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Echoes Of The East: Glimpses Of The ‘Orient’ In British And Polish-Lithuanian Portraiture Of The Eighteenth Century

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Chapter Summary

The complexity of Europe's cultural dialogue with Islamic countries is shown dramatically in eighteenth century society portraits from Britain and Poland-Lithuania in which the sitters wear Near and Middle Eastern-style dress, thus adopting widely recognised signifiers of non-Christian cultures. Despite their superficial similarity, the eighteenth century portraits from Britain and Poland-Lithuania are the product of very distinct circumstances and contain a plethora of varied references to contact with the Near East in particular. This chapter discusses portraits that depict British and Polish-Lithuanian sitters dressed in Near and Middle Eastern-inspired fashions. The portraits demonstrate how, instead of acting as a polarising influence, costume formed a bridge between the visual culture of Christian and Islamic countries. The chapter emphasises the increasing forms of interaction between the Ottoman Empire and Poland-Lithuania, and the numerous opportunities for cultural exchange which this presented.

Keywords: Britain; Islamic countries; Middle Eastern-inspired fashions; Ottoman Empire; Polish-Lithuanian portraiture; Polish-Lithuanian sitters



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