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On Sharkey’s Shelf: "Turquerie: An Eighteenth-Century European Fantasy"

Recent memory and ancient history come together in Kevin’s latest review, which examines how Turkey’s unique aesthetic informs a beautiful way of life.

Executive Editorial Director Decorating, Home, and Style
Photography by: Courtesy of Thames & Hudson

You’ve probably heard of “chinoiserie,” a term for the Chinese influence on fine art and design. Well, “turquerie” is the Turkish equivalent -- and it’s breathtaking. I’ve had the privilege of traveling through Turkey several times, and I’ve always found the culture incredibly inspiring. You can imagine how thrilled I am to have this book as a visual equivalent of speed dial.

Photography by: Courtesy of Thames & Hudson

Istanbul is hands-down one of my favorite cities. Being there is an otherworldly experience. It’s completely exotic compared to anything you’d see stateside, and it feels ancient. Among the spired towers of the Hagia Sophia, the colorful bazaars, and the lavish sense of personal presentation, you’d have to be headless not to be moved.

Photography by: Courtesy of Thames & Hudson
The book provides plenty of history to engage the mind and the senses. Beginning around 1700 AD, Turkey’s fantastical stylings transformed from a source of fear to one of fascination for those outside of the Ottoman Empire. In “Turquerie,” we see how Turkish design elements were interpreted and imitated by France and other European nations -- a perspective that helps expose and celebrate the defining points of the Turkish aesthetic.
Photography by: Courtesy of Thames & Hudson
Of course, art is only as powerful as the people behind it, and the Turkish lust for life shines through in spades in this book. To wit, the Turks I’ve met on my travels are the most hospitable people -- I was wined and dined in a way that can only be described as “celebratory.” As I continue to deepen my knowledge of Turkish culture, it’s easy to see how that flair translates into exceptional living both on and off the page. While I may not always deal in “turquerie,” I hope to always approach my work and my life that way -- and that’s certainly something to celebrate.
Photography by: Courtesy of Thames & Hudson