural and ideological platforms in defining the relationship of power between East and West. However, by finding its expression in Edward Said’s work, Orientalism allows many studies to be done with new perspectives and interpretations. This concept, which the West uses to define the East, adopts a complexity of meanings by settling into everyday life and is starting to be used instead of oriental (inherent in the east). How was the concept of the Orientalist, used to describe everything that belonged to the East for the West, perceived and comprehended in the Ottoman Empire? Did Orientalism, which also began to be pronounced in the Ottoman Empire, (itself situated towards the east geographically), mean a concept imported from the west, or did the Empire create its own Orientalism? This study, titled “Oriental or Orientalist? A study of the Orientalist perception in the Ottoman Empire from the perspective of furniture”, is aimed to question the Ottomans’ approach to Orientalism and how they perceived this concept, and to study the representation of daily-used objects from a different perspective, particularly regarding furniture.
Oryantal mi Oryantalist mi? Osmanlı’da Oryantalist Algıya Mobilya Üzerinden Bir Okumaİlona Baytar
Bir olgu olarak 19. yüzyıla şarkiyatçı söylemle atfedilen oryantalizm, Batı ile Doğu arasındaki iktidar ilişkisinde genellikle kültürel ve ideolojik düzlemde bir söylem olarak ifade edilir; Edward Said’in kaleme aldığı Oryantalizm adlı çalışmasında ise ifadesini bularak yeni bakış açıları ve yorumlamalarla üzerine pek çok çalışmanın yapılmasına olanak tanır. Batı’nın Doğu’yu tanımlamak için kullandığı bu kavram, zaman içinde gündelik hayatın da içine yerleşerek bir anlam karmaşasına uğrar ve “oryantal” (doğuya özgü) olanın da yerine kullanılmaya başlar. Batı için Doğu’ya ait olan her şeyi tanımlamada kullanılan Oryantalist kavramı, Osmanlı Devleti’nde nasıl algılanıyor ve nasıl kavranıyordu? Coğrafi olarak doğuya konumlanmış olan Osmanlı’da telaffuz edilmeye başlanan Oryantalizm, Batı’dan ithal bir kavramı mı ifade ediyordu, yoksa kendi oryantalizmini mi oluşturmuştu? “Oryantal mi, Oryantalist mi? Osmanlı’da Oryantalist Algıya Mobilya Üzerinden Bir Okuma” başlığını taşıyan bu çalışmada Osmanlı’nın Oryantalizme bakışı ve bu kavramı nasıl algıladığını sorgulamak ve mobilyalar üzerinden kullanım eşyalarının temsiline farklı bir perspektiften okuma yapmak amaçlanmıştır.
Even though Orientalism, originating from the word Orient that refers to the sun rising in Latin, is defined as a phenomenon of the 19th century, its actual emergence dates back to the beginning of capitalism and geographical discoveries. Thus, while the phenomenon of Orientalism shaped within the mindset of capitalism in the 18th and 19th centuries points to Western interpretations filled with prejudices that have marginalized the East, the East is portrayed not only as a neighbor to the West, but also as its oldest cultural rival and the oldest colonial place. Orientalism is seen as the discourse of the power relationship between the two geographies, which are defined as the West and the East although their borders have not yet been determined by certain lines, on the cultural and ideological platform. In the 19th century, it becomes an Orientalist discourse and defines a concept clearly expressed in the work of Edward Said named Orientalism. According to Said’s discourse, there is an East that is portrayed from the West’s point of view and meets the notion of the other. On the other hand, the West defines itself as the dominant subject and exploits the other by degrading it to an object state and restructures it. The Eastern fashion, which started in the West having a certain economic and cultural level, spread across Europe through diplomacy, trade and war. In the 18th century, a new interest started in the Near and Middle East with trade and colonialism going beyond being just fashion. Now, an Eastern dream was in question. A century later, when this imagined East was replaced by the very real East that was visited and seen, new interpretations that shaped with political dynamics came to light. Orientalism entered Ottoman discourse in the second half of the 19th century. In a short time, the capital Istanbul began to take on an Orientalist atmosphere with its architectural structures, ornaments and decorative objects. The construction of the Çırağan and Beylerbeyi palaces and the furniture used in their decoration appeared as examples of this style. The orientalist depiction of the period of Sultan Abdülaziz was fed from two different sources. The first one was the Islamic component of Alhambra originated Moorish art and the other one was the radial passages of the Anatolian Seljuks also seen in early Ottoman art. After the reign of Sultan Abdülaziz, the Orientalist definition of the II. Abdülhamid period reached a different interpretation. Beginning as a fashion in the 18th century, Orientalism developed in the 19th century depending on the political goals, so it did not simply demonstrate a pleasure and taste for this century. As it became a political practice, the things of use began to express a political discourse way beyond fashion. In the last quarter of the 19th century, the Moorish style was replaced by the dominance of the “mashrabiya” (Islamic window screen) and mother-of-pearl works, in which Damascus and Jerusalem works were effective. The socio-political situation of the state, Sultan II. Abdülhamid’s start of creating his visible politics with the title of Caliph by turning his politics to the East and the relationships established with the East and Far East in this context would allow a large number of original Eastern and Far Eastern items to enter the palace. The Far East and the Indian influence, which began in the West at the end of the 17th century, became effective enough to determine a style in furniture until the end of the 19th century. This interest, which began with curiosity about unfamiliar civilizations, had a double-sided effect. While it was desirous to create a fantastic atmosphere with the production of imitations of this furniture in the West, in the Far East, with the Western interest, the furniture that was suitable for the lifestyle and use of the West begun to be produced and exported. In the Ottoman Empire, the furniture in the Orientalist style, especially those pieces coming through the Western channel, were nothing other than the import of Western fashion, while the ones that are supplied through direct procurement and gifts were the result of trade connections and political relations between states. Today, when the furniture used in the decoration the palaces, pavilions and mansions of the National Palaces are examined, the presence of a large number of Orientalist style objects of use have been determined. In the studies on the collection in question, it can be seen that the Oriental furniture, i.e. the ones specific to the East, are more noticeable in number than their Orientalist style counterparts. In this context, the furniture groups of the Dolmabahçe, Beylerbeyi and Çırağan palaces, which are suitable for the Orientalist view, can be defined as follows: Furniture produced for the Ottomans in the Western market, furniture where local styles and techniques are applied to the Western form, and gifted and/or purchased furniture. The definition of Orientalism in the Ottoman Empire is uncertain; Does it express a taste imported from the West or the re-adoption of the Oriental preference? As a matter of fact, the Ottoman Empire, which was an eastern state by its geographical location, would leave the Crimean War with the Western states as a part of the Western states for the first time in the first half of the 19th century. When defining itself as a Western state, it seems to be a natural process to adopt the Western-originated Orientalism at this point. However, although the re-interpretation of the tradition of Sultan Abdulaziz period (preparation of Usul-u Mimari-i Osmanî) is also seen as an interpretation of adopting his own values, the predominance of the Orientalist emphasis will leave this subject in suspense. The Orientalist perception of the end of the century is seen as a result of established political affinities and commercial connections. As a result, the Western-origin Orientalism adopted in the periods of Sultan Abdülaziz and II. Abdülhamid and encountered with different application practices is adopted only as a style in Ottoman geography and it can be stated that it was used instead of the Oriental style.