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Antonia Gatward Cevizli

Thesis: Diplomacy, War and exchange: Ottoman embassies to italy and their cultural impact (1453-1512)
Supervisor: Donal Cooper
Advisor: Tim Stanley, Senior Curator of the V&A Middle East Department

Research Summary:
The best known example of cultural exchange between Italy and the Ottomans is Gentile Bellini’s trip to Istanbul in 1479-81. Since the sixteenth century, this event has been interpreted as a moment of artistic exchange. Was it only Gentile’s talents in portraiture that appealed to Sultan Mehmed II as Vasari would have us believe? How did Bellini fit into h the rest of the Sultan’s broader artistic patronage? The account of Bellini’s eastern sojourn has been much romanticised. Is this a major and long-standing misreading of East-West relations in the Renaissance?
The cultural relationship between Renaissance Europe and the Islamic ‘East’ is the subject of intense scholarly interest, manifested in a series of major exhibitions in London, New York, Paris, Venice and Istanbul. However, I believe we have a distorted idea of what was really happening between the Italian city states and the Ottoman Empire in this period. ‘Eastern’ voices are rarely included in the Eurocentric narrative. In my thesis I aimed to redress this bias and reach a more balanced account of the nature and motivations for this exchange.
The focus on Gentile Bellini has also obscured the fact that he was just one facet of the cultural and political relationship between the Italian states and the Ottomans. I examined Sultan Mehmed II’s and his successor Bayezid II’s diplomatic relations with the Italian city-states and their cultural and artistic impact.
Much has been written on European representations of Turks in art, yet understanding the broader context of Italian-Ottoman exchange will change our understanding of this ‘East-West’ relationship.

I completed my BA degree in History of Art and Italian at the University of Birmingham in 2005. My degree included a year studying at the University of Siena Statale. I moved to Warwick for the Venice and Its Legacy MA programme which gave me another opportunity to study Italian art in situ. After graduating in 2006 I spent two years in work, the first teaching History of Art at Sabancı University, Istanbul, returning to the UK to follow the V&A course Art of the Islamic Middle East, alongside work at Tate Modern and language teaching. I returned to Warwick in September 2008 with the support of a Warwick Postgraduate Research Scholarship. I received funding from the Francis Haskell Foundation and the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation to fund research trips to Mantua and Venice.

Antonia Gatward Cevizli