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An Ottoman Portrait

  • Nancy Micklewright (a1)

Extract

This carefully composed portrait of a high-ranking Ottoman bureaucrat is striking for several reasons. First, at nearly 16 by 13 inches, it is at least four times larger than most portraits of this period and lacks the ornamental cardboard frame into which portraits were commonly placed, instead being pasted directly onto a cardboard support. Second, although there is a long tradition of documenting men at work or places of business in the photography of the late Ottoman Empire, these images tend to privilege traditional occupations (e.g., itinerant merchants or craftsmen) and sites of commerce, such as outdoor markets, the covered bazaar, or shops along the Grande Rue de Pera in Istanbul. Third and finally, in its setting, the objects chosen to be included on the desk, and the pose of the central figure, the portrait insists upon the modernity of the subject as its primary message, raising questions about its intended audience.

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1 The photograph is part of a collection assembled in the 1970s and 1980s by Pierre de Gigord and acquired by The Getty Research Institute in the early 1990s.

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An Ottoman Portrait

  • Nancy Micklewright (a1)

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