Professor Paolo Girardelli Associate professor in the Department of History at Boğaziçi
This presentation will overview the formation of images of the Levant, and of European-Ottoman encounters, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Works like the illustrations to Carbognano’s Description of Constantinople (1794), or the watercolors commissioned by British ambassador, Stratford Canning, to an anonymous Greek-Ottoman painter in 1809 – but even some paintings of long-term European residents in the Levant, from De Favray to Melling and Zonaro -, do not display the standard characteristics of Turqueries or Orientalist iconography. They were mostly created within a diplomatic environment, as tools and representations of cross-cultural communication and intimacy. They speak to an audience that does not seem to take for granted many of the assumptions on which the work of best-known Orientalist painters, and often of their critics, is based. Rather than emphasizing exoticism and cultural ‘otherness’, this kind of iconography is often about a possibility of coexistence and exchange.
Dr. Antonia Gatward Cevizli
Course leader; Foundations Of Western Art , Sotheby’s Institute of Art
Gentile Bellini's portrait of the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II, painted in 1480 during the artist's stay in the Ottoman capital, has become emblematic of cultural exchange between Venice and the Ottomans. However, documentary evidence suggests that the sultan was more interested in obtaining bronze founders than painters. A re-consideration of the documents of the Venetian Senate from 1479–1480 will alter the perspective from which this episode is usually viewed, giving Bellini a less central role and indicating that the contemporary mission of the bronze founder Bartolomeo Bellano was of no less importance. Mehmed's requests for bronze founders – made simultaneously to Venice and Florence – have been interpreted as a sign of Mehmed's enthusiasm for portrait medals. This explanation will be questioned and it will be argued that the sultan's interest in bronze founders extended beyond their artistic production to their knowledge of cannon technology, shedding light on Venice's refusal to send a second founder.
Dr Mary Healy
Research Fellow in the History of Art and Visual Culture, Centre for Gender and Women’s Studies, Trinity College Dublin
This paper presents a case study of A Complaint with the Cadi (Algeria), ca. 1896—a painting by the French Orientalist artist Marie Lucas-Robiquet (1858-1959). Using cultural and social history as prisms, it explores what Lucas-Robiquet’s visual record communicates to the cultural ‘outsider’ about Muslim social life in French colonial Algeria ca. 1896. Attention is given to this artwork because it depicts the Islamic judiciary system as practised in late nineteenth-century Algeria. The paper argues that this painting and its subject matter are rare in the Orientalist canon, that the artist was female, is, I posit, crucial to the ways in which this work can be read. To contextualise the work, the paper commences with a discussion of the artist’s place in the canon and proceeds to examine the socio-cultural significance of the painting. I contend that A Complaint with the Cadi (or Qāḍī meaning judge) is an important work because it represents a locus of historicised forms of Otherness: the French female artist and the Algerian cultural attribute. Such gendered cultural encounters have yet to receive due consideration by historians of culture and society.
Anna-Sophia von Celsing
PhD candidate, Uppsala University, Sweden.
The von Celsing collection of Turkish paintings and artefacts was assembled by three members of the family, Gustaf Celsing the elder (1679-1743), his two sons, Gustaf the younger (1723-1789), and Ulric (1731-1805), during their service as Swedish diplomats in Constantinople, Turkey in the 18th century. This collection provides a unique document of persons, architecture and landscape of Constantinople and illustrates the topography of city and the banks of the Bosphorus at the time. The collection was transferred to Biby in Sweden, a mansion in the countryside, outside Stockholm acquired, by the two brothers in 1781. The collection of 103 paintings and objects was housed, together with their diplomatic correspondence,for 230 years at Biby. This presentation will describe the history of the three diplomats, their heirs and the environment in which this unique collection existed and remained intact for eight generations of the von Celsing family.
Dr. Moya Carey
IHF Curator for the Iranian Collections, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
The British Embassy to Iran, located on Firdausi Avenue in central Tehran, was designed from the South Kensington Museum (today the Victoria and Albert Museum) in London, in 1869. The architect, James Wild, had a strong reputation as a specialist in Middle Eastern architectural design, which he had studied and extensively drawn while living in Egypt between 1842 and 1848. His Tehran “Mission Buildings” are representative of the “controlled eclecticism” typical of the Design Reform movement broadcast from South Kensington. However, Wild’s first proposal for the State Rooms was rejected, apparently because he had selected a “Persian” style: this was not considered workable for Britain’s official profile in Iran, where Britain and Russia struggled for political influence and status at the Qajar court. After a long hiatus, Wild’s second (more conservative) scheme for the State Rooms was approved: this also offered a British assimilation of a “foreign” style, echoing the eighteenth-century British assimilation of Greek and Roman architecture exemplified by neo-classical practitioners such as Robert Adam.
During the long wait for James Wild’s re-design for the State Rooms, a small domed area leading into the embassy garden was decorated as an “Arabesque Hallway”. Its decorative plasterwork features somewhat incongruous foliate interlace designs from Mamluk Cairo and Nasrid Granada - mediated through the chromolithograph plates published in Owen Jones’ Grammar of Ornament (1856). The scheme is probably based on Wild’s initial design which the site superintendent had refused for the main reception rooms, but later decided to retain in this subaltern space.