“Visual reflections”, the PIMo series edited by Paola von Wyss-Giacosa (University of Zurich), focuses on the cultural dimension of pictorial and material sources, highlighting their importance for the project and more generally for research in the field of connected histories.
Some of PIMo’s core themes – people, things, ideas, and paper in motion; cultural and emotional entanglements; histories of migration, displacement, and dispossession – and a cross-section of the stimulating approaches taken by participants in this multi-disciplinary project about histories of displacement within and from the Mediterranean (15th–20th centuries) are presented here.
Each short essay takes an image as a point of departure for reflecting on the multiple functions, meanings and expressions of the visual. The common aim is to share with a wider readership the relevance and fascination of exploring the historicity of representation, and the enduring implications of media presence and circulation.

Andreas Isler, Wandering Images: A Dervish and his Garb

By |2022-06-22T10:19:37+00:00June 22nd, 2022|Visual Reflections|

A man stands in front of a door and looks the observer directly and intensely in the eyes. Under a tight-fitting cap, long dark hair and a beard can be seen framing his serious-looking face. He wears several layers of clothing under a dark coat, jewellery around his neck and several implements typical of his profession or, in other words, of the image he is supposed to give: a large leather bag, a vessel made of half a sea coconut from the Seychelles or coco-de-mer with a carrying chain, a curved signalling horn whose tip with its eye represents the face of a fish with its mouth wide open.   A postcard from Istanbul from the early 20th century shows this motif (Fig. 1). Its content is explained and categorised as briefly as possible by a legend in French in the bottom right-hand corner: “Derviche”. At the bottom left, the number 8 indicates that this image is part of a series of pictures. The reverse of this card does not reveal much more: apart from lines to mark the demarcation [...]

Marco Fratini, From Exile to Revenge: The Return of the Waldensians of Piedmont to Their Valleys in a Late-Seventeenth-Century Map

By |2022-06-22T10:08:53+00:00June 22nd, 2022|Visual Reflections|

The gaze ranges over the territory of the three valleys of western Piedmont, now known as ‘Waldensian’ – because of the centuries-long presence of the Protestant minority of the same name in the heart of the Alps – ensconced between high mountains overlooking a plain seen from a bird’s eye view, crossed by three main waterways, and dotted with villages and hamlets. Entitled Nieuwe Caerte der Valleyen in Piemont door de Waldensen and printed in 1691 in Amsterdam by Joachim Ottens, the map provides a detailed depiction of the territory of the Pellice and Germanasca-Chisone valleys, including the Po valley. (Fig. 1) Figure 1:  [Romeyn de Hooghe], Nieuwe Caerte der Valleyen in Piemont door de Waldensen, [1691]; H476mm, W572mm (Torre Pellice, Museo Valdese, property of Archivio della Tavola Valdese). © Courtesy Museo Valdese, Torre Pellice Both from the layout of the representation and most of the topographical information, the descriptive model for the map can be seen to be the Carta delle Tre Valli di Piemonte. Dated 1640, it is known only in a printed version signed by Valerio Grosso [...]

Luca Orlandi and Velika Ivkovska, The Architectural Heritage in Galata: A Case of Vanishing Memory in Istanbul

By |2022-03-07T20:43:29+00:00March 7th, 2022|Visual Reflections|

Throughout the centuries the Galata district in Istanbul has been a unique crossroad of multicultural both tangible and intangible heritage. Unfortunately, during the past sixty/seventy years the district was and still is at a constant attack and at risk of disappearing due to its neglect and lack of enhancement especially within the growth of the 21st century Istanbul’s metropolis. Since the ancient times Galata, which is today a neighborhood within the Beyoğlu Municipality, maintained a distinctive character in the city’s physiognomy, due to social and cultural contribution of its inhabitants and people who lived there, forming a unique urban environment throughout the centuries. During the Byzantine Empire, with the establishment of the Genoese colony, Galata district, or Pera as it was also known in ancient Greek and Roman time, grew as a more ‘Italian’ and Latin city inside the core of the oriental Orthodox world, building up a unique architectural environment within an urban texture adapted to the morphology and the orology of the territory, linked to the surrounding hills and to the sea, completely different and independent from the [...]

