Rare Books

The Ferriol Album

Modern History
paper, leather, colors
engraving, printing, painting
34 x 50 cm

    The Ferriol Album (A collection of 100 engravings depicting various nations in Levant)

    Cornel-Constantin Ilie, Roxana Gâscă

    Inventory number: 106151; Material: paper, leather, colors; Technique: engraving, printing, painting; Sizes: 34/50 cm; Authors: G.J.B. Scottin, P. Simoneau, C. Du Bosc, C.N. Cochin, B. Baron, J. De Franssieres, P. Rochefort, J. Haussard, based on the drawings by J. Van Mour; Commissioner: Marquis Charles de Ferriol; Dating: 1714, Paris.

    The album is one of the most important works of the epoch regarding both fashion and other aspects of daily life in Levant. It was created as part of the Occident’s effort to understand the Orient and offers important clues about the way in which the Europeans perceived the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 18th century. The portraits were commissioned by Charles de Ferriol, the French ambassador in Istanbul (between 1699 and 1711), and made by the Flemish artist Jean Baptiste Van Mour, in 1707 – 1708. After his return from the mission, in 1711, Ferriol wanted to have the 100 portraits printed; based on the drawings by Van Mour, they were made by G.J.B. Scottin, P. Simoneau, C. Du Bosc, C.N. Cochin, B. Baron, J. De Franssieres, P. Rochefort and J. Haussard, and the engravings were then entrusted to Jacques Le Hay for printing.

    The album entitled Recueil de cent estampes representant differentes nations du Levant was released in Paris in 1714. Its success determined the reprint of the work, both in its colored version and in black and white. Between the various printed versions, there are some differences as far as the text is concerned (for example, a copy from the National Library of France has an ampler introduction than the one at the National Museum of Romanian History; in turn, this one has a text with the description of Ferriol’s activity in Istanbul and a song of the dervishes in Pera). The plates depict characters from the Ottoman Court, ladies and young girls, noblemen, militaries, Turkish merchants and various other nations within the Empire (Greeks, Albanians, Hungarians, Romanians, Bulgarians, Tartars, Armenians, Persians, Indians, Arabs).

    The album presents Constantinople as a cosmopolitan city, in which the Muslims and Christians live together in harmony. Both Ferriol and Van Mour were praised for “the high artistic sense” of the album, which launched a new trend in the European fashion. Tailors started to make clothes inspired from the images in the album, which the high-society ladies and gentlemen were wearing at balls, parties or walks. Van Mour was a keen observer of both life at the Ottoman Court and the Ottoman society in general. Sultan Ahmed III in various outfits, a pregnant mistress, the officer of the Janissaries, the chief of the eunuchs, the Great Vizier in a ceremonial costume, the water carrier, the dervish, the imam, the confectioner, the itinerant barber, the dancer, the lover, the Wallachian princess are only a few of the characters depicted by Van Mour in his works. Beyond the purely delightful outfits, he explains the characters’ occupations and even their personalities. For example, referring to the Ottoman sailor, he says: “They are insolent and cause all sort of troubles. It is said there are three misfortunes for Istanbul: the plague, the fires and the sailors”.

    The album was also printed in other parts of Europe, in Spain with the title “Colección de Trajes de Turquia” and in England with the title “Costumes of Turkey”. It had a significant contribution both to knowing the fashion throughout the entire Empire and to spreading the Ottoman clothing style in Europe (especially among the well-off). The costumes used for the opera “The Abduction from the Seraglio” by Mozart were inspired from the engravings contained in the Ferriol album. Moreover, for the porcelain figures belonging to “the Ottoman trend”, produced at Meissen around the middle of the 18th century, the artists J. J. Kaendler and P. Reinicke used the engravings in the album as a source of inspiration. The album actually contains 102 engravings (out of which three are double: Turkish wedding; Turkish funeral; dervishes in the temple of Pera) and is even more valuable and interesting for us as it also contains three portraits of some characters from the Romanian territory: Wallachian princess; Wallachian gentleman; Wallachian young lady.

    Charles de Ferriol

    The history of the relationships between France and the Ottoman Empire started in the 3rd decade of the 16th century with a series of treaties and capitulations, which, according to the customary Ottoman model, were closed by a document that registered the existence of an agreement/pact between the two nations, entitled Ahdnâme-i Hümâyûn (“Imperial book of agreement”). Thus, since 1536, when such an agreement was signed after the negotiations of the French ambassador Jean de la Forêt, according to the model of the previously signed commercial treaties with Venice and Genova, France had permanently had an embassy in Constantinople and a series of ambassadors and consuls, whose mission was to watch over the smooth development of the relationships with the Turks. Obviously, this mission was not entrusted to a random person, but to a trustworthy intimate of the king. These reasons were also valid in the case of Charles de Ferriol in the following century. Marquis Charles de Ferriol (1652 – 1722) was the French ambassador in the Ottoman Empire between 1699 and 1711. He came from a family belonging to the new bourgeoisie, hailing from Metz. He accomplished various diplomatic missions in Poland and Hungary and worked in the service of Marquis Torcy, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He was in charge with writing the reports sent from Constantinople by his predecessor, Castagneres de Chateauneuf. He reached Istanbul in December 1699 and fulfilled his diplomatic mission during the reign of the sultans Mustafa II and Ahmed III. Ferriol did not start his mandate under the best auspices as his audience with the sultan, which was supposed to take place on the 5th of January 1700, was postponed due to some aspects regarding the etiquette (among others, Ferriol was required to show up in front of the sultan dressed according to the Oriental fashion and without a sword, which he refused). This scene is described in the preface to the album. His diplomatic mission was not easy, because of the international context, in which France was in conflict with the Habsburg Empire and England and Ferriol had the task to attract the Turks into an alliance with Louis XIV. Ferriol was also involved in a conflict within the Armenian Church in Istanbul. He intervened for ousting Patriarch Avediq, who was then abducted and taken to France, where he was forced to convert to Catholicism. During the period spent in Istanbul, Ferriol bought from the Turks a young lady from the area of the Caucasus, who had been taken as a slave and whom he later sent to France. The beautiful Charlotte Aïssé (the name she received after she was baptized) became famous posthumously, after Voltaire published, in 1787, the letters that Charlotte sent to her friend, Mrs. Calandrini, and which are a real fresco of the French high society during the first half of the 18th century. After he returned to France, Ferriol did not lose contact with the world in which he had lived for 12 years, so he commissioned the engraving of 100 “real life portraits”, made by Jean Baptiste Van Mour.