1 Of Roads and Seaways

“The stream that runs through the city of Sarajevo […] flows into the river of Saray; this river in turn meets waters arriving from Herzegovina and Croatia before it flows over mountainous terrain into the Sava which ‘meets the Danube right beside Belgrade.’ The Danube itself in all its majesty eventually runs into the Black Sea, and ‘it is clearer than sunlight’; the Black Sea meets the Mediterranean in Istanbul and the Mediterranean, in turn, flows through the straits of Gibraltar into the Surrounding Sea which meets the larger Ocean ‘by the order of the Creator of both worlds.’ These are the words of Evliya Çelebi (1611–after 1683), the Ottoman traveler whose ten hefty volumes may well be the most monumental example of travel writing in any language.”1

Indeed, for this seventeenth-century author the rivers seem to have been a system of capillaries, forever in movement, flowing gently one into the next, filling out the seas, allowing them to flow further, into each other, connecting the world: the world of the Ottomans, that of the Europeans, and further, beyond the known boundaries, the mysterious oceans that hug the globe.

For Claudio Magris, writing some 400 year later, the Danube leaves behind “a Nilotic slime in which pullulate germs still confused and indistinct,” a lively melting pot of races and cultures, “a fertile mud in which flourished a Carpatho-Balkan community that resulted from an ancient but still extant underground stream, that of the Byzantine-Turkish-Mongols seeking the Lands of Rum, and that bathed the shores of the Danubian principates.”2 These two testimonies are remarkable for zeroing in on rivers as the cultural infrastructure of the Mediterranean world, as the carriers of people, things, and ideas that fused in myriad ways once they reached the larger pool of the inland sea, of the mare nostrum. In their own ways, both statements reveal an act of attention that is eloquently represented by an anonymous 1457 map (Fig. 0.1).

Figure 0.1
Figure 0.1

Anonymous, Map of the World, 1457

Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale

It is then the rivers and the sea writ large that constitute the geographic template upon which this volume was developed. Why the Mediterranean? And why rivers? Taking up Fernand Braudel’s notion of a hinterland that is connected to the Mediterranean world, the volume looks to the reverberations and echoes of this classic site far beyond its shores and into the continent both North and East.3 Conversely, it also looks to the reciprocal effect: the world moved two-ways, not just from a Mediterranean seen as center toward its peripheries but also from deep into the Eurasian continent toward the Mediterranean itself. Indeed, the rivers create a complex texture—fine threads that crisscross Europe, some as main avenues while others diverge—connecting territories that on land routes would have been too distant to reach and even to imagine. Scholarship, however, has mostly neglected this secondary system of contact that swelled the Mediterranean in both directions. Not that the Mediterranean has not claimed a central place in recent work—especially among historians, though art historians have also joined the trend.4 However, the original Braudelian idea of a shore and a hinterland and the ties between them has been somewhat moved to the sidelines, so appealing has the work on the cultures bordering the sea become. Yet, the liquid network of rivers—those natural highways—that extends inland and ties the golden fabled shores with the mountains and the peoples living in their shadow or along the paths of the rivers’ passages is as interesting as it is understudied. Among them, the king of the rivers has to be the Danube, running a parallel course to the Mediterranean and cutting across Europe from West to East only to come to rest in the Black Sea, thus pouring itself into the system of the communicating vessels of the Mediterranean—the old Roman mare nostrum itself, the Sea of Marmara, the Black Sea, and, the last ripple within this body of water that separates and unites three continents, the Sea of Azov. But the Danube is not alone in so swelling the Mediterranean world with the cultures along its shores. The Sava, the Adige, the Pruth, the Dniester, and the Dnieper, not to mention the Don (which flows into the Sea of Azov) connect the “traditional” Mediterranean cultures—the Italian, the Ottoman, the Greek/Byzantine, the Provencal, and the Spanish—with the world of the Balkans and beyond.

Along the East-West highway that is the Mediterranean, and the caravan routes that crossed the Anatolian plateau and linked Tabriz and Baghdad with Bursa and Izmir on the East/West axis, and, on a North/South axis, Antalya with the Black Sea, these rivers carried craftsmen and slaves, merchants and armies, ambassadors and concubines. And with them silks and spices, furs and wheat, gold and silver, and most of all salt, together with books and luxury objects, jewelry and painted panels, ideas and scientific instruments, tiles and marble in all directions radiating toward the center—the classic sites of Mediterranean power—and away from it. Already in the wake of the Pax Mongolica in the early thirteenth century, much trade occurred to connect these regions, and many colonies—Genoese, Anconese, and Venetian—had flourished as far away as the shores of the Sea of Azov linking the Italian city-states with the steppes across caravanserais and hans, along river and transhumance routes (Figs. 0.2 and 0.3).5

Figure 0.2
Figure 0.2

Map of the Genoese and Venetian expansion in the Mediterranean and Black Sea in the thirteenth–fourteenth centuries

From Antonio Mussara, Il Grifo e il Leone (Laterza, 2020)
Figure 0.3
Figure 0.3

The Genoese presence in the Black Sea in the fourteenth century

From Antonio Mussara, Il Grifo e il Leone (Laterza, 2020)

Alongside trade, the other major driver of connectivity was inevitably war. Indeed, war was always the primary agent that redrew the maps of empires and principalities, reconfigured not only borders but entire ethnicities, and produced endless forms of connectivity whether imposed or organically flourishing in its wake. The geographic area under consideration here was in a perpetual state of intense geopolitical crisis, destructive military conflicts, and related revisions of state borderlines in this period. Indeed, it is no coincidence that—to take just one example—two famous battles that pitted Eastern and Western forces against each other were fought at the same location, at Mohacs, on the Danube River: in 1526 under Suleiman the Magnificent, and in 1687 under Mehmed IV. It is the valleys of the Danube and its network of tributaries that afforded the route along which the Ottomans penetrated into the heart of Europe and dreamed of extending their empire.

Starting from this perspective of powerful riverine ties between the seas of the Mediterranean system and the hinterland, this volume seeks to develop a framework for investigating the mediating role of the Balkans between East and West and their northern neighbors, all the way to Poland and Lithuania, as well as this region’s contribution to the larger Mediterranean artistic and cultural melting pot in the early modern period. Concentrating on the Eastern slice of Europe as it encounters the Central Asian cultures on the move, the volume therefore focuses on the Eastern parts of the Mediterranean system, rather than on its entire breadth. For it is the thesis underlying the essays gathered here that the penetration of Islamic cultures into Europe occurred over a broader terrain than is generally acknowledged and that the Eastern frontier, extending away from the Mediterranean deep into the interior, played a determinant role in negotiating the dialogue between Western Europe and Iran, Armenia, Georgia, and the Ottoman Empire. On the cusp between cultures and religions—mostly Eastern Orthodox (except for, e.g., Hungary, Dalmatia, and Poland), and mostly Slavic languages (except for, e.g., Romania)—these principalities, kingdoms, and fiefdoms came to embody hybridity, to act as a form of buffer or cultural “switching” system that assimilated, translated, and linked the cultures of Central Asia with the Western European ones. Some became satellites of the Ottoman Empire, others retained political independence, if not an economic one, but all testify to the seeping of a complex culture inland from the Mediterranean seas along riverine routes, and outwards again toward the mare nostrum (Fig. 0.4).

