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Mevlevi dervish

Mevlevi dervish

From Octavian Dalvimart, The costume of Turkey, London, printed for William Miller by T Bensley, 1802

State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, RARESF 391 D17C, pl 46

As early as the 16th century, European artists were producing picture or costume-books that were used as significant records of scenes from the Ottoman Empire.

This early 19th-century illustration of a Mevlevi dervish, a 'whirling dervish' as Europeans called them, is one of a series by the French artist Octavian Dalvimart. According to the publisher’s notes, 'the drawings from which these plates have been engraved were made on the spot about four years ago…and may be depended upon for their correctness'.

The sema, or devotional ceremony of the Mevlevi Sufis, is erroneously described in the text as a 'dance', part of the 'peculiar prayers and practices' of the sect.