Reflecting on the Turk in Sixteenth-Century Venetian Portrait Books

Wilson, Bronwen (2003) Reflecting on the Turk in Sixteenth-Century Venetian Portrait Books. Word & Image: A Journal of Verbal/Visual Enquiry, 19 (1-2). pp. 38-58. ISSN 0266-6286

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Abstract

On 9 September 1570 the Venetian controlled city of Nicosia on the island of Cyprus fell to the Ottoman Empire, an event that would precipitate the formation of the Holy League and the Battle of Lepanto the following year.1 The renewed threat incited the prolific author Francesco Sansovino to press the Venetian Senate to move against the Ottoman Turks in a ‘just’ war whose successful outcome had been widely prophesied and enjoyed enthusiastic public support.2 During the same months, Sansovino addressed ‘Christian soldiers’ in his Irformatione, an illustrated tract in which the author's more characteristic admiration for Ottoman military virtù was superseded by a pointed religious rhetoric (figure 1).3 He illustrated the text with woodcuts of Ottoman military men to show his readers that the ‘Turks’ (the nomenclature for Muslims rather than a specific ethnic identity) were made ‘of bones and flesh like you’.4 On the one hand, the figures set forth physical commonality; while on the other hand, the Ottomans' costumes appeared ‘strange’ — a perception encouraged by the text — and provided Venetians with visual indicators of the ‘evil and bestial’ natures of their adversaries. If the woodcuts helped both to foment military fervor and popular aggression, the tension between sameness and difference expresses a contradiction felt by the Venetians in the face of the Turks who were too familiar to be made exotic.5

Item Type: Article
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art History and World Art Studies
University of East Anglia > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Centres > Centre for European and American Art History
University of East Anglia > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Centres > Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts
University of East Anglia > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Art History and World Art Studies
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Katherine Humphries
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2013 15:28
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2018 07:16
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/40766
DOI: 10.1080/02666286.2003.10406222

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