Ottomans, Orientalists, and 19th-Century Visual Culture

Episode 445

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The line between Orientalist and Ottoman painting might at first seem clear. But in this episode, historian Mary Roberts argues that such distinctions are in fact complicated, drawing on her recent book Istanbul Exchanges: Ottomans, Orientalists and Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture. She explains how Istanbul became a global center of production, circulation, and exhibition of visual culture in the nineteenth century. Ottomans and Orientalists both contended and connected with each other--whether in Pera or in the palace--and Roberts discusses how these networks of patronage and apprenticeship eventually led to works that were produced in Istanbul ending up all around the world. There they became defined as Orientalist, but Roberts unearths the more tangled genealogy of their production, as well as the relevance of audience in these characterizations. 

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Contributor Bios

Mary Roberts is Professor of Art History and Nineteenth-Century Studies at the University of Sydney. She works on the late Ottoman Empire and Orientalist visual culture.
Zeinab Azarbadegan is a Ph.D. candidate in International and Global History at Columbia University. She is currently conducting research for her dissertation project on the subject of sovereignty and citizenship in nineteenth century Ottoman Iraq.


Episode No. 445
Release Date: 19 January 2020
Recording Location: Istanbul
Audio editing by Maryam Patton
Music: Komiku - Un désert; Istanbul by kara güneş
Images and bibliography courtesy of Mary Roberts


Stanisław Chlebowski and Sultan Abdülaziz, Study for The Mora Rebellion, c. 1865–1872, pencil and ink on paper, 23 x 34.3 cm. From the Czaykowska album, page 14, from the collection of the National Museum in Kraków, Inv. No. MNK III-r.a-6688.

M. Sami, “The appeal of art to the Sultans” (“Selatinde İncizab-ı Tersim,”) Journal of the Society of Ottoman Artists (Osmanlı Ressamlar Cemiyeti Gazetesi), 14, 1 March 1914, Courtesy of Atatürk Library, Istanbul.

Bedros Srabian, An Armenian beggar from Van, 1882, oil on canvas, 94 x 71 cm, National Gallery of Armenia, Yerevan.
Sébah and Joaillier, Print from glass plate negative of Osman Hamdi Bey’s painting, The Artist at work, No. 8067, n.d. Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Istanbul. 

Select Bibliography

Mary Roberts, Istanbul Exchanges. Ottomans, Orientalists and Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture, (Berkeley: University of California Press, March 2015)

Mary Roberts, İstanbul Karşılaşmaları. Osmanlılar, Oryantalistler ve 19. Yüzyıl Görsel Kültürü, Çeviren: Zeynep Rona, (İstanbul: Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 2016)

ABC Club Exposition des Beaux Arts au Chalet des Petits Champs. Constantinople, 1881. Exhibition Catalog.

Osman Hamdy Bey and Marie de Launay. Elbise-i ‘Osmaniyye / Les Costumes populaires de la Turquie en 1873 ouvrage publié sous le patronage de la commission impériale Ottomane pour l’exposition universelle de Vienne. Istanbul: Imprimerie du “Levant Times and Shipping Gazette”, 1873.

Salahéddin Bey. La Turquie à l'Exposition Universelle de 1867. Paris: Librairie Hachette & Cie, 1867.

Mary Adelaide Walker, Eastern Life and Scenery. Excursions in Asia Minor, Mytilene, Crete, and Roumania, 2 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1886.

John Young, A Series of Portraits of the Emperors of Turkey, from the Foundation of the Monarchy to the Year 1808. Engraved from Pictures painted at Constantinople by command of Sultan Selim the Third. With a Biographical account of each of the emperors. London: William Bulmer and Co., 1815.

Zeynep Çelik, “Speaking Back to Orientalist Discourse,” Orientalism's Interlocutors: Painting, Architecture, Photography, (co-edited with Jill Beaulieu), Duke University Press, Durham, 2002

Semra Germaner and Zeynep İnankur. Constantinople and the Orientalists. Istanbul, İşbank, 2002.

Mary Roberts, Intimate Outsiders: The Harem in nineteenth-century Ottoman and Orientalist Art and Travel Literature, Duke University Press, Durham and London, 2007.

Mary Roberts, “The Resistant Materiality of Frederic Leighton’s Arab Hall,” British Art Studies, Issue 9, Summer 2018.

Wendy Shaw, Ottoman Painting. Reflections of Western Art from the Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Republic. London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 2011.


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