Trans-Imperial Objects: Habsburg Albums from the “German House” in Constantinople
In the late sixteenth century, five separate Habsburg ambassadors to Constantinople commissioned elaborate image collections of people, costumes, and customs from all layers of Ottoman society. These works on paper are some of the earliest examples of the genre known as “costume books” whose colorful images of sultans, sancakbeys, soldiers, and street performers served as archetypes for centuries of prints, paintings, and performances. Building on my dissertation, which explored the multiple official and vernacular layers of diplomatic activity between the Houses of Habsburg and Osman, this new project studies these five objects together with the agents involved in their creation. It seeks to uncover and retrace the original trans-imperial context in which practical guidebooks filled with images served to document, commemorate, and define a society and the complex roles of each individual within and outside of its confines.