An item of masculine dress, the short-sleeved caftan was worn as a top coat over an existing garment by the Ottoman sultans and members of their immediate entourage. This caftan is made of silk lampas (kemhâ) patterned with undulating blue stalks outlined in white bearing tulips, eglantines, carnations and composite lotus and leaf palmettes on a ground couched in gold thread. Like the Iznik tile revetments it so closely resembles, the design is representative of the distinctive Ottoman “four flowers” style developed in the Ottoman empire in the mid-fifteenth century by court painter Kara Memi.
Made by a specially designated group of court tailors, named hayyatîn-i hil’at, these robes of honor were awarded according to a strictly observed system of protocol determined by the rank of the recipient. The quality of the cloth denoted the message of approval – or disapproval – that the donor wished to convey. When foreign diplomats were received at court, the same sumptuary code applied.
Brocaded silks of this nature were made by specialized workshops such as those of Bursa or Istanbul.