research forum visiting professor lecture

Inscription and the Horizon in the Early Modern Mediterranean: Melchior Lorck’s Prospect of Constantinople (1559)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

17.30 - 18.30, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre

Speaker(s): Bronwen Wilson (Associate Professor, Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory, University of British Columbia, Vancouver)

Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission

Organised by: Professors Caroline Arscott and Joanna Woodall

pen and ink drawing of Constantinople
Melchior Lorck, Prospect of Constantinople (1559). Courtesy of Leiden University Library, PK-T-BPL 1758 / 11

In 1554 the Danish artist Melchior Lorck was ordered by the Holy Roman Emperor to accompany his ambassador, Augier Ghiselin de Busbecq, to Suleyman’s court. There in Istanbul Lorck began his immense prospect of the ancient city that he drew from Galata, the international suburb across the Golden Horn. In the center foreground Lorck has depicted himself in the act of drawing the scroll. While this is a topos in early modern city views, the flourish of his pen, extended in his right hand, encourages association of the numerous inscriptions that he has written on the surface of the drawing with the calligraphic lines of the sails of the vessels that animate the Golden Horn. Lorck was also clearly attentive to the frontier—to the extent of what could be seen from the eight vantage points that would constitute the prospect as a whole. Inscription and the horizon, Bronwen Wilson proposes, are pictorial forms that reference two different ways of engaging with the world: the embodied experience of mark making with its material traces of, or claims to, the artist’s presence, and anticipation about what lies adumbrated in the distance. Yet these two modes of visualizing the near and the far are not mutually exclusive. Embodied temporality often comes up against the durational character of the horizon, a temporal concept that resonates with early modern usage of the term prospect to refer to an “outlook, aspect, exposure” as well as to “expectation”.

Currently teaching in the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Bronwen Wilson is moving to the school of World Art Studies and Museology at the University of East Anglia in August 2012. She has had fellowships with the Social Sciences and Research Council of Canada and at Villa i Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Renaissance Studies, the Bogliasco Foundation, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Newberry Library. Her research interests include representational technologies and forms of imagery that blur the boundaries between genres, that protract and condense time, and that emerge from practices that impinge upon each other. Publications include The World in Venice: print, the city, and early modern identity (University of Toronto Press, 2005; Roland H. Bainton prize for Art History, 2006); Making Publics in Early Modern Europe: people, things and forms of knowledge, co-edited with Paul Yachnin (Routledge, 2010); a special volume of Art History, The Erotics of Looking: Materiality, Solicitation and Dutch Visual Culture co-edited with Angela Vanhaelen (2012); and articles in The Renaissance World (Routledge, 2007), The Journal of Medieval and Early Modern History (2007), Oxford Art Journal (2011), and Seeing across cultures, Ashgate (2012). She has completed a book manuscript, Facing Early Modernity: essays on appearance and perception in Northern Italy, and her current project is titled Journeys to Constantinople: inscription, the horizon and duration in early modern travel imagery.

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