William Kynan-Wilson, Ph.D.


William Kynan-Wilson's research explores texts and images in travel culture, in both the Medieval and Early Modern periods. He is particularly interested in the relationship between travel texts and images, and the ways in which they inform the expectations, experiences and actions of travellers. Kynan-Wilson obtained his BA, MPhil and PhD (2012) from the History of Art Department at the University of Cambridge. His doctoral thesis examined Anglo-Norman writings about Rome and romanitas in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. From 2012 to 2014 he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Skilliter Centre for Ottoman Studies at the University of Cambridge. His research has received funding from the Bibliographical Society (UK), the British Institute at Ankara, the American School for Classical Studies at Athens, the British Academy, and the Leverhulme Trust. In 2011 Kynan-Wilson curated the first exhibition in the United Kingdom devoted to Ottoman costume albums, and in 2012 he was awarded the Gordon Duff Prize in Bibliography (University of Cambridge). 

Research Project

From Souvenir to Stereotype: The Ottoman World in Text and Image

Fig. 1: 'Solachi' [Solaks] by Lambert de Vos (Athens, The Gennadius Library, MS A986q, dated 1574)

In the sixteenth century European taste for the Orient took many forms, of which one of the most popular and influential was a book known as an Ottoman costume album. These manuscripts, which were early travel souvenirs, contain a range of images that indicate how European audiences perceived and codified Ottoman society. The most striking aspect of these albums is the continuity of the iconography: the sixteenth-century costumes, poses and characters remained essentially unchanged for centuries. Kynan-Wilson's research examines European-Ottoman relations through this genre of book. His research will result in the first comprehensive survey of these albums. It will trace the origins of this genre and demonstrate how these images, and the labels that accompanied them, reflect different experiences of the Ottoman world. This project also seeks to recover the dynamic, two-way exchange between European and Ottoman artists during this period. In so doing, Kynan-Wilson's research engages with the reception of Islamic art in Early Modern Europe. Above all, this project offers new ways of thinking about European perceptions of and responses to the Orient

Talks in the context of the Fellowship

“Rome and romanitas in William of Malmesbury’s historical writings”
Conference William of Malmesbury and his Legacy
Sat 4 Jul 2015
University of Oxford

„Travellers, Artists, Readers: Re-interpreting Ottoman Costume Albums“
Art Histories Seminar
Wed Jun 24 2015, 16:00-18:00
Matthäikirchplatz 6-8, 10785 Berlin 

“‘Simply Painters of Pots’: Style and Aesthetics in Early Ottoman Costume Albums” 
Invited Talk
Tue 21 Apr 2015
Bild Wissen Gestaltung Cluster of Excellence
Humboldt University, Berlin

“Mediating Images in Jacque Carrey’s ‘View of Athens’”
Workshop On Site: Western Travellers Sketching Topographies in the Ottoman Empire
Thu 19 Feb 2015
Freie University, Berlin

“Damasippus’ Craze: Henry of Blois in Medieval Rome, Henry of Blois and the Twelfth-Century Renaissance”
Interdisciplinary Conference Henry of Blois and the Twelfth-Century Renaissance
Fri 9 Jan 2015
Fitzwilliam College
Cambridge, UK

“From Sultans to Slaves: Depicting and Experiencing Hierarchy in Early Modern Constantinople”
Conference Visualising Difference: Objects, Space and Practice in Early Modern Europe
Fri 10 Oct 2014
Nordiska Museet, Stockholm

Publications related to the Fellowship

Kynan-Wilson, William/ Munns, J. M.: “An Introduction to Henry of Blois.” Henry of Blois: Patron, Prelate, Prince. Eds. W. Kynan-Wilson/ J. M. Munns. Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer, 2017 (forthcoming).

Kynan-Wilson, William : “The role of romanitas in Henry of Blois’ persona.” Henry of Blois: Patron, Prelate, Prince. Eds. Kynan-Wilson, W./ Munns, J. M. Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer, 2017 (forthcoming).

Kynan-Wilson, William: “The role of romanitas in William of Malmesbury’s historical writings.” Discovering William of Malmesbury. Eds. Thomson, R. M./ Winkler, E./ Dolmans, E. Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer, 2017 (forthcoming).

Kynan-Wilson, William: “Remembering Constantinople: Early Images of the Ottoman World.” Cornucopia 54 (2016, forthcoming).

Kynan-Wilson, William: “Stories and Storytellers: The Naming of Textiles in West Africa.” TRAFO Blog of the Forum Transregionale Studien and the Max Weber Foundation (2016, forthcoming).

Kynan-Wilson, William: “A Turkish Souvenir: The Dryden Album and Anglo-Ottoman Relations.” Trinity College Library Blog (2016, forthcoming).

Kynan-Wilson, William: “Review of Kim M. Phillips, Before Orientalism: Asian Peoples and Cultures in European Travel Writing, 1245-1510." The Medieval Review (2015). 

Kynan-Wilson, William: “Review of The Sultan’s World: The Ottoman Orient in Renaissance Art.” The Burlington Magazine 157 (2015) : 640.

Kynan-Wilson, William: “Review of Stephen Murray, Plotting Gothic (Chicago: 2015).” The Journal of the British Archaeological Association 167 (2015) : 252-254.

Kynan-Wilson, William: “Review of The Sultan’s World: The Ottoman Orient in Renaissance Art (BOZARS, Brussels, 27 February-31 May 2015).” Turkish Historical Review 6 (2015) : 220-225.

Kynan-Wilson, William: “Review of Haydn Williams, Turquerie: An Eighteenth-Century European Fantasy (London: 2014).” Cornucopia 53 (2015) : 31-33.