France has long been fascinated by the Ottoman Empire, and for hundreds of years the taste for turquerie was evident in French fashion, literature, theater and opera, painting, architecture, and interior decoration.Turquerie, a term that came into use in the early nineteenth century, referred to essentially anything produced in the West that evoked or imitated Turkish culture. It was during the late eighteenth century at the court of Marie-Antoinette that the Turkish style reached new heights, inspiring some of the period's most original creations, namely boudoirs or cabinets decorated entirely in the Turkish manner.
In 1776 and 1777, several operas and plays with Turkish themes were performed at the French court, increasing the nobility's interest in Turkish style. Soon thereafter, three interiors à la turque were created for the comte d'Artois, Louis XVI's younger brother, and Marie-Antoinette commissioned boudoirs turcs for her apartments at Versailles and Fontainebleau. Since these retreats were intended for private entertaining, interior decorators were allowed more freedom than was permitted for the official, more public apartments at court. The highly theatrical rooms featured furniture and wall panels decorated with turbaned figures, camels, palm trees, and other Turkish motifs, but their form and function remained essentially French. Created for the royal family and wealthy aristocrats, the objects were always of the highest quality, made by the best artists and craftsmen of the day.
In Summer 2011, The Frick Collection presented a dossier exhibition featuring several pieces made in the Turkish manner for members of the French court, including a pair of console tables acquired by Henry Clay Frick in 1914, that illustrate a particularly inventive aspect of French eighteenth-century decorative style. The exhibition was organized by Charlotte Vignon, Associate Curator of Decorative Arts, The Frick Collection.