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From the 15th century onwards carpets from the Ottoman Empire were exported to Europe as luxury products. From the 17th century onwards, in the Golden Age, Ottoman carpets became very popular in the Netherlands as a form of conspicuous consumption by the Dutch (merchant) elite. As such these carpets were not only used in interiors, but also appeared in paintings. However, they were usually not used on the floors, but on tables. Turkish carpets were simply too expensive to use on floors. These depictions form an important source for the dating of certain carpet types and even individual carpets. The prestige of Turkish carpets eventually led to the production of handmade, but also industrial imitations in the Netherlands under the name Smyrna carpets. Dutch Smyrna carpets were named after a specific Turkish carpet type with bold designs which from the 17th century was imported via Izmir. The tradition of using Turkish-style carpets (not real ones, but cheap imitations!) on tables still exists in the Netherlands. In traditional Dutch cafés (bruin café) one can still find this type of carpet on the tables. This can be considered as an interesting case of “gesunkenes Kulturgut”: something which started as a status symbol (17th century) in the course of time fell victim to its own popularity and ended as something inferior and old-fashioned. In spite of their evident quality even real Turkish carpets never recovered from this image problem: both Persian and Turkish carpets are no longer very popular in the Netherlands. However, as a cultural phenomenon this fall from grace is very interesting.

Even though carpets mainly came from the Ottoman Empire to Europe, there is also an example of tapestry going to the Ottoman Empire. In 1617 the Dutch authorities gave grand vizier Halil Pasha six very expensive wall tapestries as a token of gratitude for his role in the establishment of the official relations in 1612. The tapestries were made by the famous Delft tapissier François Spiering. As far as known is this the only case of tapestries sent from Holland to the Ottoman Empire. The Rijkmuseum recently bought two tapestries by Spiering at an auction in Paris.