After reading and posting last week about the Turkish tent inspired room designed by Renzo Mongiardino, I decided to learn more about these exotic structures. So, here is a *brief* history lesson (and I don't think you'll need that shot of espresso to get through this!).
The early Turks were a nomadic people who lived in ornate tents that were derived from yurts. This choice of abode later influenced the Ottoman armies, which were known for traveling with elaborate war tents. As the Ottoman empire expanded, and as their wealth grew, the tents became even more intricate and were often influenced by Byzantine and Persian designs. Many of them were quite luxurious (especially those built for the sultans) with elaborate fabric hangings and furnishings inside. Fortunately for us a few of these Ottoman tents survive, such as that at Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow.
In time, the exoticism and ornateness of these tents became a source of inspiration for the design of garden follies across Europe. One of the most famous is that built around 1760 at Painshill Park, Surrey, England. This tent was actually a quite sturdy structure with a brick floor, partial brick walls, and a wooden dome which supported the painted canvas. Although the original structure disappeared in the 19th c., it has now been rebuilt based on Henry Keene's original designs. Other Turkish tent inspired structures are also found at a few of the Swedish royal palaces.
Besides being an interesting history lesson, I think it is fascinating to see how these tents have inspired people through the ages. No, not many people are inclined to build a garden folly (although I wish more people would), and yes, the idea of that much fabric in one room (like Mongiardino's tented room) may intimidate some people. But there are so many other ways in which these relics of the past can influence us. Perhaps in our choice of textiles, or our use of color, or even the way we might apply a certain decorative motif. Sometimes, if we open our eyes and our minds, we can really be inspired by some of the most wonderful, and historical, things.
An authentic Turkish tent from the first half of the 17th c. It was a spoil of war from the Ottoman defeat at the Battle of Vienna in 1683. Now part of the textile collection at Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow, Poland.
Henry Keene's design for a Turkish Tent at Painshill Park, Surrey, c. 1760 (the drawing is part of the collection of the Victoria and Albert)
The restored and rebuilt Turkish Tent at Painshill Park (photographer Antony McCallum)
The Palace Guard's tent at Drottningholm Palace Park, Sweden. Built in the second half of the 18th c. (dates vary on the internet), the structure is made of painted copper.
Another copper, Turkish inspired tent at Haga Park, Sweden. It was built in 1787 to house both stables and guards.
I don't know if these tents, designed in 1971 by Maison Jansen for the celebration of the 2,500th anniversary of the founding of Persia, were inspired by Turkish tents, but this was a modern, luxurious, and glamorous treatment of temporary tent living. (Images from Jansen by James Archer Abbott, Acanthus Press).
Image at top: Franz Geffels painted "Battle of Vienna 1683" to depict the bloody battle. Notice the Turkish tents present.