David Do Paço, Art History and Social history: Muslims in Early Modern Central Europe

By |2022-03-07T20:35:02+00:00March 7th, 2022|Visual Reflections|

Social history and art history are still often hermetic to each other. Their respective methods, the nature of the documents that scholars consider, and academic territories diverged, if not clashed. Nevertheless, several recent works from early modern urban historians have strongly advocated for an inclusive approach. For example, Melissa Calaresu reinterpreted eighteenth-century Neapolitan sociability with a micro-historical methodology at the intersection of social history, art history, and archaeology. On the other hand, Nancy Um has implemented an original approach at the intersection between economic history and history of architecture. She explored the coffee merchants’ houses in the Yemeni city of Mocha to understand the anthropological structures of the port city at a time when it was the hub between the Arabian Peninsula, Asia, and Africa. As early as 2011, the collective project directed by Jocelyne Dakhlia—which already aimed to reassess the Muslim’s social life in early modern Europe—invited to go beyond the illustrative use of pictures by social historians. Dakhlia drafted new working hypotheses based on what the artists perceived and revealed, but that was ignored by the traditional materials [...]

Dana Caciur, Preparing for the Immigration of New Subjects: A Sketched Map of the Zadar Hinterland (Early Seventeenth Century)

By |2022-02-10T08:57:54+00:00February 10th, 2022|Visual Reflections|

Preparing for the Immigration of New Subjects: A Sketched Map of the Zadar Hinterland (Early Seventeenth Century)   During the sixteenth century, Venetian Dalmatia had to deal with large waves of immigrants arriving from the Ottoman provinces of the inner Balkan peninsula. Searching for a more secure and stable place to live, individuals of different origins (Bosnian, Greeks, Vlachs, etc.) abandoned their homes, goods and routines and chose to move to territories administrated by the functionaries of the Venetian republic. Driven away by fear of the Turks, losses caused by wars or incursions for plunder, or hopes for a new life in better circumstances, large groups of people, identified by different ethnic labels and the status of ‘Ottoman subjects’ (sudditi Turchi), encountered the Venetian authorities and its administrative customs in Dalmatia. During the sixteenth century, the hinterland administrated by Venice on the eastern coast of the Adriatic proved to be insufficient to host and accommodate the increasing numbers of newly arrived inhabitants. Sixteenth-century Venetian Dalmatia consisted of the major coastal cities of Zadar, Šibenik, Trogir and Split and their rural [...]

Silvia Notarfonso, Mapping Catholic Communities in Early Modern Ottoman Albania

By |2022-02-11T13:01:14+00:00February 10th, 2022|Visual Reflections|

In the first half of the seventeenth century, Albania was already an Ottoman outpost. Indeed, it is very well known that the early modern Balkan peninsula, if we exclude the Dalmatian area, belonged to the sultans: Albania, in particular, despite the opposition organised by Skanderbeg, had been subjugated by the so-called ‘Turks’ in the last decades of the fifteenth century. Scutari (present-day Shkodër, in Albania) and Durazzo (present-day Durrës, Albania), formerly belonging to Venice, now lay under the flag of the Sublime Porte. As it is commonly recognised, the Ottoman Empire was a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional entity, and Albania was no exception. The pre-Ottoman religious landscape was characterised by the substantial presence of Catholic groups in the northern part of the region, while in the south the orthodoxies represented the overriding majority among the Christian communities. In fact, the Ottoman conquest did not result in mass conversions throughout the Balkan area: a significant number of conversions only occurred in a few, specific regions of the Balkans, as was the case with Bosnia and Albania. As early as the seventeenth century, [...]