Figure 0.4
Figure 0.4

Enisala, Genoese fortress on the Black Sea, Romania, second half of fourteenth century

Photograph by the author

The historical period this volume focuses on is 1300–1700—naturally allowing some leeway at either end to signal continuity. This is the period traditionally labeled “Renaissance” and “Baroque” in the West—terms that would be anachronistic to use for the geographical areas under discussion here.6 Indeed, concentrating on the cultural exchanges between the Mediterranean and the inland perimeter toward the North should also help adjust our Eurocentric glasses that have seen an early modern world—mostly called Renaissance—that was emanating from Italy, and especially from Rome, Venice, and Florence, and that excluded the contribution of other centers, perceived as peripheral. At most, recent scholarship has focused on the cultural ties between Eastern European countries and Italy, but leaving no doubts as to the direction of influence and the location of cultural hegemony.7 Instead, the essays collected here seek a more balanced view of the complex ties that connected the “hinterland” with the Mediterranean and aim to recover its role in the contaminated world that the sea engendered.

Much of the bias in favor of Western Europe as cultural leader across history had to do with the Industrial Revolution and was a product of it. Britain, France, Germany, and the Austrian Empire rose quickly to the fore as industrial nations in the nineteenth century, while the more agrarian focused Eastern countries (under foreign hegemonies, be they Ottoman or Tsarist) did not, thus sliding away from the scene of modernity. While the Western countries may be justifiably seen as the cradle of modernity as we know it today, it does not follow that the same patterns obtain with respect to the early modern period. Nor does it obtain that Renaissance cultural renewal was exclusively Western-driven. It is thus another aim of this volume to challenge this perception and draw attention to the contributions of the Islamic world and that of the “in between” world of frontier European territories to the “center” of European culture. Taking a transregional approach, the aim here is therefore to reconstruct the culture of these fluid spaces characteristic of a period in which hegemonies were short-lived and unstable, and in which contact nebulas generated artistic nebulas that challenge our most cherished art-historical categories of influence, regional identities, and originality.

2 Art History on the Cusp between Continents

Methodologically the volume can be inscribed in the recent attempt in the historical disciplines to acknowledge the mobility of populations and the fluctuating hegemonies of most territories. The shorthand and often misleading denomination for this endeavor is global history, whose inevitable implications of a blanket totalizing perspective have been both energetically rejected and attacked. The term nevertheless endures, though it has been effectively side-stepped even when genuinely global histories have been attempted and successfully achieved.8 To a degree, the “global turn” is also connected to the “spatial turn,” a recent and powerful “turn” in history writing that proposed place as repository of social meaning and invited a greater geographic consciousness of history, a recognition of geography’s (or place’s) own agency.9 More nuanced terms like “connected,” “transnational,” “integrative,” and “entwined histories” have been proposed instead of “global” to describe relationships and encounters between cultures, while terms like connectivity, hybridity, and exchange are now currently used to describe their cultural consequences.10

If these trends and associated discussions for and against global readings originated with history, art history has since followed suit, particularly with respect to artistic mobility and its consequences, as well as with respect to the agency of portable art objects as catalysts of innovation once displaced and present in other, foreign contexts.11 However, as far as the buffer territory between East and West goes, art historians have done less. On the one hand, the field has been particularly affected by local nationalism that worked against recognizing mobile, portable, and displaced objects as significant and instead privileged those where a clear ethnic lineage could be traced. Thus, what has been written about this territory has been nation by nation and confessional group by confessional group, rather than as a fluid territory that managed an ancient Roman heritage, waves of later invasions from Slavs up to the Mongols and beyond to the Ottomans coming from the East and, no less rapacious or powerful, to the Habsburg juggernaut coming from Europe’s West.12 On the other hand, the traditional and likewise nineteenth-century division between Renaissance, Byzantine, and Islamic studies (with its unspoken period implications since the latter two were mainly focused on medieval rather than early modern art), have contributed just as much to isolating discourses and driving wedges between them than to seeing points of contact.13 Indeed, both national and period-based readings were historically contingent, deeply affected not only by nineteenth-century nationalisms but also by the consequent collapse of empires (Habsburg, Ottoman, Tsarist), and subsequently by Communist nationalist propaganda. In most of these arenas, the main object was political legitimation, and as one author has aptly described it, it led to a “perverse attempt to hammer modern definitions of ethnicity onto an ancient society in which they were irrelevant.”14 Perhaps the clearest confirmation of the novelty of the attempt to bridge these wide trenches is the difficulty encountered in categorizing this work—where to place it. Where should this volume be located: within Europe, Western or Eastern, or perhaps within Middle Eastern studies? The simplest answer is that it seems to fall between the cracks, between the boundaries of so many established cottage industries.

The specific geographic area this volume addresses is hence unsurprisingly difficult to define in our contemporary terms since current nation-states have little to do with the more amorphous and variable boundaries that were constantly being drawn in this period. However, having said that, it is precisely this state of amorphousness that is being unpacked here; it is this geographic instability that was the glue binding territories and cultures together in ways so different from today and that the essays seek to explore. It is also this territorial hybridity that allowed a more than usual cultural porosity to come into being, such that a Mediterranean world could be transmitted and have an active agency as far North as Poland, Lithuania, or Ukraine (to use contemporary country names). Thus, the essays collected here look to the European countries that bordered the extensions of the Mediterranean (such as the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, and the Adriatic) and that were “serviced” by the rivers that flowed into these seas, indirectly linking them to the Mediterranean. Parts of eastern Hungary, southeastern Poland, and eastern Slovakia turn up in these pages as well, though their geography places them also within other and different spheres of influence that connected them as tightly to Western Europe. For this reason the Danube itself, though such a central “avenue” across Europe, is only a part of this volume in its final reaches toward the Black Sea.15 Of course one could argue for the contamination of all cultures and it might seem wrong to exclude some. But the aim here was to consider two vectors, the Mediterranean and the Islamic presence (which colors the Mediterranean itself, and coming from the East is itself contaminated with Mongol, Byzantine, Persian, and Chinese cultures), so the “object” countries are those most closely and directly connected to both these cultural forces.

3 The Agency of Objects

From an art-historical perspective, beyond territory, the second main issue the volume proposes to deal with is the agency of objects. Thus, another important coordinate is that of the portability and mobility of objects and people. And it starts from the observation that art objects—from paintings to architecture—have restless lives and, as a result, engage territory, that is, they have a geographical footprint. Put another way, the paths and itineraries art objects travel describe a field of impact or agency, a territory within which they generate and receive energy, and produce consequences commensurate with the disturbance they cause. Perhaps most importantly, thinking in terms of portability wrenches the discussion away from the traditional topics of the artist, the museum, or making and instead signals the explosive quality of the object as a comet or meteorite that suddenly appears on the horizon and sets off a chain of consequences—the more unlikely the portability, as is the case of architecture, the more powerful.16 Thus, methodologically speaking, thinking in terms of portability offers us the opportunity to think in terms of a “territory of agency” (in which the object made itself felt) that cuts across nation-states and ethnic units. For what is interesting in rewriting history as enmeshed rather than linear (which after all is what global art history attempts to do) is precisely to recognize that it is not the parallel lives of objects but the intersecting ones that are relevant.

