This Article will discuss the different types of visual and material cultures during the evolution of pre-modern Europe. I will be assessing the material and theoretical meanings behind examples such as, Gentile Bellini and the famous Mehmet the conqueror. A visual source I will examine is the ‘tulip mania’ and how its political spread throughout Eastern and Western Europe built a number of large Empires. Material symbolism was very succinct in early modern periods. Symbolism was used to differentiate between the type of social perspectives and cultural norms. For example, different images of tulips, illustrated the contrast between the Ottomans, Netherlands and the Venetians Empires’.The same image was edited by colour and additional shapes to create this differentiation.
Cartography still present in renowned Empire buildings; it marks the early modern period and the importance of visual and material symbols at that time.
Maps were created to illustrate dominance and political power. Imagery on maps illustrated religious aspects of the particular era such as, the mythology which circulated around Europe.
Lisa Jardine and Jerry Brotton have commented that, “Europeans looked outwards for aesthetic confirmation of who they were- what defined them as ‘civilized- and met the steady returning gaze of the non-European.”
“In reception rituals, the exchange of gifts was an essential stage in the protocol.” This show how essential the exchange between to nations through the means of material culture and visual sources.
“Venetian ambassadors presented the sultan with rich textiles and clothes, as well as quantities of parmesan cheese, the only cheese served at the Ottoman court.”  The Venetian courts and Ottoman courts respected each-others individual practice. This remained neutral during warfare; as they did not stop trading goods. Due to their continuous relationship into early modern Europe, this exchange of cultural identity is evident from symbolist marks in Empire buildings. The exchange of culture was not through religious teachings but through food, social customers and textile materials such as, carpets and paintings. The Medici family began employing artists to draw their symbols throughout the city, principally Italy; in order to show their dominance amongst the city states throughout the early modern period, leaving a legacy behind them.
The quality driven renowned Ottoman Empire handmade carpets, imperialised the market. It built up the Ottoman’s reputation and their carpets signified their culture. Gifts to ambassadors were given in the form of carpets, which were appreciated and valued highly by the recipient. Thus through this historical significance, the Turks have for centuries economically gained through the demand of their handmade carpets and rugs from international countries.
Other cultural material and visual sources that were left behind in the reminiscing past of the early modern Europe show dominance of colonialism.
Illustrative maps from the Ottoman Empire show different variations of the East and West. The maps clearly drew boarders to show which pieces of land were owned by the Empire. These boarders were marked based on cultural heritage, political arrangements and through religious common law. These maps changed frequently, as political relationships frequently altered according to trade deals and attempted vengeful acts.
The map changes illustrated the cultural significance between the Venetians and Ottoman’s. The maps continuously included the Venetians area and it also showed how they both shared wide areas of land together, in peace. Materials also shared included the Ottoman coins; which resembled the classical Roman coins. They included a picture of the conqueror on the face of it; again a sign of dominance, power and success.
This portrayed an important relic of the early modern period because it showed the early signs of Empire dominance. Their buildings were smothered with mirroring paintings of the rulers such as, the famous painting of Sultan Mehmet the second. Ancient materials have many important elements of the Eastern and Western fusion. The materials show how the Ottoman’s were feared of, but were approachable to negotiate with, as they created many forward thinking ideologies, thus showed wisdom in their genes.
For example the columns in the painting from Bellini of Sultan Mehmet the second, has a significant link to the West. The cultural significance of the Roman Empire was the portraits of Caesar and the image he left of himself under the Eastern Roman Empire.
The symbolism between the three crowns of Constantinople is another precession of the Sultan’s coronations; the face of their conquered cities illustrating the fast growth of the Ottoman Empire. This painting was very important and still is very important because it was the first of its kind. No other Sultan had a painting of themselves or their family members. The faces of the previous Sultans in power can only imagined of. This practice originated from a religious event. The Islamic Prophet, Prophet Mohammed’s (peace be upon him) face has never been drawn, and it is forbidden to draw a face reconstructed as him. The suspense of knowing what he looks like, gives him uniqueness and beholds curiosity amongst his people. It is believed that the idea is not to follow someone because of their looks, but to follow them because of their good teachings and kind heart. Thus, everybody is equal.
