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An Italian Renaissance Gate for the Khan: Visual Culture in Early Modern Crimea

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This article introduces the Renaissance “Iron Gate” erected in 1503–4 in the Khan’s Palace in Bahçesaray, Crimea. It proposes a new interpretation of this famous portal in the residence of the Crimean khans, taking into consideration the broader cultural context of early modernity. The research focuses on the visual appearance of the Iron Gate and the content of its unique inscription. Comparison with other portals and a tomb from the Balkans, on one hand, and with titulature in inscriptions, coins, and diplomatic documents from the Turco-Mongol-Islamic environment, on the other, furnishes enough data to situate the portal within the historical-cultural context of the khanate in the northern Black Sea region. Through an analysis of ways in which envoys were received in the Crimean capital, and an assessment of the architectural environment of the palace, new dimensions are opened into understanding Khan Mengli Geray I’s self-representation as ruler during this historically significant period.

Affiliations: 1: History Department, Şehir University, Istanbul

An earlier version of this article was presented at the conference, “Renaissance in the Borderlands: Cultures of Humanism in the Polish and Ottoman Empires” (convened December 10–11, 2014 at the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Warsaw University, organized by the Villa I Tatti Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies). I would like to thank Gülru Necipoğlu for encouraging me to develop the paper for publication. I am also grateful to all who offered me advice and assistance. They are acknowledged in the notes below, but I would like to express my particular thanks to Hatice Aynur, Hakan Kırımlı, Fatma Meliha Şen, Abdurrahman Atçıl, Michal Wardzyński, and Hayri Fehmi Yılmaz for their support and contributions during the various stages of preparation; to the staff of the Topkapı Palace Museum Library and Archive, specifically Zeynep Çelik Atbaş, Fidan Er, and Şenay Palamut for their support with collecting permissions, images, and documents; and András Riedlmayer for his help in procuring sources. Furthermore, I would like to thank the anonymous reviewer for carefully reading the manuscript and offering valuable comments.

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