'Orientalism' after 40 - The Courtauld Institute of Art

‘Orientalism’ after 40

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Research Forum, Visiting Expert
A joint lecture from our Visiting Experts

‘Orientalism’ after 40

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Vernon Square, Penton Rise, King’s Cross, London

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  • Thursday 25 April 2019
    PLEASE NOTE: This Date Has Passed
    6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

    Lecture Theatre 1, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Vernon Square, Penton Rise, King’s Cross, London, WC1X 9EW

Speakers include

  • Professor Elisabeth Fraser - University of South Florida
  • Professor Mary Roberts - University of Sydney

Organised by

  • Dr Sussan Babaie - The Courtauld Institute of Art

This term’s Visiting Expert series is a joint collaboration with Professor Mary Roberts (University of Sydney) and Professor Elisabeth Fraser (University of South Florida). This series of events was curated by The Courtauld Institute of Art’s Dr Sussan Babaie. Whilst our Visiting Experts are here, we will reflect upon the 40th anniversary of the publication of Edward Said’s seminal text ‘Orientalism’. Please note this event consists of two separate lectures, with details outlined below.

“The Ottoman Costume Album as Collaborative Object and Agent of Contact”

Professor Elisabeth Fraser

The Ottoman costume album served as a vital agent of contact in the early modern world.  Conceived and collected through the movement of people, bound, rebound, sold, gifted, copied and reworked, Ottoman costume albums, produced from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries, are mobile objects constituted by a flexibility that lends itself to reinvention and reconfiguration.  The costume album transcended geographic points of origin, connecting artisans of the book and diverse audiences across time and space in unforeseeable ways.  Composed of individual sheets, each bearing a single costumed figure representing variously the Ottoman court, military, professions, and civil society, a costume album was custom made and inflected according to the interests of the owner; the collector and professionals of the book trade determined sequence, thematic emphasis, presentation, and numbers of folios to include.  The Ottoman costume album is defined by an essential mutability.

My talk will explore these ideas in relation to one particular eighteenth-century album, Costumes turcs, now in the British Museum, and its connection to a network of other albums and books. Containing 225 costume images painted in Istanbul in the 1780s, this magnificent album was transported to Berlin and then London; at each stop on its journey the album was added to, modified, and redefined. Following the trail of this object reveals the essentially collaborative nature of costume albums.


Elisabeth Fraser is Professor of Art History at the University of South Florida.  A specialist of European art and interactions between European and Islamicate cultures, she is the author of Mediterranean Encounters: Artists Between Europe and the Ottoman Empire, 1774-1839and Delacroix, Art and Patrimony in Post-Revolutionary France.  She has recently published an essay, “The Color of the Orient:On Ottoman Costume Albums, European Print Culture, and Cross-Cultural Exchange,” inVisual Typologiesfrom the Early Modern to the Contemporary(T. Zanardi and L. Klich, eds.,2018), and edited a volume of essays, The Mobility of People and Things in the Early Modern Mediterranean, which will be published by Routledge in 2019.  A recipient of an International Scholarship from the Staatliche Museen in Berlin in 2018, she is writing a book on Ottoman costume albums and their relationship to European print culture, Dressing the Ottoman Empire: Early Modern Costume Albums and Transculturation.

Edward Said and the Epistolary Interior

Professor Mary Roberts

“to [some] theorists of civilization identity is a stable and undisturbed thing, like a room full of furniture at the back of your house. This is extremely far from the truth, not just in the Islamic world but throughout the entire surface of the globe” Edward Said, 1996

In histories of modernism the orientalist interior has been consigned like furniture at the back of the house. I resist this formulation by addressing the life of Islamic art as it moved into and out of these spaces. Commencing with Duranton’s painting of Albert Goupil’s Oriental Salon in Paris before the 1888 sale that catalysed movement of his Islamic art into collections across Europe, including the Louvre’s inaugural acquisitions. It’s a foundational interior for the history of Islamic art. Goupil’s acquisition channels reveals this interior as the tip of an iceberg that exists in a set of linked relations with Ottoman and Orientalist interiors in Istanbul and Kraków with Polish artist Stanisław Chlebowski as the linchpin. The iceberg, with its north/south axis proves a limited geographic metaphor. It is tempting to construe these Islamic art supply lines through a network model, but that too fails to capture the way these interiors were imagined or lived. In letters to his family in Kraków, written inside the Ottoman Sultan’s Beaux-Arts Palace, Chlebowski articulated one interior within others. I propose that Chlebowski’s epistolary Ottoman and Orientalist interiors exist according to a logic of enfolding. It’s a model for construing the role of historic Islamic art in multiple modernities.


Mary Roberts, is John Schaeffer Professor of Art History at the University of Sydney. She specialises in late Ottoman visual culture, British art and the art of empire and has published extensively on the history of artistic exchanges between the Ottoman Empire and Europe. Her book, Istanbul Exchanges. Ottomans, Orientalists and Nineteenth-century Visual Culture,published by the University of California Press in 2015,was awarded the Art Association of Australia and New Zealand’s Book Prize in 2016 and translated into Turkish the same year.She is also the author of Intimate Outsiders. The Harem in Ottoman and Orientalist Art and Travel Literature (Duke, 2007) and four co-edited books.Mary has been a Getty Scholar, CASVA senior fellow, YCBA fellow and Clark-Oakley Fellow and is currently completing her next book Inside Networks: Orientalist Interiors and Islamic Art in Transit.

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