Art Histories Seminar
Mi 24 Jun 2015 | 16:00–18:00

Travellers, Artists, Readers: Re-interpreting Ottoman Costume Albums

William Kynan-Wilson (Art Histories Fellow 2014/15)

Kunstbibliothek, Matthäikirchplatz 6-8, 10785 Berlin

The Sultan’s Lion-Keeper (Stockholm, National Library of Sweden, MS Rålamb 8:0,10, fol. 105 – The Rålamb Album, dated 1657)

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.This paper will introduce the origins and development of this genre over the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries before presenting the case for a collective approach to this material. It will focus on a number of important manuscripts in Berlin and elsewhere that reflect several stylistic and aesthetic themes crucial to transcultural exchange in the Ottoman world. In particular, this paper will demonstrate the value of a comprehensive and empirical survey by analysing patterns in the production, dissemination and reception of these albums throughout early modern Europe. It will close by considering how these albums offer new ways of seeing European responses to the Orient and Ottoman responses to Europe.

Kynan-Wilson’s research explores texts and images in travel culture, in both the Medieval and Early Modern periods. 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 and is now Art Histories Fellow 2014/15. 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).

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