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Lives and Afterlives of an Iconic Image
This book traces the history of the famous portrait of the Turkish Sultan Mehmet II by Gentile Bellini, which has appeared, Zelig-like, at critical historical moments from its production in Istanbul to its current home in the National Gallery in London and the modern Turkish imagination. Structured as the biography of an object, Elizabeth Rodini explores key moments in the painting’s history, such as when the famed Orientalist and excavator of ancient Nineveh, Austen Henry Layard, recovered it and gave it pride of place in his Venetian palace, and how in 1999, the painting returned to Istanbul, in a solo show that opened just days before Turkey made its first petition to join the European Union. Rodini explores the meanings that were imposed on it at different times and places. It is at once the history of a painting’s place in evolving dialogues between the East and West, an investigation-through-practice of historical and art historical methodologies, and a meditation on the many and varied ways that objects construct meanings.
Elizabeth Rodini is the Andrew Heiskell Arts Director at the American Academy in Rome. Previously she founded the Program in Museums and Society at Johns Hopkins University, where she was Teaching Professor in the History of Art.
‘Rodini’s study covers the journey of this painting through time and geographies, revealing interactions and encounters between different cultures and politics, and throwing light upon concepts of likeness, symbolism and patrimony… resulting in a new inspiring reading.’
Professor at the Dept of Archaeology and History of Art
Koç University, İstanbul
‘Rodini’s essential “social life” of the Mehmed II portrait evokes both a memoir and a mystery novel. Her cross-cultural study blends meticulous archival research and rich critical analysis to examine every aspect of this complex painting - from its physicality to its reception spanning its inception in fifteenth-century Constantinople to contemporary London.’
Director of the Center for Rennaissance Studies
Newberry Library, Chicago, USA
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