Mediterranean Encounters

Artists Between Europe and the Ottoman Empire, 17741839

Hardback or cased
Elisabeth A. Fraser
Published 24 Jan 2017
List Price £63.95



“This fine new book invites the admiration of those who value superb scholarship and a presentation worthy of bibliophilic tradition.”

—Roger Benjamin, H-France

“This book obviously speaks to scholars of art history and imperial history and to students of books and printing, yet the complex tapestries unraveled and rewoven in each chapter speak as well to questions of national identity, anti-imperialism, artistic autonomy, and originality and borrowing. Fraser’s careful and systematic analyses of illustrations and texts in multiple contexts across disciplinary debates should not only speak to specialists but also interest and teach others for whom these travel books may be an introduction to the borderlands and crossings of Mediterranean empires to records one can still read—after centuries of distance—as lessons in global exchange. Summing up: Essential.”

—G. W. McDonogh, Choice

“Elisabeth Fraser’s wonderful book tells us the story of the arduous efforts by artists and publishers alike to produce and circulate paintings and prints about the Ottoman Empire in the period 1774–1839. She argues for the importance of Choiseul-Gouffier’s massive Voyage pittoresque in establishing a template for representation that influenced both European and Ottoman artists and offers rare insights into an evolving French-Ottoman cultural milieu in the period of global transition from collaborative to invasive empires.”

—Virginia Aksan, author of Ottoman Wars, 1700–1870

“Moving beyond the conventional Orientalist narrative, Mediterranean Encounters convincingly connects European travel images and Ottoman visual culture, as well as art and diplomacy, in the early days of European expansion and Ottoman reassertion. In doing so, this work offers a fresh and welcome account of the successes, contingencies, and contradictions of cross-cultural contact.”

—Mercedes Volait, Institut national d’histoire de l’art

“A major contribution to the field, Mediterranean Encounters brings together art history, Ottoman studies, cultural history, and globalization debates to tell several intertwining stories. At the heart of this book is a far-reaching analysis of the illustrated travel book and the precarious relationship between word and image. Stunningly researched and hugely enjoyable to read, it will be useful for anyone interested in the history of the book trade, travel, and European-Ottoman encounters in the modern period.”

—Nebahat Avcıoğlu, Hunter College, CUNY

“Through her examination of some fascinating images and travel writings from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Elisabeth Fraser makes a compelling argument for the complexity and interdependence of European-Ottoman relations and the exchange, reciprocity, cultural mediation, and even collaboration that characterized them.”

—Michèle Hannoosh, University of Michigan

“With its rich archival research and visual analyses, often movingly informed by personal passion for her subjects, Elisabeth Fraser’s Mediterranean Encounters redresses the asymmetry in scholarship on Franco-Ottoman relations by ‘reading travel images through Ottoman history and culture.’”

—Sussan Babaie, author of Isfahan and Its Palaces: Statecraft, Shi‘ism, and the Architecture of Conviviality in Early Modern Iran

“Fraser’s astute analysis of Ottoman identity as both ambiguous and hybrid transcends deep-rooted Orientalist arguments about the fixity of cultural belonging, which her text demonstrates is never fixed at all. Indeed, it is this quality for transcendence that makes Mediterranean Encounters a truly exciting new book—for the world was global, connected, and contingent long before the advent of more modern technologies and digital networks.”

—Erin Hyde Nolan, H-AMCA

In this volume, Elisabeth Fraser shows that artists and the works they created in the Mediterranean during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were informed by mutual dependence and reciprocity between European nations and the Ottoman Empire. Her rich exploration of this vibrant cross-cultural exchange challenges the dominant interpretation of European relations with the East during the period, revealing a shared world of fluid and long-sustained interactions.

Voyagers to and from the Ottoman Empire documented their journeys in prints, paintings, and lavishly illustrated travelogues; many of these helped define Europe’s self-identified role as heir to Ottoman civilizations and bolstered its presence in the Islamic Mediterranean and beyond. Fraser finds that these works illuminate not only how travelers’ experiences abroad were more nuanced than the expansionist ideology with which they became associated, but also how these narratives depicted the vitality of Ottoman culture and served as extensions of Ottoman diplomacy. Ottomans were aware of and responded to European representations, using them to defend Ottoman culture and sovereignty. In embracing the art of both cultures and setting these works in a broader context, Fraser challenges the dominant historiographical tradition that sees Ottoman artists adopting European modes of art in a one-sided process of “Europeanization.”

Theoretically informed and rigorously researched, this cross-cultural approach to European and Ottoman art sheds much-needed critical light on the widely disseminated travel images of the era—important cultural artifacts in their own right—and provides a fresh and inviting understanding of the relationships among cultures in the Mediterranean during an era of increasing European expansionism.


List of Illustrations


Introduction: Interpreting Travel in the Ottoman Mediterranean

Part I: Power in Question

Chapter 1 Reading Choiseul in the Gaps of the Orientalist Archive

Chapter 2 In the Shadow of les Grands: Cassas’s Orientalist Self-Fashioning

Part II: Ottoman Culture Abroad

Chapter 3 The Translator’s Art: Mouradgea d’Ohsson, Ottoman Dragoman in Paris

Chapter 4 Miniatures in Black and White: Melling’s Istanbul

Part III: Contradictory Contact

Chapter 5 Skin of Nation, Body of Empire: Louis Dupré in Ottoman Greece

Chapter 6 A Painter’s Renunciation: Delacroix in North Africa





Elisabeth A. Fraser is Professor of Art History at the University of South Florida and the author of Delacroix, Art, and Patrimony in Post-Revolutionary France.

Focusing on travel images and cross-cultural exchange, examines interactions between the Ottoman Empire and Europeans from 1774 to 1839, highlighting mutual dependence and reciprocity.