Ida Caiazza, Love, Gender, and Migration across the Sea: The Myth of Hero and Leander (Turner, Rubens, Lioret, Ovid)

By |2021-12-17T15:31:23+00:00December 17th, 2021|Visual Reflections|

Wild dashed the Hellespont its straited surge, And on the raised spray appeared Leander’s fall. These were the last two lines of the seven that, at the exhibition of the Royal Academy of London, 1837, accompanied Turner’s The Parting of Hero and Leander. (Figure.1) The first five lines described the imminent morning and the fading night, Love and Hymen, the “terraced steep”, all the “tokens of departure” depicted in the borders of the painting. The conclusive verses focused on its central elements: the rough sea, the coming storm, the premonition of death. The myth of Hero and Leander is the Greek archetype of a story of forbidden love and death, many times retold, in which one of the protagonists, one could argue from Turner’s verbal/visual interpretation, is the sea. The sea, in fact, stands out in Turner’s painting, being the focal point of the viewer’s perspective; in the written comment, it appears with its specific name (in Greek) and its metaphoric value as Leander’s lethal obstacle is explicitly revealed. Figure 1: Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Parting of Leander and [...]

Mattia Guidetti, Ottoman Flags Reused as Ex-votos in the Marca Anconitana

By |2021-10-06T14:54:59+00:00October 6th, 2021|Visual Reflections|

On 15 September 1684, blank cannon shots greeted the arrival of an Ottoman flag in Loreto (Ancona). The silk flag (now in the Museum of Cracow) measures 639x321cm and displays an embroidered decoration consisting of Quranic verses, stars, medallions and the so-called Dhu al-Fuqar, a double-bladed sword associated with the figure of ‘Ali (599–661), cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad (d. 632). The banner was a donation sent by the Polish king, John III Sobieski (1629–96), to the Marian sanctuary of Loreto. Before arriving in Loreto, it passed through Rome so that Pope Innocent XI (1611–89), who had received another sumptuous flag the previous year, could admire it. The flag came from the Siege of Párkány (today Štúrovo), a battle that followed the liberation of Vienna in autumn 1683, in preparation for the conquest of Buda that occurred in 1686. The gift of the banner to the Marian sanctuary was an ex-voto. Since the victory in Lepanto (1571), the Madonna of the Rosary had assumed the role of custodian of the Catholic lands against the growing Ottoman threat. At [...]

Nasser Rabbat, Where Europe Begins and Where It Ends?

By |2021-06-11T09:28:07+00:00June 11th, 2021|Visual Reflections|

It is said in the myths of the Greeks that the Phoenician Princess Europa was playing on the seacoast of her city of Tyre with her attendants when she was lured by the great Greek God Zeus who had disguised himself as a white bull and abducted her to Crete where he made her queen. Figure 1 : Titian, The Rape of Europa, ca. 1560/1562, oil on canvas, Isabella Steward Gardner Museum, Boston. Source: Commons.wikimedia.org Europa eventually gave her name to the continent north of Greece in a clear symbolic reference to the passing of Civilization from the East Mediterranean to the continent that was hitherto nameless, and thus unselfconscious.  This mythical cycle was completed by the story of Cadmus, Europa’s brother who was sent by his father, the king of Tyre, to look for his kidnaped sister.  Cadmus did not find her, but he ended up settling in Greece and founding the city of Thebes, of which he became king.  He then taught the Greeks the Phoenician alphabet, from which the Greek alphabet was derived; that is, Cadmus gave [...]

Lucas Burkart, Marco Polo on the Pearl River Delta: The Venetian Middle Ages and Italy’s Colony in China

By |2021-06-11T10:44:42+00:00June 4th, 2021|Visual Reflections|

Visitors to the Museo Correr in Venice expect venezianità – and are duly rewarded by the museum’s exhibits and style of presentation: dogal portraits, paintings of the lagoon city, the piazzetta, the Rialto bridge or the church of Santa Maria della Salute. The collection, originally assembled during the first third of the nineteenth century, has since perpetuated an image of Venice’s past as historical grandeur. The late romantic vision of John Ruskin’s “The Stones of Venice” (1851) provided its programmatic foundations; today’s mass tourism with between 20 and 30 million yearly visitors reflects it in the same way as the Venice Time Machine project: a factory of dreams! Figure 1: Marco Polo, c. 1880, H118cm, W78cm, D55cm, Museo Correr, Venice, inv. Cl. XIX 0172. ©Musei Veneziani. Since 1881, the collection also contains a wooden, almost life-size seated figure, which doesn’t quite fit this impression (Fig. 1). Its eyes and facial traits, the moustache, the long robe as well as its gesture and the posture of the right leg and foot appear as if they stem from a different (dream) world. [...]