Talitha Maria G. Schepers

PhD student

Thesis: ‘The Function of Artists and Artworks in Early Modern Diplomatic Encounters between the Habsburg Netherlands and the Ottoman Empire (1526-1574)’

Supervised by Professor Joanna Woodall and Dr Jan Loop (University of Kent)

Funded by CHASE (AHRC Funding)

During the sixteenth century several Netherlandish artists accompanied Habsburg diplomatic missions to the Ottoman Empire. Although most academic studies acknowledge the journey of these artists, they are usually mentioned fleetingly as support to other arguments.

Thus, the aim of my PhD research is to examine the function of Netherlandish artists and art in diplomatic encounters between the Habsburg Empire and the Ottoman Empire (1526-1574). In order to do so, my research considers the four most significant Habsburg diplomatic missions to the Ottoman Empire which dealt with the contested Hungarian border zone between both empires and which were all lead by Netherlandish ambassadors: 1533 and 1534 Cornelis de Schepper, 1545-1547 Gerard Veltwijck, 1552-62 Ogier Ghislain de Busbecq, and 1570-74 Karel Rym. On at least three of these missions, an artist accompanied the diplomatic entourage, namely Pieter Coecke van Aelst (1533), Melchior Lorck (1555-59) and Lambert de Vos (1570-74).  

The artists and visual material under consideration in my PhD project have never been studied in relation to these diplomatic missions. Furthermore, traditional scholarship has considered them predominantly in the context of the so-called “Image of the Turk”.

My research will reconsider these artworks as visual objects – visual reports so-to-speak – made by artists who were employed and travelled within a diplomatic context. I argue that the legitimacy of these visual objects as primary sources of Habsburg-Ottoman diplomatic encounters should be reconsidered. As such, my research seeks to give voice to these artists and approach their visual artworks as agents of diplomacy. Thus, as they embody a relationship that goes beyond a Eurocentric vision, I propose to step away from this Eurocentric approach that has only considered them as an expression of the European perception of the “Turk”.


  • 2015-2016:           Pre-doctoral fellowship, a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities, University of Cologne, Germany
  • 2014-2015:           Robert Owen Bishop Research Scholarship in History, Christ’s College, University of Cambridge, UK
  • 2013-2014:          MA in Art History, Curatorship and Renaissance Culture, The Warburg Institute, School of Advanced Study, University of London – The National Gallery, London, UK
  • 2008-2009:           MA in Art History, KU Leuven University, Belgium
  • 2005-2008:           BA in Art History, KU Leuven University, Belgium

I spent my third year as an Erasmus Exchange student at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain (2007-2008).

Research Interests

  • Early Netherlandish art
  • Northern Renaissance
  • Islamic Art
  • Prints and Drawings
  • Textile Studies


September 2012 – June 2013:     English Language Teacher (ELT), Oxford Language Academy, Iskenderun/Antakya ~ Hatay, Turkey

October – December 2018:          Teaching Assistant MA Core Methodologies course, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK

CHASE Work Placement

February – August 2019:     6-month AHRC-funded Work Placement at the V&A Museum, London

Middle Eastern Department: updating records in collection management system and providing general support for the department (Line Manager: Dr Tim Stanley and Dr Elaine Tierney)

Collection Management Team: auditing, photographing and barcoding of the World Dress Collection (circa 6500 objects) as part of the Blythe House Decant Project (Line Manager: Ruby Hodgson)

Conference Organisation

‘Perceiving Processions’, Eight Early Modern Conference, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK, 24 November 2018, co-organized with Alice Zamboni ~ Supported by the CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership

Conference Papers

‘Unravelling the Image of the Turk: an examination of artists who travelled to Constantinople between 1453 and 1571: Gentile Bellini, Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Nicolas de Nicolay’, Crossroads: East and West: Cultural contacts, transfers and interchanges between East and West in the Mediterranean, Split, Croatia, September 17-19, 2015.

‘Sixteenth-century cross-cultural encounters and artistic exchange between Netherlandish artists and diplomats at the Ottoman Court’, Centres of Diplomacy, Centres of Culture II: The English, French, and Ottoman Courts c.1450- c.1630, The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, March 14-15, 2016.