Furthermore, such a reading is not only about a biography of objects (and the map of their efficacy and agency) but also about a way to identify geographic nodes, points that became thick sites of layered encounters, resembling radioactive sites: places where paths converged and diverged and things mutated. The unexpectedness of such geographic connections could be thought to operate like a wormhole (well known in astronomy and relativity theory) that links separate points in space-time by way of a vertiginous shortcut or short circuit that collapses distances and that can be so severe that it can cause meltdowns—such as, in our case for example, the unexpectedness of the connection between Venice, China, and Tatar culture in Crimea (see chapter eight).

Thinking in terms of portability has three more important consequences. Firstly, it credits agency to the object over its longue durée existence. Secondly, it invites rethinking the distinctions between high and low art, and with it, the exchanges between the monumental and minor arts. Evidently the most portable of all objects have always been the small crafts (especially textile), yet despite their small scale their impact has reached deep, to architecture and large ensembles—as I have discussed elsewhere regarding the connections between sgraffito palace facades in Renaissance Italy and silk and damask patterns made locally or imported from the Near East.17 Considering such exchanges between the arts also allows us to recognize exchanges between scales—the micro and macro in dialogue at any point in a series of serendipitous encounters.18 And, to take this thought to its ultimate conclusion, it allows us to think about exchanges between media—between textiles and architecture, for example, between glassware and sculpture, stone carving and goldsmithry, and so on. Finally, in this scenario the viewer’s and artist’s bodies also reclaim their agency—the body that encounters, holds, crafts, confronts, or inhabits temporarily an object in its passage and records this memory subsequently in whatever shape or medium.

One example should suffice to illustrate these possibilities of assimilation, intersection, and appropriation across borders, materials, and scales. The building of the votive church, later cathedral, at Curtea de Arges in Wallachia (today’s Romania, completed in 1517) by Voivode Neagoe Basarab (ruled 1512–21) can stand as a paradigmatic example of this complicated history and its conflicted recording in modern era historical accounts (Fig. 0.5).19 Indeed, the church is a remarkable example of hybridity, a mixture of Armenian, Georgian, Ottoman, Serbian, and Greek elements. As scholars have noted, some materials were imported from Constantinople (marble and mosaics brought by way of sea and river routes along the Danube, as well as bricks with Allah imprinted on them); the architect was probably Armenian (Manoli of Niaesia); the architectural ornaments on the windows are similar to Armenian and Caucasian examples (today’s Georgia); the plan of the church is similar to Serbian examples.

Figure 0.5
Figure 0.5

View of the Royal Monastery of Curtea de Arges, completed 1512–17, Romania

Photograph by the author

However, the origins of other details have been overlooked and provide interesting material for reflection on hybridity. For example, the bronze birds that adorn the upper frame of the rosette windows and produce a whistling sound when the wind blows through them are similar to Pisa cathedral’s bronze griffon, originating from an Islamic territory (from Cordova, eleventh–twelfth century) and may suggest a similar Eastern provenance and reference (Fig. 0.6).20 Likewise, scholars today do not make much of Voivode Neogoe Basarab’s ties to Italy (through which he maintained diplomatic relations, especially with Venice and Rome, even offering to broker the union between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches and claiming a leadership role for his territory within the crusade conceived by Pope Leo X) and with Istanbul where he is said to have participated in the construction of a mosque (as subprefect) during Bayezid II’s reign, with perhaps the same Manoli as chief architect.21 Yet this may explain the extraordinary muqarnas that gird the church exterior at the upper level. Such an association between a classic Islamic motif, predominantly associated with mosque architecture—the muqarnas traditionally negotiate the transition from the square plan to the dome—and a Christian church, particularly one located at the site of a miracle-making icon, is unprecedented and signals a remarkable case of cultural acceptance of such mixtures across confessional divides (Fig. 0.7). Might this have been the work of craftsmen from Bursa, experienced in marble carving and already versed in a cross-cultural vocabulary much in evidence there, rather than of Armenian or local craftsmen? Traditionally, scholarship has stressed the church’s Christian models, while the Islamic ones have been more or less ignored.22

Figure 0.6
Figure 0.6

Detail of frieze with muqarnas and rosettes, Royal Monastery of Curtea de Arges, Romania

Photograph by the author
Figure 0.7
Figure 0.7

Detail of muqarnas, portal of Karatay Medresesi, 1251, Konya, Turkey

Photograph by the author

But the church offers yet another set of references. The patron, Neagoe Basarab was close to Niphon, the Athonite monk and patriarch who had settled in Wallachia, and for whose bones he commissioned the reliquary once he was pronounced a saint. The reliquary, discussed in chapter eleven by Kalavrezou, is in the shape of a five-domed miniature church that bears a close resemblance to the full-fledged (albeit four-domed) monastery church. As Kalavrezou observes, this was a type that spread through the Balkans in that period (a type distinct from the traditional Greek cross embedded in a square) (Fig. 0.8). Might the circulation of such reliquaries—of which this is just one example—have contributed to and reinforced the aesthetic acceptance and popularity of the architectural type? If so, this would be an example of portable objects as microarchitectures—miniature architectures in precious materials that further dignified the form itself—affecting the reception and patronage of monumental architecture, an example of the crossing of scales that such circulation invited and that we do not normally consider in architectural history.23 Further still, if we look at the two commissions of the same patron—the church and the reliquary—that share a similar shape, we observe that from an ornamental point of view they diverge greatly. As Kalavrezou observes, the reliquary has Gothic details; the church, however, has pronounced Islamic ones. Is this range of adopted forms a testimony of a local taste that appreciated and assimilated forms regardless of their origins and associated meanings? Might such heterogeneity of ornamental vocabularies suggest an exceptional tolerance and interest in ornamental forms qua forms, detached from their iconographic and symbolic meanings?

Figure 0.8
Figure 0.8

St. Niphon reliquary, back view, Dionysiou Monastery

Photograph courtesy of the Dionysiou Monastery

The nineteenth-century presentation of the monument throws some light on the nationalist discourses that colored so much of its modern reception. In 1867 the church was presented in the guise of a massive model (1:14) at the Paris World Exhibition as the national monument of Romania. This was no coincidence, as it followed closely upon the unification of Wallachia and Moldova in 1856 and proceeded by only a few years Romania’s war of independence from the Ottoman Empire (1877). This historical juncture can easily explain the focus on Christian links and rejection of Ottoman influences and the biases introduced into the subsequent chain of scholarship. As this volume will abundantly show, such examples of the appropriation of forms that produced highly original artistic cultures, as well as their treatment at the hands of nineteenth-century scholars, and later, were the norm rather than the exceptions in these buffer territories “between two worlds.”

4 The Essays

In keeping with its amorphous geographic boundaries, this volume does not present—nor does it seek to—a unified history. To the contrary, all essays attend to local case studies, to specific monuments or artifacts, and raise larger questions from these focused investigations, addressing the themes of this volume and at the same time opening a window into material that has remained uncharted by mainstream art history. Can we speak of Renaissance here? Byzantine? Islamic? Are any of them useful? What is useful? How does one handle this collision of vocabularies—Golden Horde, Armenian, Ottoman, Muscovite, Polish, Serbian, Hungarian, Romanian, and Greek with penetrations from the Mediterranean South and the Islamic East—and its offspring?

