Artibus et Historiae no. 76 (XXXVIII)

2017, ISSN 0391-9064

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BRONWEN WILSON - The Itinerant Artist and the Islamic Urban Prospect: Guillaume-Joseph Grélot’s Self-portraits in Ambrosio Bembo’s Travel Journal (pp. 157–180)

Guillaume-Joseph Grélot had been drawing antiquities, inscriptions, and urban prospects in Ottoman and Safavid dominions for four years when, in 1674 in Isfahan, he met Ambrosio Bembo, a young Venetian noble. The encounter inspired Bembo, who was returning from India, to employ the French artist to illustrate the diary he had been keeping of his travels. During their journey to Aleppo by caravan, and to Venice by galley, Grélot made fifty-one drawings of bridges, antiquities, costumes, monuments, caravanserais, monasteries, harbors, and cityscapes. Focusing on the four prospects in which Grélot depicts himself making the views – Aleppo, Persepolis, Respé, and Canea (Chania) – this essay explores the trope of the artist in the landscape. Grélot provides a performative variation on the theme: dressed in Persian, Turkish, and French costumes, his guises invite questions about working in and moving between cities in diverse Islamic jurisdictions. The essay argues that Grélot fused the conventions of figures that appeared on the edges of earlier city views for new rhetorical purposes.

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