- Museum number
A Turkish man; with turban, cloak, and scimitar
Watercolour over graphite with some white bodycolour
- Production date
Height: 225 millimetres
Width: 155 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- For an introduction to this group of drawings by John White and a list of abbreviations used in the Literature at the end, see curatorial comment for 1906,0509.1.1, the title page inscription to the album.
The following text is taken from K. Sloan, 'A New World: England's First View of America' (London, BM Publications, 2006), cat. no. 25, pp.146-49:
[NB. If you use any of the text or information below, please acknowledge the source]
COSTUME STUDIES BY JOHN WHITE:
In his 'Lives of Illustrious Netherlandish and German Painters' (1604) Karel van Mander related the following account of a commission for a gallery of ‘all the costumes and clothings of the nations’ which Lucas de Heere painted for the Earl of Lincoln: ‘When all but the Englishman were done, he painted him naked and set beside him all manner of cloth and silk materials, and next to them tailor’s scissors and chalk.’ When asked what he meant by it, de Heere replied ‘he had done that with the Englishman because he did not know what appearance or kind of clothing he should give him because they varied so much from day to day . . . and I have therefore painted the material and tools to hand so that one can always make of it what one wishes’. But as van Mander went on to note, it was not only the English but most Europeans who shared this passion for fashion and copied ‘the costume of different peoples far too much’.
Van Mander, who had been de Heere’s pupil, noted that his master had also been a poet and a collector and ‘great lover of antiquities’. Appended to de Heere’s manuscript history of the costumes of England, Scotland and Ireland was a summary of histories of England and it is this combination of contemporary fascination with ancient, historical and modern fashion, costume and customs from around the world, Old and New, that this series of costume studies by John White reflects.
As Christian Feest and Ute Kuhlemann have discussed in Chapters 5 and 6 (of 'A New World'), printed costume books proliferated throughout Europe in the second half of the sixteenth century. The three images from the Sloane volume obtained from White’s descendants owe debts to some of the prints in these books (SL 5270.8r,4r,8v: Roman soldier, medieval man, Doge of Genoa). As Margaret Hodgen pointed out, these books were part of an early form of ethnography, an attempt to understand people not only through their government and buildings but also through their social and religious customs, manner and rites and dress – a new way of understanding the world as a theatrum mundi, through people rather than through historical events. The images were incorporated into cosmographies and atlases like Ortelius’s popular 'Theatrum orbis terrarum', travel and history books, paintings and theatre.
In Elizabethan England, clothes made and defined a man or woman. Society was changing swiftly, merits and rewards followed the dissolution of the monasteries and appropriation of lands in Ireland, privateers and merchants made fortunes, and elevation in wealth and status in society or at court was meteoric, as witnessed by Raleigh’s rise and later fall. Sumptuary laws were created to help determine people’s status at a glance, the same way as emblems and coats of arms. Cloth of gold or silver for example was limited to royalty and the very high born, and red and black, from expensive dyes, were almost as exclusive. The laws set fines for people who wore clothing above their station – although they were difficult to enforce.
The proliferation of prints and drawings of costume studies also reflects the rich and various creations for Elizabethan public processions, theatre, tournaments and masques where the business of the Office of Revels ‘resteth speciallye in three poyntes, In making of garmentses, In making of hedpeces, and in payntinge. The connynge of the office resteth in skill of devise, in understanding of historyes, in judgement of comedies tragedys and showes.’
The three images of European figures mentioned above from the Sloane volume, were included with the images of the Tupinambá (SL,5270.7,9,10), the additional images of Inuit (SL,5270.5,11,12) and the copies after the Indians (SL,5270.2,3,5,6). Whether they are copies after originals by John White or early work by him from the 1570s, they are certainly connected with his work. Along with the watercolour costume studies that follow (1906,0509.24-28,31-35), they provide a brief history of the costumes and customs of the Old World, from ancient Picts, through the Romans and medieval to modern Europe, and the exotic people on its fringes in Turkey, Tartary and Meta Incognita; other cultures and civilizations with which to compare the people in the New World of Virginia.
Lit.: For van Mander’s 'Schilder-boeck' see Hessel Miedema, ed., Karel van Mander, 'Lives . . .', vol. 1, Doornspijk, 1994, pp. 281–2; for de Heere see Frances Yates, 'The Valois Tapestries', London, 1975; Jo Anne Olian, ‘Sixteenth-century costume books’, Dress, III (1977), pp. 20–48; Edmund Kerchever Chambers, 'Notes on the History of the Revels Office under the Tudors', London, 1907, p. 37; see Ann Rosalind Jones and Peter Stallybrass, 'Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory', Cambridge, 2000
25 A Turkish man, with scimitar
Lit.: LB 1(32); ECM 73; PH&DBQ 136
26 A Turkish woman
Watercolour and bodycolour over black lead, 222 × 153 mm
Lit.: LB 1(33); ECM 75; PH&DBQ 137(a)
England was interested in Turkey was not only because it was ‘exotic’ but because, like Cathay, it was the potential source of great riches for English merchants who formed the Levant Company in 1581. But during the reign of Süleyman the Magnificent, the Turks were the ‘present Terrour of the World’ and many Elizabethans, including John Smith who was later to help found Jamestown, had experience in the wars between the Muslim Ottoman Empire and the Christian Holy Roman Empire. They were a menace at sea, and journals and captivity narratives led to a fascination that resulted in the Levant making appearances in many guises in paintings and in plays in Elizabethan theatre and in the characters of court masques. One of these figures (no. 33) may represent a Tartar or Uzbek who, like the Turks, represented another exotic and potentially terrifying nation with which England had recently begun to trade through the Muscovy Company. Thus, as in John White’s images of the Picts, these figures represent people from cultures that were non-Christian and to be feared; in comparison to them, the Indians depicted by White appeared to be a much less threatening, even civil society.
Lit.: for English attitudes to Turkey see Pompa Banerjee, ‘The white Othello: Turkey and Virginia in John Smith’s True Travels’, in Applebaum and Sweet, p. 136
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1965 Jan 30-Feb 22, NGC, Washington, John White, no.108
1965 26 Feb-14 Mar, NC Mus of Art, Raleigh, John White, no. 108
1965 17 Mar-5 Apr, NY, Pierpont Morgan Libr, John White, no. 108
2007 Mar-Jun, BM, 'A New World:...', no.25
2007/8 Oct-Jan, Raleigh, North Carolina Mus of History, 'A New World:...'
2008 Mar-Jun, New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, 'A New World:...'
2008 Jul-Oct, Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement, 'A New World:...'
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The provenance given above refers to the moment when the album of drawings connected with John White was purchased by the Department of Manuscripts in what is now the British Library. The album was transferred to the Department of Prints and Drawings in 1906, where it was assigned new register numbers.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number