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Art, History & Politics, Literature

Seeing Objects Across Boundaries

Gentile Bellini's Portrait of Sultan Mehmed II

April 2, 2024
6:30 pm

The event will also be broadcast live on our
YouTube, Facebook, and website

Book Presentation
Seeing Objects Across Boundaries

Gentile Bellini’s Portrait of Sultan Mehmed II:
Lives and Afterlives of an Iconic Image

(Bloomsbury/IB Tauris, 2020)

by Elizabeth Rodini

The author in conversation with
Alex Dika Seggerman, Rutgers University Newark



In her 2020 book, Gentile Bellini’s Portrait of Sultan Mehmed II: Lives and Afterlives of an Iconic Image, Elizabeth Rodini follows the long history of this renowned picture from its production at the Ottoman court in 1480, to Venice and London, and finally to its reception in contemporary Istanbul.

Evoking “both a memoir and a mystery novel,” Rodini’s “meticulous archival research and critical analysis”  [Lia Markey] reveal the portrait’s evolving role as diplomatic offering, showpiece, trophy, heirloom, and disputed object of national patrimony.  It is also a study in how one image, deeply considered, can open up a world of inquiry.

Tonight, Rodini will focus on the portrait’s ongoing status as a global object, not only as the product of a fifteenth-century diplomatic mission but continuing from the mid-nineteenth century to the present and from Venice back to Istanbul. Patterns of collecting, reproduction, and display point to the portrait’s ongoing geopolitical resonance, permitting us to reframe its significance outside the familiar spheres of likeness and authenticity.

Alex Dika Seggerman will offer a response to Rodini’s presentation, considering the portrait of Mehmed from her perspective as a scholar and teacher of both Islamic art and global modern history. Seggerman’s interest in questioning and expanding art history’s canons, as well as in the politics of art collecting and display in the modern Middle East, offer additional ways of evaluating Gentile Bellini’s portrait of Mehmed II.

A discussion with the audience will follow.

Elizabeth Rodini most recently served as Andrew Heiskell Arts Director and Interim Director of the American Academy in Rome. Previously, she was Teaching Professor in History of Art and founding Director of the Program in Museums and Society at Johns Hopkins University, where she taught for 15 years. Dr. Rodini’s art historical work centers on cross-cultural encounters in the early modern period, with a particular interest in mobility, re-contextualzation, and the reuse of objects between Venice and the eastern Mediterranean. Her forthcoming book, On the Street of the Hidden Shops: A Metaphoric Archaeology of Rome (University of Chicago Press), tells the deep history of a single block through the stories of those who lived and worked there across 2,000 years.

Alex Dika Seggerman is Associate Professor of Islamic Art History at Rutgers University Newark and presently the 2023-24 Patricia and Phillip Frost Senior Fellow at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Dr. Seggerman’s scholarship investigates the intersection of Islam and modernism in art history, including archival research on modern Middle Eastern art movements and the study of Islamic art history as a product of the modern era. Her publications are essential to the growing field of global modernisms, including her 2019 book Modernism on the Nile: Art in Egypt between the Islamic and the Contemporary (University of North Carolina Press).