One important aspect of this work—and that sets it apart from much global history (and art history)—is the recognition that such a number of ethnicities and their artistic heritage cannot be evaluated by a single researcher alone. Scholars from each of the countries that now make up the vast territory under investigation here needed to come together to attempt a dialogue, to encounter each other and compare notes, and to exchange knowledge and share modern and ancient languages to attend to a world where there was no Latin as a lingua franca that united them all. Thus, Croatian, Serbian, Romanian, Hungarian, Polish, Turkish, Greek, Armenian, and Russian scholars came together to address the equally heterogeneous artistic deposits to be found in these frontier or buffer zones.

Consistent with the themes of portability and mobility, the objects under investigation were drawn from all domains of art making that display such characteristics, even architecture. Thus, among the “objects of contact” that come under scrutiny here are: books and book merchants as intermediaries; minor arts like goldsmithry and textiles; folklore rituals and stories; ships as floating polities or ecosystems; religious buildings, fortifications, and caravanserais; and materials and substances, including marble and coffee. To bring some order to this material heterogeneity, the essays are organized broadly geographically: the territories North of the Danube, Poland, eastern Hungary, and parts of Transylvania; the Adriatic and Eastern Mediterranean, that is, Constantinople, and the Dalmatian and Illyrian coasts; and the Black Sea and its Eastern neighbors. Of course, the essays beg other cuts as well and can be read in many directions, forwards, back, and across: following historical sequences (synchronic or diachronic), for example, or routes (land and sea) rather than territories, or ethnicities and artistic lineages. And the reader is invited to try them all.

In part one, the Adriatic is the center of gravity of the essays, as the most immediate liminal zone between the “classic” Mediterranean cultures and the Eastern European territories that became colonized and/or captured by foreign invaders, from the Mongols to the Ottomans. Indeed, the Adriatic was one of the most contested liquid territories of the Mediterranean and, as such, the site of perpetual conflict, ranging from random but frequent corsair attacks and local skirmishes to out-right naval battles (Fig. 0.9).24 However, and perhaps not surprisingly, it was also the site of equally intense commerce that needed to be protected and maintained, and therefore caused confrontation. For much of the medieval and early modern period under the control of Venice—until the Ottomans challenged that role—the territories bordering on the Adriatic—predominantly maritime republics—were most tightly connected to the Italian states and looked to them for support and legitimation when faced with the threat of invasion.

Figure 0.9
Figure 0.9

Fortress Church St. Mary of Mercy Vrboska, Hvar Island, Croatia

Photograph by Joško Belamarić

The first essay in this section, by Mirko Sardelić, identifies the ship as the quintessential device of the sea and raises the question of its agency in promoting exchange and hybridity. As a floating community of different creeds and ethnic origins, Sardelić argues that it was a “ground zero” of cultural cohabitation and exchange. Tight micro ecosystems, ships were governed like polities, approximating floating microcities and cultural condensers. His focus is on people rather than goods or materials, and he raises the question: Did such conditions as the ship imposed facilitate exchange? Was it a vehicle for it? Did it engender emotional understanding (or rejection) between people? Recording travel accounts of passengers on such voyages, Sardelić identifies a neglected yet ideal site of study where one can examine cultural exchange and its mechanisms, like in a petri dish.

Continuing the focus on the sea and its conflicts, Ana Šverko turns to war management in the Adriatic. Given perennial alarm in the region and waves of real and feared invasions, the local administrations turned to serious fortification of their shores. The Venetian Stato da Mar that extended over this territory for most of the early modern period used Michele and Giangirolamo Sanmicheli as military architects, and it is in locations off “center,” such as Sebenico (Sibenik), halfway down the Dalmatian coast, that they developed innovative systems for the defenses of these shores. Šverko’s research then seriously challenges the center and periphery concepts: as it turns out, for fortification construction and ideation the “periphery” was actually the center of innovation (Fig. 0.10).

Figure 0.10
Figure 0.10

Michele and Giangiorgio Sanmicheli, fortifications, mid-sixteenth century, Sebenico, Croatia

Photograph by Joško Belamarić

Arrival from the sea and the dangers of the sea also prompted the development of a new building type for the maritime republics: the lazaretto. Looking at the lazaretto in Split as a new building type, Darka Bilić argues for its evolution from the caravanserai by a Jewish entrepreneur who sought to create a new land route between Venice and the Dalmatian hinterland, precisely to avoid the dangers of the sea and the perennial attacks by pirates. Like in Šverko’s essay, here too the case is made for innovation in the “periphery,” for the creation of a hybrid and eminently useful new building form evolved from Eastern models that protected both travelers and local communities.

How does a pocket-sized state hanging off the rocks of the Dalmatian coast survive in this context of superpowers vying for hegemony? For Joško Belamarić, the architecture of the city of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) is a mirror of its politics. The coherence of the city reflected the coherence of civic behavior and identity (an “organic system”) and allowed it to preserve its independence and remain a useful link between East and West. The Renaissance villa—an Italian (and ancient Roman) export—upon which he focuses, was the locus amoenus as dream or desire in this theater of war and found a remarkable flowering and evolution here in keeping with Ragusa’s civic ideals, which, Belamarić argues, it epitomizes.

Daniel Premerl looks away from Venice and turns to Rome and the pope, who remained an important reference point for the Adriatic territories. Diplomacy in particular was called to the aid of the threatened Christian hegemony in the area, specifically in Bosnia, which was at the time fully under Ottoman domination. It is the Illyrian case that the Bosnian prelate Ivan Tomko Mrnavić presents before Urban VIII in the first decades of the seventeenth century using visual aids to further the case of the Catholic population there in the face of the continuous Ottoman threat and occupation. Alongside a visual discourse that he proposes so as to strengthen the Illyrian/Roman connection, Mrnavić also uses a version of the “questione della lingua” to buttress his project: The Illyrian dialect, he argues, is appropriate for the region precisely because it is understood by its mixed population (including the Slavs); indeed it is language that suggests and invites thinking of a Pan-Slavic “commonwealth” that stretches from the Balkans and the Dalmatian coast all the way to Russia and Poland. And it is this larger cultural/political view that converged with papal policy in Eastern Europe and enabled artistic patronage supporting the Illyrian cause.

In part two the authors turn East at the Dardanelles and present the extension of the Mediterranean all the way to the Sea of Azov as the quintessential melting pot of East and West. Much colonized by the Italian city-states of the Adriatic and beyond (especially Genoa and Venice but also Ancona), this territory connected the Mediterranean basin with the steppes and the northern European countries, like Poland and Lithuania, and with the major caravan routes across Asia (Fig. 0.11). Linked with the Golden Horde as much as with Central Asian khans and emperors, it was a very contested territory precisely because of its extremely rich commercial links. Crimea, which comes up in two essays, is a case in point. When Ibn Battuta passed through in the 1330s, he counted 200 ships in Kaffa harbor alone. This was perhaps “the most profoundly Latinized of Black Sea ports,” with a minority Genoese population that was swelled by “Turkish soldiers and nomads, Russian fur traders, Egyptian slave agents, Greeks, Circassians and Alans, not to mention Florentines, Venetians and Provencals.”25 A tract of land that saw “Oriental and southern influences arriving by way of the Caucasus and the Black Sea, Greek influences spreading along the sea routes, and Western influences passing down the great Danubian route,” it experienced “the formation from time to time, of mixed civilizations, very curious and very interesting.”26 These were heterogeneous cultures, combining Greeks, Jews (Karaim and Khazars), Caucasians, Armenians, Italians, Mongols, and Tatars, nomads living with sedentary peoples, that belied any easy categorization. Indeed, in places like Theodoro-Mangup, Kaffa, Sudak, and as far as Olbia at the mouth of the Dnieper, “Gothic, with Greek and probably Hebrew, was one of the languages which continued to be spoken in Crimea as it emerged into the modern period” (Fig. 0.12).27

