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Albums of the East: Images of Sixteenth-Century Constantinople
This exhibition considers two manuscripts the Freshfield Album and the Dryden Costume Album which contain drawings of sixteenth-century Constantinople (modern Istanbul). These books testify to the increased contact in this period between Europe and the Ottoman Empire and to the subsequent interest in Ottoman culture. The Freshfield Album focuses upon the architecture and ancient monuments of Constantinople, while the Dryden Album is an example of an Ottoman Costume Album, so called because its drawings depict a diverse collection of peoples from different social classes, ethnic backgrounds and religious persuasions. The European taste for the Orient often veered towards the fantastical, but as these manuscripts show there were also moments of genuine and sensitive enquiry.

Images of the Ottoman Empire became fashionable souvenirs of Oriental travel from the sixteenth century onwards and remained in vogue until the nineteenth century. During this time the format of the Costume Album remained largely unchanged, following the same template and including many of the same characters. In this respect Costume Books demonstrate how a European view of the Orient, originating in sixteenth-century Constantinople, was disseminated over a long period of time and in an increasingly codified manner the original reality of these images gradually became stereotypes of the Orient. Curated by William Kynan-Wilson.

The exhibition will be held in the Wren Library from October - December 2011.



Some images from the Dryden Album (MS R.14.23)

Dryden 1 Dryden 2
"A dancing Greeke" 'A Turkish woman sitting on a Carpett'
Dryden 3 Dryden 4
'The pillar of ye 3 serpents in Constantinople (of Copper)' An image of the Ottoman Sultan (?)
Dryden 5 Dryden 6
Four blind men in procession View of the Topkapi Palace, seat of the Ottoman sultans
Dryden 7
An imperial wedding procession


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