‘Ottoman Diplomatic Ceremonies as seen through the Eyes of the Flemish Artist Pieter Coecke van Aelst (1533)’, as part of the conference session Travel, Diplomacy, and Networks of Global Exchange in the Early Modern Period organised by Dr Justina Spencer, College Art Association (CAA) 106th Annual Conference, Los Angeles, February 21-24, 2018.

‘Agents of Diplomacy: The Function of Netherlandish Artists and Artworks in Habsburg-Ottoman Diplomatic Encounters (1526-74)’, as part of the conference session Art, Diplomacy and Orientalism, Renaissance Society of America (RSA) Annual Conference, New Orleans, March 22-24, 2018.

Panel member of ‘Journal Publishing’, Publishing & Postdocs, Early Career Researcher Network, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK, January 21, 2019.

Panel member of ‘Session 2: Editors from student journals’, University of London Research Skills Intercollegiate Network (ReSkIN), Birbeck University, London, UK, March 02, 2019 ~ Invited by Gabriella Nugent to discuss immediations with Co-Editor-in-Chief Teresa Lane.

‘Perceiving the Sublime Porte: Habsburg-Ottoman Diplomatic Encounters as seen through the Eyes of Netherlandish Artists (1526-1574)’, 30th Levantine Heritage Foundation dinner gathering in London, Royal Thames Yacht Club, London, UK, April 17, 2019 ~ Invited by Craig Encer.

‘Perceiving Processions: Diplomatic Ritual at the Ottoman Court’, Third Year Postgraduate Symposium: The Odd Couple: Conversing and Connecting over Time, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK, May 16, 2019.

Recent publications

Conference Proceedings: ‘Images of Istanbul, Vienna and Venice as seen through the eyes of diplomats and artists belonging to Early European Embassies (1400-1600)’, in IMAGES (IV) – Images of the Other: Istanbul-Vienna-Venice edited by Veronika Bernard, Münster, Berlin, Wien, London, New York, 2015: pp. 147-154.

Book Chapter: ‘Art and Diplomacy: The European perception of the Ottoman during the Renaissance (Gentile Bellini, Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Nicolas de Nicolay)’, in Liminal Spaces of Art between Europe and the Middle East, edited by Nina Díaz Fernández, Ivana Prijatelj Pavičić et al., Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018: pp. 130-141.

Book review: ‘The Magi. Legend, Art and Cult ~ Edited by Manuela Beer, Iris Metje, Karen Straub, Saskia Werth, Moritz Woelk’, in Folklore, 2016 (Peer-reviewed & forthcoming).

Book review: ‘Lydia Rosía Dorn, Diplomatenporträts der Frühen Neuzeit: Botschafter und Gesandte in der Malerei von Tizian über Van Dyck bis Aved’, in Renaissance Quarterly, 71.4, 2018: pp. 1458-1459.

Commentary Review: ‘The visual depiction of Ottoman culture in the works by European diplomats to the Ottoman Empire’, Arcadian Library Online Database, Bloomsbury Publishing, August 2019.

Editorial Work Experience

Co-Editor in Chief and Subscription Manager of immediations (annual, peer-reviewed journal of art history) with Teresa Lane, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK ~ immediations 2018, volume 4 nr 3.

Other academic activities

I am a member of Renaissance Society of America (RSA), College Art Association (CAA), Historians of Islamic Art Association (HIAA) and Historians of Netherlandish Art (HNA).

From 2017 until 2019, I organised the Early Modern Writing Workshop meetings at The Courtauld Institute of Art.

From August 2018 until January 2019, I was a member of the Student Committee for Action and Communication (CHASE Consortium), where I was Social Secretary (responsible for Social Media) and CHASE Co-Representative for The Courtauld Institute of Art.

In 2016, I gave 15-minute long talks on paintings in the Courtauld Gallery to members of the public as part of the Courtauld’s Lunchtime Talk Programme. I also delivered Gallery Talks during the annual Courtauld Summer School (2017 and 2018) and provided Summer School Talks at the Courtauld’s new premises at Vernon Square for the 2019 Summer School.

As a freelance museum tour guide, I have worked for three years at Museum M in Leuven (Belgium). I also have experience as a volunteer working at the British Museum’s Prints and Drawings Study Room, the British Museum’s Hands-on Desk in the newly opened Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World and as part of the V&A Museum’s Collection Move Team, where I assisted in the decant of the V&A’s collection at Blythe House.