These stunningly beautiful illustrations come from a book entitled Oriental Costumes: Their Designs and Colors by German artist Max Tilke, published in 1922. The term “oriental” is used here in its broad, archaic, art-historical sense, and so as well as covering the vast sweep of Asia from the Levant to Japan there are also examples of dress from North Africa and the Balkans.
Tilke is fascinating for all sorts of reasons. At the dawn of the 20th century, for example, he launched “Zum hungrigen Pegasus”, a venue whose guests/performers (the distinction was fluid) included Erich Mühsam, Else Lasker-Schüler, Hanns Heinz Ewers and Harry Graf Kessler. This establishment more or less began the whole Berlin cabaret tradition, well before the Weimar Republic with which it is more readily associated. Tilke also provided illustrations for the book Die Transvestiten, written by pioneering sex researcher Magnus Hirschfeld (and don’t think I haven’t been looking out for that particular volume…so far no luck).
Max Tilke is, in short, someone we would do well to revisit, but in the meantime enjoy this slice of artistic and ethnographic brilliance (or view the original book online here).