Ottoman Costume Portraits: Photographs in the Elbise-i Osmaniyye

Categorized as Topics

Ottoman Costume Portraits:

Photographs in the Elbise-i Osmaniyye

Erin Hyde Nolan


This presentation examines the Elbise-i Osmaniyye, a catalogue of popular Ottoman costumes commissioned by the Ottoman court for the 1873 Vienna World’s Fair. The Elbise contains 320 pages of text and 74 phototypes of men and women in regional dress. Photographic albums such as this one – which were made in the service of the Ottoman Empire – did not exist in isolation. Instead, they operated within vast and transnational image ecosystems, traveling throughout diplomatic networks and across diverse geographies. This talk considers the international display and circulation of photographs in the Elbise, illustrating how lens-based technology functioned as a form of nineteenth-century statecraft within courtly circles.


Çelik, Zeynep and Edhem Eldem. Camera Ottomana: Photography and Modernity in the Ottoman Empire, 1840-1914. Istanbul: Koç University Press, 2015.

Eldem, Edhem. “Elbise-i Osmaniye’yi Tekrar Ele Almak.” Toplumsal Tarih 248 (August 2014): 26–35.

Ersoy, Ahmet. Architecture and the Late Ottoman Historical Imaginary: Reconfiguring the Architectural Past in a Modernizing Empire. Farnham Surrey, England; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2015.

Hamdi Bey, Osman, Victor Marie de Launay, and Pascal Sébah. Les costumes populaires de la Turquie en 1873. Ouvrage publié sous le patronage de la Commission impériale ottomane pour l’Exposition universelle de Vienne. Constantinople: Imprimerie du “Levant Times & Shipping Gazette,” 1873.

Makdisi, Ussama. “Ottoman Orientalism.” The American Historical Review 107, no. 3 (2002): 768–796.

Micklewright, Nancy. “Alternative histories of photography in the Ottoman Middle East.” In Photography’s Orientalism: New Essays on Colonial Representation, edited by Ali Behdad and Luke Gartlan. 75–92. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2013.

Öztuncay, Bahattin. The Photographers of Constantinople: Pioneers, Studios and Artists from 19th Century Istanbul. Istanbul: Aygaz, 2003.

Peterson, Nicolas and Christopher Pinney. Photography’s Other Histories. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.

Roberts, Mary. Istanbul Exchanges: Ottomans, Orientalists, and Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture. Oakland, California: University of California Press, 2015.


Erin Hyde Nolan, “Ottoman Costume Portraits: Photographs in the Elbise-i Osmaniyye,” Khamseen: Islamic Art History Online, published 10 November 2022.

Erin Hyde Nolan (Ph.D., Boston University) is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Bates College and Lecturer at Tufts University. Her research focuses on photographic history and visual culture from the Islamic world, especially the circulation of images and ways that lens-based technology connects continents, countries, and cultures. She is the co-author, with Sophie Junge, of Survey Practices and Landscape Photography Across the Globe (Routledge, 2022), and she also has published essays in Ars Orientalis and Trans Asia Photography. Her scholarship has been supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art, Kunsthistorisches Institut-Florenz, Max-Planck Society, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Historians of Islamic Art Association, and Getty Research Institute.