Figure 0.11
Figure 0.11

Unknown artist, Port of Ancona, 1731, Maritime Museum Dubrovnik

Figure 0.12
Figure 0.12

Diogo Homem, Portolan chart of the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, circa 1559

Wikimedia Commons

This is the world whose folklore Cemal Kafadar surveys. It is here in the Balkans and Black Sea territories, in these mixed worlds of East and West, that vampire lore shows a significant uptick in the early modern period, and he ascribes this to an unexpressed but deeply felt anxiety about blood mixtures. As he argues, blood was most important in Christian territories and not so in Islamic ones, and he traces a geography of vampire hysteria that does not include Ottoman lands, where neither blood as such nor anxieties about metissage existed and therefore did not call for a similar popular expression. As he puts it, migration, lands changing hands, redrawn imperials boundaries produce “new occupants of nightmares”—the dark side of the cultural exchange that this volume charts.

Two essays on Crimea show the effects of this metissage in art and architectural terms. Nicole Kançal-Ferrari turns to architectural and sculptural ornament in heraldic contexts, both civic and familial, that is, at precisely those sites where bloodlines are most at issue. Her examples span the mid-thirteenth to sixteenth centuries, between the Pax Mongolica and the rise of the Renaissance in the West. Looking at heraldic devices embedded in façades, city gates, and notable funerary monuments, she demonstrates a consistent display of ornamental hybridity that in turn testifies to a convivenza, to alliances—driven by political, economic, as well as social motives—that give the Crimean melting pot a visible dimension.

Turning to architecture in the later sixteenth century, Tatiana Sizonenko describes a connection between “Venice and the (a different) East,” though not the Ottoman East but Crimea and the Northeast, Muscovy. Looking at the work of Alevisio Lamberti da Montagnana (known in Moscow as Alevisio Novy) for the Muscovite Tsar Ivan III, as well as for the Crimean Khan Meñli I Giray, she shows “a nontrivial meeting of cultures,” an openness to other vocabularies in the Renaissance, and their original blending. In the wake of alliances with Italy brokered by Cardinal Bessarion after the fall of Constantinople, she traces the exchanges between and mixture of Eastern and Western vocabularies in the cases of major monuments, such as the Archangel Michael Cathedral in Muscovy and the Iron Gate portal in Bakhchisaray (Bahçesaray) Palace in Crimea.

Gülru Necipoğlu focuses on the mid-sixteenth-century mosque in Mangalia (Romania) on the Black Sea and on the Mediterranean-ization of Eastern European territories after the Ottoman conquest. She identifies a network of complex endowment deeds intended to tie peripheral tribute-paying territories from the Volga to the Danube, the Sava, and the Black Sea to the center of Ottoman power in Istanbul. “The interdependent architectural endowments of Princess İsmihan Sultan and Sokollu Mehmed Pasha constituted an extensive network, many of its units concentrated on the main land route diagonally cutting across the Ottoman Empire and dotting the port cities of the Black Sea, Mediterranean, and Adriatic, as well as riverbanks connected to those interlinked seas.” These monuments reflected “a persistent preoccupation with communications and connections throughout the empire and beyond with their infrastructure of roads, bridges, and ports that stimulated mobility.” The same vision was manifested in the grand vizier’s unrealized state projects, including the creation of a canal in Suez and another one connecting the Don with the Volga.

The fluidity of the political systems and the shifts in hegemonies also meant opportunities for patronage that displayed the serendipity and hybridity of the rulers’ careers as they were negotiating various centers of power. Anna Mária Nyárádi examines the Wallachian princely family of the Cantacuzino/Kantakouzenoi and their patronage between Venice, Byzantium, Wallachia, Transylvania, and the Ottoman Empire as an example of rulership that spanned the Danubian/Black Sea territory geographically and historically. Michael Kantakouzenos’s patronage recalls the Ottoman-style patronage of the Sokollu power couple that Necipoğlu describes, showing that not only objects but also artistic practices traveled across regions. Beyond architecture, the Kantakouzenoi patronage focused on goldsmithry and the family supported goldsmiths from Transylvania and (present-day) Bulgaria, thus contributing to the circulation of luxury objects in the region.

From large-scale infrastructure projects we turn to small portable objects with Ioli Kalavrezou’s essay, which focuses on a sixteenth-century silver reliquary and follows the dizzying set of interactions that its circulation reveals between Wallachia, Constantinople, Mount Athos, and Venice. Cast in the shape of a church for the Wallachian Prince Neagoe Basarab, and made to contain the relics of St. Niphon, it represents a Byzantine church with five domes but, remarkably, with Gothic ornamentation. Kalavrezou traces links between this shape and its models, with a vertiginous shift in scales from Justinian’s Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople and St. Mark’s in Venice (whence the Gothic elements derive) to the reliquary as microarchitecture, and recovers a complex set of references to New Rome, Mount Athos, and Wallachia at a moment of political transition (early 1500s) in the region.

Returning full circle from the Balkans to the Adriatic, Vladimir Simić looks to the book trade and publishing that connected it to the Black Sea territories. Books were another portable commodity, and book merchants as well as itinerant artisans moving between them created yet another link between the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe. Thus, Simić looks at a late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century Montenegro printing shop of Cyrillic books and its relations to Venice, as well as its influence on the Balkan hinterland through itinerant printers, in particular on Wallachia and Serbia, and as far South as Mount Athos. As Simić argues, not only were printing methods, types of fonts, and quality shared between these sites but also ornament. Hybrid like so much that was transported, this graphic ornament contained a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance elements, just like Kalavrezou’s reliquary, once again showing how forms migrated from Venice and Dalmatian sites and how they were appropriated and transformed in the East.

In part three, “The Danube and Beyond,” essays look to the eastern part of Central Europe. Here the slice of Eastern Europe that we have been following throughout these essays intersects with the territory normally addressed within studies of Central Europe, the Spanish Habsburg and Holy Roman Empires, and their satellites along the Danube (Fig. 0.13). However, as the epicenter of confrontation between the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires, this territory was also the site of complex cultural exchange. Thus, the essays in this section turn to the ties that link this world to the East—to the Black Sea, to the Mediterranean, and to the Ottoman Empire—and to the commerce and traffic that it brought and that collided and often came into severe conflict with the Catholic and Protestant world collected under the aegis of the Western empires.

Figure 0.13
Figure 0.13

Eastern Danube territories, in Willem Blaeu, Theatrum orbis terrarum, sive atlas novus (1649–1655)

A number of essays look to architecture located in this conflict zone. Iván Szántó turns to Szigetvar, in southwestern Hungary, a region bordered by the Sava and Drava Rivers, both tributaries of the Danube, that included parts of today’s Croatia and Bosnia and was the westernmost foothold of the Ottoman Empire. As such, it frequently changed hands between its various aggressors, and with it so did its religious monuments, thus allowing Szántó to explore their longue durée fate in these unstable political contexts where Ottoman and Habsburg succeeded each other on and off over time. Sufis and Protestants coexisted only to suffer persecution at the same time when the winds of fortune changed: “under these circumstances,” Szántó argues, “it is particularly difficult to assign the region to a particular cultural geography.” The fate of monuments left behind in hostile territories, “like sea-shells on a dry river bed,” meant that “churches were abandoned, destroyed, converted, or rebuilt as mosques; and then restored to their Christian sites within short intervals” in a complex layering and give-and-take between religious identities.

