Prints and Impressions from Ottoman Smyrna : The Collection de costumes civils et militaires, scènes populaires, et vues de l'Asie-Mineure Album (1836-38) at Harvard University's Fine Arts Library
This volume offers a full-color facsimile of a richly illustrated album at Harvard Fine Arts Library that preserves twenty-five hand-painted engravings and lithographs from Ottoman Smyrna dating to the 1830s. The collection captures a multifaceted view of Smyrna’s cultural landscape and the wider Eastern Mediterranean with views depicting the city’s famous port, local setting, and socio-religious groups. At the same time, the album touches on heavily debated issues of the day, including Ottoman sartorial reform, as well as social upheavals in Egypt, Greece, and Algeria, whose leaders enjoyed considerable coverage in the press across languages. Originally purchased by Thomas Walley Langdon, a member of a prominent American merchant family in Smyrna, the album also offers a distinctive window into the personal and political leanings of its owner. The selection in this album mixes established modes of stock imagery from earlier costume books and paintings, with captivating scenes Langdon encountered during his residence. With this in mind, the album’s featured portraits of revolutionary leaders open the question of whether their inclusion stemmed from Langdon’s patriotic sympathies or his considerable trade stakes in the region. In either case, the album and its assortment of prints allowed the owner to fuse contemporary journalistic concerns with the continued tradition of travel literature in the Ottoman Empire. The Levantine printers behind this album, Eugenio and Raffaele Fulgenzi, once sold these plates among other print works from their family shop on the renowned Frank Street in Smyrna. The Fulgenzi print shop became funnel through which numerous forms of media were adapted and transformed for popular consumption. Resulting works like this album make a vivid case through which scholars can consider the process of image transmission throughout the Mediterranean and how the technologies of print facilitated the circulation of artwork. Together, the captions and illustrations reflect Smyrna’s active engagement in wider cross-currents across the Mediterranean, documenting its swiftly changing political climate and the characters that inhabited this diverse terrain.
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