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On Turkish Art

Gilles Veinstein
p. 37

Notes de la rédaction

Source: La lettre, no. 33, May 2012

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1For the first time since its creation in Ankara in 1959, the 14th International Congress of Turkish Art was held in Paris.

2By deciding to hold it in our capital, the organizing com­mittee, gathered in Budapest in September 2007, sought to honour­ France. This was a great event on the history of art and archaeo­logy in the Turkish-Ottoman world. The committee wished to commend the dynamic nature of French research, both at national and international level, just as the new department of Islamic art was about to open its doors at the Louvre Museum.

3Held every four years, this congress brings together acade­mics, researchers and museum curators from across the world around the following themes:

4• Turkish art in past empires: book arts (calligraphy, miniatures, illuminations), kiln crafts / ceramics and glass, metalwork, carpets and textiles, architecture.

5• Turkish arts and the aesthetics of modernity: researchers, collectors and collecting; Orientalism in the arts; painters, paintings and decorative arts; the early days of photography in the Ottoman Empire; Turkish collections in Europe.

6• The auxiliary sciences: archaeology, epigraphy, numismatics.

7Prof. H. Laurens, who welcomed the congress participants, emphasized the place of Oriental languages at the Collège de France. He insisted on the personality of Guillaume Postel, one of the first “royal readers” at the Collège Royal founded by Francis I. Postel travelled twice to the Ottoman Empire, first in 1535, in the cortege of Francis I’s first ambassador, Jean de la Forêt, and then in 1549.

8From these “very long journeys” he brought back – at the cost, he wrote, of “countless struggles, countless troubles, countless hardships, countless dangers” – the observations that were recorded in his book De la République des Turcs (On the Republic of the Turks), published in 1560. His successors were to be secretary-interpreters of the king, for instance D.-D. Cardonne, P. Ruffin and D. Kiefer, and then interpreters, such as A. Desgranges, J.-M. Cor, and J.-B. Pavet de Courteille. Note that while these Orientalists held the Chair of Turkish language, other professors were in charge of Arabic and Persian studies.

9Ö. Bozolu, head of the Fine Arts department of Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, then recalled the circumstances in which this congress was created and the history of its development – very shortly after the death of its latest representatives, Profs O. Grabar (1929-2011) and E. J. Grube (1932-2011). N. Clayer, head of the Centre for Turkish, Ottoman, Balkan and Central Asian Studies at the école des hautes études en sciences sociales, stressed the importance of such a congress at a time when Islamic arts occupy a significant position on the global museum scene.

10The 14th International Congress of Turkish Art was thus a success: 180 speakers spread over 26 workshops. Among them were representatives of prestigious institutions like the Topkapi Palace, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, the Dolmabahçe Palace, the universities of Istanbul (Mimar Sinan University, Marmara University, Boaziçi University, Sabanci University, Koç University), of Ankara (Gazi University, Hacettepe University), academics from Izmir, Konya, Edirne, and Mardin. Foreign institutions such as the Museum für Islamische Kunst of Berlin, the Textile Museum of Washington, The Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York, the Rijksmuseum of Amsterdam, The Wallace Collection of London, the Hermitage Museum of St Petersburg, the Louvre Museum and the Albert Kahn Museum, had all sent representatives (academics, curators and researchers).

11This congress allowed art historians to come together, to present and compare their ongoing research, to exchange their points of view, and to review recent advances. During the debates, the strong growth of heritage awareness was noted, particularly in the domains of architecture and urbanism, and many workshops addressed the theme of industrial heritage. Another highlight of these days was old photography, the potential of which has recently been discovered. There are two aspects to photography in the Orient: an individual amateur practice (painters, archaeologists, literary persons or simply curious people) and a mass product, commercialised locally. Yet commercial perspectives have inevitably been represented at the expense of oft-forgotten archaeologists’ or artists’ work.

12The objective of this encounter was to reinforce the ties between institutions, at a time when the Turkish and Islamic arts are stirring growing interest. This congress has attracted many young researchers, some of whom have benefited from support from the Max van Berchem Foundation in Geneva. There is a noticeable renewal of generations and strength­ening of the scientific community, at a time when the Ottoman arts are subjects of study not only for specialists but also for an informed public, as seen in the growing number of exhibitions organised over the past few years.

The Administrateur and the Professors of the Collège de France regret to inform you that their colleague Professor Gilles Veinstein, Turkish and Ottoman History (1999-2013), passed away on 5 February 2013, aged 67. Tribute will be paid to him in future issues of La Lettre du Collège de France and the Collège de France Newsletter.

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Gilles Veinstein, « On Turkish Art », La lettre du Collège de France, 7 | -1, 37.

Référence électronique

Gilles Veinstein, « On Turkish Art », La lettre du Collège de France [En ligne], 7 | 2015, mis en ligne le 02 novembre 2015, consulté le 19 octobre 2019. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/lettre-cdf.2680

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Gilles Veinstein

Turkish and Ottoman History

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