Furthermore Gentile Bellini has left many traces of his visual art culture from the early modern period. He has demonstrated the pre and post-modern culture of Europe by showing new eras of ‘new rulers’; emphasising on religious outbreaks such as, Christianity, Islam and the many religious faiths which were grew later on.
“Gentile Bellini’s portrait of sultan Mehmed offers a productive place to examine the complicated relationship between the truth and painting, particularly with regard to the West European imaging of “the Turk”.” This shows an element of surprise, how the truth was perceived in the paintings and how the perspective shows the imperialist point of view in a visual source.
Western European perceived the Ottoman Empire and understood their culture through art work. At first instance, the Ottomans were thought of as barbarians and different to the rest of Europe. However, visual materials such as the art work which grew from the Ottomans, illustrated their talent and skills to the rest of Europe and Asia. Thus, their art was transferred to the making of carpets, which was the most successful trade for the Ottomans.
[Figure one Gentile Bellini, Portrait of Mehmet II, 1479 oil on canvas. National Gallery, London]
Visual materialism is important to understand early modern Europe. It gives a perspective of how the Western and Eastern European civilisation was viewed as. It is important to also establish what they believed to be the norm; social status through material possessions.
This is illustrated when “the fifteenth and sixteenth century centuries saw an escalation in the commissioning of visual representations of horses in all media, from frescoes to statuary, by the princes of Europe.” This was significant, as it showed the power of the imperial Empire building in early modern Europe. There were many figures in Europe using this stance of material culture such as Sultan Suleiman the magnificent.
The Ottoman Empire saw many great leaders. Suleiman was the longest and deemed the greatest leader; a list is compiled as to who was a leader and how many leaders the Ottomans saw:
Furthermore, the Dutch also had their perspectives of the Ottoman Empire; during the siege and the conquests of Vienna in the fifteenth century.
“Over the past few years, a number of scholars have cogently illustrated how Venice economic and political interactions with eastern Mediterranean civilisations had an impact on the artistic output and culture of the city state.” This indicates of how deep the cultural exchange was and to what extent the political and economic factors of other countries impacted the Empire. Their artistic perspectives and the exchange of cultural, is understood to give more of a deeper emphasis and meaning to the Empire’s buildings in the early modern period.
Other perspectives were the revival of the classical wave during the early modern period. Many artists reintegrated the elements of the past with art figurines, by challenging themselves culturally. The most famous material culture derived from grand Viziers and Hurrem Sultan known as Roxeleona. Under Sultan Suleiman the magnificence’s era the Ottoman Empire had many buildings with visual perspectives driven from Western Christian art.
Buildings left behind in nations such as Serbia, were ruled by grand viziers like Mehmet Sokklu Pasha. He had a sense of community and national pride. He built a bridge to mark his originality and presence. This build gave citizens the perspective that the Ottomans were innovative and civilised. A great example of the Ottomans being civilised were the erection of Mosques and Churches during a period where religion was the deciding factor for the separation of land. The Ottomans allowed all religions to live together and respected peoples choices.
The observation of cultures in Early Modern Europe showed a significant culture shift during the Ottoman Empire rule. ‘The tulip period’ also brought lots of new visual culture. The cultural significance of ‘the tulip’ was very important as it was only valuable to certain social classes. It became a symbolism of the Sultan’s and the elite sub-groups.
“In addition to a shared material symbolism, the age of tulips illustrates the conflict brought by early modern consumerism culture.” This shows that the shared material from ‘the tulips’ in Europe was used by many nations and Empires, It was an inspiration that Europe adopted such as, the Tudors whom created visual art through the innovation of stained glass windows.
The era of ‘the tulips’ signified a cultural shift during modern Europe. It left a marking in early Empire buildings, which shared cultural ideas. An example of the flowers of ‘the tulips’ is the III fountain ever made in front of Top Kapi Palace for Sultan Ahmet. The architecture of this particular piece is very interesting because it has an Islamist element with a Western baroque. This illustrates that different cultures in could share cultures and share economic and political interests. Material symbolism was happening throughout early modern Europe. It was a trend that had many striking resemblances in Eastern and Western Europe.