Diana Belci likewise looks at architecture in a conflict zone, in this case at vernacular churches in one of the most unstable Danubian territories, the Banat, much contested among German, Hungarian, Serbian, and Romanian princes, as well as the Ottomans. As a result, communities were often on the move to escape conflict and with them architecture was as well. Belci thus offers perhaps the most unexpected example of portability: the wooden churches of Banat were assembled and disassembled, transported, and relocated when communities were on the move. An example of the complex hybridity of the Danubian territory, these churches were also examples of the transmission of crafts across confessional borders: the wooden joinery was of the Ottoman type/technique, as the same craftsmen were employed to build churches and mosques. Here, too, like in Szigetvar, churches were turned into mosques and back again.

Shifting attention further North, Alexandr Osipian looks at the phenomenon of Sarmatism in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as part of the local effort to reject annexation to the Holy Roman Empire and claim a Mediterranean past however fictive. Much of the staging of the Sarmatian claims depended on costume and Oriental luxury. The Oriental trade (primarily for rich aristocratic elites) in northeastern Europe was almost entirely in the hands of Armenians, and when Oriental luxury challenged the established social order, the go-betweens (mostly Armenians and Jews) were perceived as the mobilizers of excessive consumption. But the larger question Osipian poses is how were objects divested of their original meanings and reinterpreted in the host culture? Indeed, in the process of supporting a fictional Sarmatian past, the Oriental objects lost their referencing power to their Eastern origins, thus illustrating the chameleon-like ability of portable objects to be absorbed into alternative discourses along the routes of their distribution.

With the final two essays we turn to materials and substances. Daniela Calciu breaks down the myth of the Danube as a Habsburg river and focuses on its final reaches into the Black Sea in the 1600–1700s, a river that “Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi, who paid particular attention to the rivers that flow into the lower Danube” listed thus: “from its left [flow]: the Tisza, Sava, Drava, Mureș, Bega, Timiș, Sebeș, Olt, Palosuz, and Ormancea; the Prahova, Ialomița, Buzău, Rîmnic, Focșani; and the Putna, Siret, Bârlad, Scînteia, among others.”28 The valleys of these tributary rivers allowed the establishment of trade routes between the Carpathians and the Danube, at first locally later becoming regional roads linking Buda to the Black Sea through Transylvania and Wallachia.29 Along these riverine highways Calciu traces the penetration of another form of Mediterranean culture into this area, the paradigmatic Mediterranean fluid—coffee—but also, with it, rituals of hospitality and ostentation, which were not unlike those described by Osipian in the northern lands of Poland and Lithuania.

A fitting closing to the volume, the last essay looks to one of the most important material commodities to connect the Mediterranean regions with its Eastern and Northern neighbors: white marble. Looking at the seventeenth century and beyond, Michał Wardzyński examines the usage of marble in historic Hungarian and Polish territories, at quarries, crafts, and the importation of Carrara and Massa marble. What he discovers is that elite monuments, especially royal ones, looked to the traditional imperial materials of ancient Rome—white marble and porphyry—and used this vocabulary of color and material for self-legitimation, even when the real materials were unavailable and had to be replaced with poorer quality local ones. Thus, he argues that “at the crossroads between red (local) limestone and white (Mediterranean) marble, dynasties bordering the Danube fashioned varying narratives.” Always seeking to insert themselves in a historical arc that included the Roman Empire, they made their own Mediterranean links materially visible.

5 From Longue Durée to Hybridity and Back

Clearly, this volume is not proposing a master narrative to understand the buffer world stretching from the Mediterranean system of seas both North and East. But what it does propose by means of these focused analyses is that this liminal zone was neither periphery nor center but a world onto itself, more flexible and elastic in manners, tastes, and even faiths, and that it belies the simplistic binary view of East and West, Christian and Islamic, and high and low with which history writing has traditionally defined it. To describe the consequences of the encounters between these cultures a number of terms recur frequently in these pages and create a conceptual grid upon which the essays’ arguments are mapped: hybridity, contamination, metissage, connectivity, nebulas, liminality, porosity, amorphousness, and elasticity are some of them. Their meanings and the further clouds of meanings they call forth like so many halos all point to the complex ways in which cultures and civilizations met and confronted each other across confessional and political divides. And they signal the semantic space in which the thinking about the individual case studies is embedded.

To be sure, some of these terms—hybridity and contamination in particular—have been much debated in the context of postcolonial and globalization studies.30 However, although their use in the essays gathered here may recall these larger debates, they are aimed at different issues and a different historical arc. For one thing, the territory under investigation here, though riven with conflict, is not a colonial one. For another, cultures are always hybrid. It is the degree of hybridity and the mechanisms by which it becomes so that call for attention, particularly in a territory where dominant and subaltern positions changed frequently, sometimes to such a degree that the binary opposition lost its meaning. In this volume then we see hybridity in action, we see what it actually looked like on the ground—not as a theoretical concept but as it happened, through its agents, over time. From this perspective, the ambition of the volume is to carve a space for an alternate history of art that is less essentialist and less nationalist and purist and instead accepts mixtures as artistic possibilities of significance and values the consequences of cross-pollination between neighboring and often warring cultures.

Above and beyond a new reading of the various cultures dealt with in this volume, such a stance raises the larger issue of periodization and period monikers and their shortcomings. The broad swath of time covered here is due precisely to the fact that the traditional temporal cuts do not work everywhere equally. Interactions need to be followed to their origins as well as to their conclusions, often along slow and circuitous routes. For example, what happens in Crimea or along the Danube cannot be sufficiently understood if separated into medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque. Instead, the longue durée applies to the extensions of the Mediterranean as well and must be invoked since the traditional period divisions are not useful and only alert to their insufficiency and reductiveness. Indeed, Braudel’s term may be a helpful way to think about the temporalities of hybrid cultures, too, not only about the geographical and climatic infrastructure that moves with the slowness of tectonic plates, to use his powerful metaphor.31

Ultimately then, this volume shows that what unified this liminal zone between faiths and cultures was that it collected and mixed the worlds of the steppes and of the seas, of horsemen and mariners, with the settled lives of the farmers and artisans and the remains of ancient cultures that pierced through the accumulated detritus of collapsed civilizations like so many white marble icebergs. To be sure, in this unstable territory many cultures met and fought, but they also cooperated and cohabitated and—something we tend to forget—marveled at each other. When the Berber Moroccan scholar-explorer Ibn Battuta (d. 1369) encounters the ordu (camp) of Ozbeg Khan moving south toward the sea, thousands of people strong, he describes it in awe: “[…] and we saw a vast city on the move with its inhabitants, with mosques and bazaars in it, the smoke of the kitchens rising in the air (for they cook while they march), and horse-drawn wagons transporting people.”32 No less awestruck is the chancellor of Spalato (Split), Antonio da Proculiano, 200 years later when in a public oration he describes, almost in filmic terms, this city on the Adriatic—the palace of Diocletian turned into a bustling port like a white phantasm rising from the sea:

“[…] people used to stroll and ride in circles above these sunny vaults almost as through a never-ending square, and while strolling and riding they looked out from the three sides at the territory in front of them, at the grounds, gardens, vineyards, fields, hills, valleys, flatlands and mountains; from the southern side they looked out with great delight and solace at the sea, cliffs, islands, and at the close and more distant bays. And then the people standing outside almost as through a beautiful and elevated theater could look at those strolling and riding inside, one moment from one window, the other from a different one, passing by rarely or frequently; in such a way that it looked like the earth and its inhabitants standing outside, the sea, cliffs and ships yearned for the palace and its inhabitants, while the palace and the people inside it yearned for the earth and the sea, and for the people outside.”33

A mobile city of the steppes and a mobile spectator looking at an ancient city from the sea—two mobile worlds that crossed and mixed and left an equally strange and wonderful deposit along riverbeds and shores.



