Turkish furniture may not ring too many bells with some because they would be far more familiar with the name Ottoman. The Ottoman couch is but one very famous form of the Ottoman style of furniture. The foot stool or pouffe is another popular form of the ottoman. Ottomans can be beds or sofas depending on the width of the base. It is, structurally speaking, a padded, upholstered seat without back or arms. Ottomans have evolved over time and some styles did develop backs and arms.
The oldest example of what became known as Ottoman furniture dates back to around 3100 BC and this furniture was a development in response to the shift from the nomadic lifestyle to permanent settlements. The ottoman eventually travelled to Europe in the late eighteenth century, coming of course from the Ottoman Empire. The word ‘ottomane’ first appeared in French in 1729 in reference to an item of furniture. Thomas Jefferson in a memorandum in 1789, notes that “Paid for an Ottomane of velours d’Uhtrecht.” In Europe, the first examples of the ottoman was a fitted piece of furniture, which followed three walls of a room. Gradually smaller pieces evolved, which could fit into a single corner of a room.
Turkish furniture: a history of excellence unparalleled anywhere else. European furniture design was indelibly influenced by the ottoman and Turkish furniture. Italian furniture design, now considered at the apogee of this industry owes much to Turkish furniture in style and conception. Wooden furniture designed by the Turks was a very large part of the Roman Empire in both the east and west. Constantinople, which became Istanbul, and was known as Byzantium prior to Emperor Constantine, would have had its fair share of ottoman style couches for dining and sleeping on.
The ottoman suggested elegance and decadence in the nineteenth century, as artists had their unclothed female models drape their languid exquisite forms over them. A shadow where the plume which covered the Venus mound was barely indicated and/or an open Chinese silk gown exposed a creamy breast; all of these things occurred on the ottoman replete with intricate Islamic patterning. Lines of love on a canvas or a page followed the contours of the female form, but which were structurally defined by the geometric shape of this fine example of Turkish furniture. A sultan and his harem of scantily clad women, also comes quickly to mind when contemplating the ottoman.