Fabricating a New Image: Imperial Tents in the Late Ottoman Period | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 3, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2045-5895
  • E-ISSN: 2045-5909



During the first centuries of Ottoman rule, sultans were constantly on the move and thus required transportable lodging in the form of the tent. As the nomadic dynasty grew into an empire, Ottoman tents quickly evolved into complex constructions that scholars often describe as ‘mobile palaces’. These extravagant tents continued to be used until the end of the Empire, and throughout the centuries, evolved stylistically in tandem with other imperial art forms such as permanent architecture and painting. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, tentmakers had a fantastically rich and varied repertoire of visual elements at their disposal, some of which were adapted from international artistic milieus, and still others that developed domestically. In the sprawling landscape of late Ottoman Istanbul, tents functioned as transitional spaces between indoors and outdoors, like mobile pleasure pavilions, through which members of the court could enjoy the sensory pleasures of nature. Moreover, tents of all shapes and sizes functioned as interim palatial architecture and lavish silken stage settings for imperial ceremonies, which in the last centuries of Ottoman rule were employed to propagate the sultan’s power through his visibility.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): architecture; imperial image; Late Ottoman Empire; tents; threshold
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