Cemal Kafadar, “An Ottoman Gentleman’s Encounter with Latinity: Evliya Çelebi in Dalmatia,” in Dalmatia and the Mediterranean: Portable Archaeology and the Poetics of Influence, ed. Alina Payne (Leiden: Brill, 2016), 59.


Magris quotes the Romanian historian Nicolae Iorga, Byzantium after Byzantium (Iasi: Center for Romanian Studies, 2000; 1st ed. Paris, 1935); Claudio Magris, Danube (London: Collins Harvill, 1989; Ital. 1986), 363.


Fernand Braudel, La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l’époque de Philippe II (Paris: Armand Colin, 1949).


Classic studies of the Mediterranean remain Henri Pirenne, Mohammed et Charlemagne (1935); Braudel, La Méditerranée; S.D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza (1967–2000). Recent scholarship, particularly in history, has returned to these themes, see Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell, The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000); David Abulafia, ed. The Mediterranean in History (Los Angeles: Paul Getty Museum, 2003); W.V. Harris, ed., Rethinking the Mediterranean (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Gabriel Piterberg, Teofilo F. Ruiz and Geoffroy Symcox, eds., Braudel Revisited: The Mediterranean World 1600–1800 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010). See also the critique of Horden and Purcell’s “grim view of the Mediterranean” by Paolo Squariti, Review of Mohammed, the Early Medieval Mediterranean and Charlemagne, Early Medieval Europe 2, no. 3 (2002): 263–79. And for the early modern period, see Francesca Trivellato, “Renaissance Italy and the Muslim Mediterranean in Recent Historical Work,” Journal of Modern History 82 (March 2010): 127–55.


For example, Florentine silk merchants bought their raw materials from Asterabad (on the Caspian). See in particular the activity of Tommaso Spinelli in Florence. See Philip Jacks and William Caferro, The Spinelli of Florence: Fortunes of a Renaissance Merchant Family (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2001), 83. On Ancona’s colonies along the Black Sea and Sea of Azov (threatened after 1375—the fall of the Armenian Empire to the Mamluks), see Eliyahu Ashtor, “Il commercio levantino di Ancona nel basso Medioevo,” in E. Ashtor, Studies on Levantine Trade in the Middle Ages (London: Variorum Reprints, 1978), 216. On Genoa and the Black Sea, see Evgeny Khvalkov, The Colonies of Genoa in the Black Sea Region (New York and London: Routledge, 2018); and Antonio Musarra, Genova e il mare nel Medioevo (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2015).


On the problems arising from using such terms across the board, see Alina Payne, “Introduction,” in The Companion to Renaissance and Baroque Architecture, ed. Alina Payne (New York: Wiley/Blackwell, 2017), xxv–xlvi.


Peter Farbaky and Louis A. Waldman, Italy and Hungary: Humanism and Art of the Early Renaissance (Florence: Officina Libraria and Villa I Tatti, 2011) and Charles Dempsey, ed., Quattrocento Adriatico: Fifteenth-Century Art of the Adriatic Rim. Villa Spelman Colloquia 5 (Bologna: Nuova Alfa Editrice, 1996).


World history has been an alternative and less contested term. See Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the World, eds. R. Tignor et al. (New York: Norton, 2008; 1st ed. 2002). Another strand of global history has looked to the early modern period. A leading example is Serge Gruzinski, Les quatre parties du monde: Histoire d’une mondialisation (Paris: Ed. De la Martiniere, 2004). For the good and bad of global history, see the recent review by Cornell Fleischer, Cemal Kafadar and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, “How to Write Fake Global History,” Cromohs. Cyber review of modern historiography, doi:10 .13128/cromohs-12032 (Firenze University Press, 2020).


Ralph Kingston, “Mind over Matter: History and the Spatial Turn,” Cultural and Social History 7, no. 1 (2010): 111–21.


Joseph F. Fletcher, “Integrative History: Parallels and Interconnections in the Early Modern Period 1500–1800,” Journal of Turkish Studies 9 (1985): 37–58; Sanjay Subrahmanyam, “Connected Histories: Notes Towards a Reconfiguration of Early Modern Eurasia,” Modern Asian Studies 31, no. 3 (1997): 735–62. See most recently Sanjay Subrahmanyam, “Introduction,” in Empires Between Islam and Christianity. 1500–1800 (Albany: SUNY Press, 2019), 1–25. On hybridity as a cultural consequence of both colonialism and fluid borders, see especially Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London and New York: Routledge, 1994).


On the itinerant artist, see especially David Kim, The Traveling Artist in the Italian Renaissance (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014); on mobility and portability see Payne, Dalmatia and the Mediterranean.


Historians have tilled this field more assiduously, though more with respect to the Ottoman Empire and its ties to the West (especially to Italy) and less with respect to the place of Eastern Europe in this confrontation. For this reason, scholarship from the 1920s and 1930s remains relevant and is still cited. For examples of older literature, see Georges D. Cioriceanu, Les grands ports de Roumanie (Paris: M. Giard, 1928); and Nicolae Iorga, Byzantium after Byzantium (1st ed., Paris, 1935). More recently see Michel Balard, La Romanie Génoise (XIIe–début du XVe siècle) (Rome/Genoa: École francaise de Rome, 1978). Nicolae Iorga is still used as a departure point for recent studies. See, for example, Andrei Pippidi, Byzantins, ottomans, roumains: Le sud-est européen entre l’héritage impérial et les influences occidentales (Paris: H. Champion, 2006). On exchanges between the Ottomans and Italy the theme has been especially prominent in economic history, see, for example, from this by now fairly ample literature, Cemal Kafadar, “A Death in Venice (1575): Anatolian Merchants Trading in the Serenissima,” Journal of Turkish Studies, 10 (1986): 191–218; Eliyahu Ashtor, Levant Trade in the Later Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983); and for broader treatments, see Giovanni Ricci, Appeal to the Turk: The Broken Boundaries of the Renaissance (Rome: Viella, 2018; Italian ed. 2011); Molly Green, A Shared World: Christians and Muslims in the Early Modern Mediterranean (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000). Most recently see Diana Mishkova, Beyond Balkanism: The Scholarly Politics of Region Making (Abingdon: Routledge, 2019).