‘The age of tulips’ illustrates how progressive and important it was for the elite’s culture in the early modern Europe. The possession of material culture strengthened the relationships in politics and social well-being.
“Over the seventeenth century, tulips changed hands between Ottoman poets and Dutch stilllife painters, Mughal gardeners and French essayist.” This quote expresses that the material culture changed the meaning in the early modern period of then tulips mania. Furth more, this evidence shows the importance of the tulip through out the early modern period and how the empire building affected the change of culture.
[Figure two Drawing of an Tulip by Adulcelil Levni in the year of 1720]
Piertore Foscarini was an artist who painted portrait of Sultan Murad the IV. He was an ambassador from the venetians to the Ottomans and spent three years in the Ottoman courts. Foscarini gave a very important perspective of the Ottoman Sultans rich empowerment and modernity. This example reflects the thinking of the ambassadors of the Foscarini. He mentions in his quote “in portraying Murad IV, had already characterized his government as “the most immoderate, the extravagant ever,” and “absolute and despotic power.”
According to Ficino it was very important to map makers because he related his work to ptomy. It played a vital role in Europe’s visual arts because it was very crucial in the Empires building phase. The printing showed a significant turning point for the mapping material culture. It had simplified the role of artists.
“To Mehmed of the Ottomans, illustrious prince and lord of the throne of God, emperor and merciful lord of all Asia and Greece, I dedicated this work.” This quote shows how the West view Sultan Mehmet from the Ottoman Empire. Some believed he was the new Caesar of Rome and accepted the ruling of Constantinople through the use of visual sources.
The work of Costanzo da Ferrara; coins created by the Ottoman’s Sultan Mehmet the second during mid-fifteen century, showed how old Roman-greco culture was very interesting and eye catching. It shows the difference between the new and the old early modern Europe developments. Furthermore, the coin which saw the Sultan riding a horse, was another very Westernised depictions; similar to relived Constantinople from the decadent old Roman Empire. The visual change was a common throughout early modern period of Europe. Nevertheless, there was high regards for this material symbolism of Mehmet the second’s coin, as it was highly valued and praised by the public and other Empires which followed. Empire building has played an important part in the role of the development of culture , visual sources during the early modern period it’s something that it is still represented and show in great respect in todays culture as well.
In concluding this essay the important of visual and material culture has being through out the early modern Europe by showing the idea of the east and west and how they both lived in each others lives either through, trade means or political enterprise. As well the in present day society visual culture and material culture still play a every important idea amongst us humans because we based on value of product or a precious element with such sentimental value. We live in an every present visual culture through the means of social media as well and photography play a big part in today society. I do ever find this topic very interesting I would like to take the chance to further research on this topic.
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Anthony Grafton, Ann Blair, The Transmission of Culture in Early Modern Europe ( Pennsylvania: University of Pensvania Press , 1990).
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Donald Quataert , Ariel Salzmann, Consumption Studies and the History of the Ottoman Empire, 1550-1922: An Introduction (New York: State University of New York Press,2000)
Franz Babinger, Mehmed the Conqueror and His Time (New Jersey: Princeton University Press,1978)
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 Jardine, Brotton ,p.11
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 1 Lisa Jardine, Jerry Brotton, Global Interests Renaissance Art between East and West (London: Reakton Books Ltd,2000)pp 50,151
 Anna Contadini, Claire Norton, The Renaissance and the Ottoman World, (Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2013).p.9
 Donald Quataert , Ariel Salzmann, Consumption Studies and the History of the Ottoman Empire, 1550-1922: An Introduction (New York: State University of New York Press,2000)pp.84
 Donald Quataert, The Ottoman Empire, 1700–1922 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005)pp.44
 Donald Quataert, Consumption Studies and the history of the Ottoman Empire 1550-1922 an introduction (New york: state university of New York Press, 2000)pp.84
 Anthony Grafton, Ann Blair, The Transmission of Culture in Early Modern Europe ( Pennsylvania: University of Pensvania Press , 1990).p.174
 Jerry Brotton, Trading Territories: Mapping the Early Modern World (London: Reaktion books Ltd,1997).p.90