A notable and recent exception is the work on Venice and the Middle East, as well as that of Gülru Necipoğlu, who looks to exchanges out of and into the Ottoman Empire in the period of the Renaissance. See especially Gülru Necipoğlu, The Age of Sinan: Architectural Culture in the Ottoman Empire (Princeton: Princeton University, 2005); “Visual Cosmopolitanism and Creative Translation: Artistic Conversations with Renaissance Italy in Mehmed II’s Constantinople,” Muqarnas: An Annual on the Visual Cultures of the Islamic World 29 (2012): 1–81. For Venice’s ties to the Islamic world, see especially Venezia e i Turchi: Scontri e confronti di due civiltà (Milan: Electa, 1985), and the trailblazing work of Ennio Concina, Dell’arabico: A Venezia tra Rinascimento e oriente (Venice: Marsilio, 1994); and Deborah Howard, Venice & The East: The Impact of the Islamic World on Venetian Architecture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000). For an equally important exhibition, see Stefano Carboni, ed., Venice and the Islamic World 828–1797 (exh. cat., New York and New Haven: Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press, 2007). On Genoa—another recently added node of Mediterranean art history scholarship—see essays in Alireza Naser Eslami, ed., Genova una capitale del Mediterraneo tra Bisanzio e il mondo islamico: Storia, arte e architettura (Milan and Turin: Mondadori, 2016); Antonio Mussara, Il Grifo e il Leone (Bari: Laterza, 2020) and Evgeny Khvalkov, The Colonies of Genoa in the Black Sea Region (New York and London: Routledge, 2018).


Neal Ascherson, Black Sea (Hill and Wang, 1995), 27.


For an important work on the Austro-Hungarian Danube, see Barocke Kunst und Kultur im Donauraum, eds. Karl Möseneder, Michael Thimann and Adolf Hofstetter (Petersberg: Michael Imhof Verlag, 2014).


Alina Payne, “Portable Ruins : The Pergamon Altar, Heinrich Wölfflin and German Art History at the fin de siècle,” RES. Journal of Aesthetics and Anthropology 54/55 (spring/autumn 2008): 168–89; “The Portability of Art: A Prolegomena to Art and Architecture on the Move,” in Remapping Geographic Imaginaries, ed. Diana Sorensen (Raleigh, NC: Duke University Press, 2018), 92–109; Alina Payne, ed., Croatia and the Mediterranean: Portable Archaeology and the Poetics of Influence (Leiden: Brill, 2016); Eva R. Hoffman, “Pathways of Portability: Islamic and Christian Interchange from the Tenth to the Twelfth Century,” Art History 24, no. 1 (2001): 17–50.


Alina Payne, “Wrapped in Fabric: Florentine Facades, Mediterranean Textiles and A-Tectonic Ornament in the Renaissance,” in Ornament: Between Local and Global, eds. Gülru Necipoğlu and Alina Payne (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017), 274–89.


On scale as a relative category once exchanges between media are envisaged, see Alina Payne, “Materiality, Crafting and Scale,” Oxford Art Journal (December 2009): 365–86.


See the excellent essay with all relevant bibliography by Horia Moldovan, “Arhitectura bisericii lui Neagoe Basarab,” in Marturii. Frescele Manastirii Argesului, exh. cat. Muzeul National de Arta al Romaniei, Dec–May 2013 (Bucharest: Muzeul National, 2013), 18–37.


The bronze birds are mentioned by a contemporary witness, Gavril Protul (a Greek monk describing the monastery on its dedication day), as is the sound they produced. Instead, later seventeenth-century accounts (Paul of Aleppo) mention small bells held in the beaks of the birds as producing the sound. See Elisabeta Negrau, Cultul suveranului sud-est European si cazul tarii Romanesti (Iasi: Lumen, 2011), 183–84. However, in view of the whistling-griffon type of bronze ornament that came to Europe from Islamic sources, the original description by Gavril may be more accurate. On the Pisa griffon, see Anna Contadini, “Volando sopra il mediterraneo: Il grifone di Pisa e aspetti della metallistica islamica medievale,” in Naser Eslami, Genova una capitale del Mediterraneo, 75–88, and most recently, The Pisa Griffin and the Mari-Cha Lion: Metalwork, Art, and Technology in the Medieval Islamicate Mediterranean, ed.s A. Contadini, D. Anedda and R. Azuar Ruiz (Pisa, Italy: Pacini Editore, 2018).


What exactly Neagoe Basarab contributed to a mosque in Constantinople remains uncertain. Some sources describe him as subprefect, while folklore weaves fantastic stories of him having built a mosque with 999 windows and 366 minarets.


Acknowledged by Moldovan, “Arhitectura bisericii lui Neagoe Basarab,” note 14.


On slippages between scales in architecture that embrace everything from models to Kleinarchitektur, see Alina Payne, “Materiality, Crafting and Scale”; L’architecture parmi les arts. Materiaux, transfers et travail artistique à la renaissance (Paris: Edition Louvre and Hazan, 2016). Most of the work on microarchitecture to date has been done in the medieval field. For example see Achim Timmermann, “Architectural Vision in Albrecht Scharfenberg’s Jüngerer Titurel—A Vision of Architecture?,” in Architecture and Language, eds. Georgia Clarke and Paul Crossley (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 58–71. On microarchitecture and its effect of a “viral” diffusion of artistic models of exceptional importance in architecture (such as of the monastery of Batalha) in Portugal, see Joaquim Oliveira Caetano, “La microarchitettura: La decorazione architettonica nell’oreficieria portoghese,” in Tesori dal Portogallo: Architetture immaginarie dal Medioevo al Barocco, exhibition catalogue Turin, Palazzo Madama, May 7–September 28, 2014 (Cinisello Balsamo: Silvana Editoriale, 2014), 537.


See Green, who complicates the story of Mediterranean piracy by showing that maritime skirmishes were more complex than traditional histories of the period claim and involved a much broader negotiation between all manner of ethnicities and religious groups. Molly Green, Catholic Pirates and Greek Merchants: A Maritime History of the Early Modern Mediterranean (Princeton N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2013).


Ross E. Dunn, The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the 14th Century (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005), 163–64.


Mikhail Rostovtzeff, Iranians and Greeks in South Russian, quoted in Ascherson, Black Sea, 8.


Ascherson, Black Sea, 27.


Evliya Çelebi, Seyahatname (Istanbul, 1896–1938), trans. Mustafa Ali Mehmet, Călători străini despre Țările Române, vol. 6 (Bucharest: Editura Științifică și Enciclopedică, 1976).


Laurențiu Rădvan, At Europe’s Borders, Medieval Towns in the Romanian Principalities, trans. Valentin Cîrdei (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2010).


I refer to the debates that followed the publication of Homi Bhabha, “Of Mimicry and Man,” in Modern Literary Theory: A Reader (London; New York: E. Arnold, 1992), 369–80. See also the use of the term “mongrel cultures” that echoes Gruzinski’s métissage and designates hybridity with yet another set of associations. Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993); and Serge Gruzinski, Visions indiennes, visions baroques: les metissages de l’inconscient (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1992). For applications of these terms to studies of globalization and global history respectively, see Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996); and Gruzinski, Les quatre parties du monde. For a review of the concept of hybridity and the debates surrounding it, see M.M. Kraidy, “Hybridity in Cultural Globalization,” Communication Theory 12, no. 3 (2002): 316–39.


Braudel, La Méditerranée.


As quoted in Dunn, Ibn Battuta, 167.


Commissiones et relationes Venetae, Annorum 1553–1571, ed. Simeon Ljubic, in Monumenta spectantia historiam slavorum meridionalium (Zagreb: Oeficina Societatis Typographicae, 1880), 3:220–21. My emphasis.


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