Armenian Merchant by Nicolas de Nicolay (Paris, 1632)
Nicolas de Nicolay's Armenian Merchant was printed in Chalcocondyles' Histoire Generale des Turcs in Paris in 1632
Size: 25 x 37.5 cm
Engraving art: Tinted lithograph
Artist: Nicolas de Nicolay (1517–1583)
Nicolas de Nicolay was a French geographer. He left France in 1542 to participate in the siege of Perpignan which was then held by Emperor Charles V of Austria.
He travelled around Germany, Denmark, England, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Greece and Turkey and served in the armies of most of these countries. On his return to France, Henry II made him Geographer Ordinary and Valet to the Chamber.
In 1551, Henry II ordered him to follow Gabriel d'Aramon, envoy and ambassador to the Grand Turk Suleiman the Magnificent. In the course of the voyage, his unofficial mission was to survey the places visited, including Istanbul. His account, describing the cities, customs, and institutions of the Turks, features fifty-eight illustrations detailing the dress of Ottoman subjects from the Grand Vizier in Constantinople to Moorish slaves in Algiers.
In 1583, he died in Soissons, where he was Commissioner of artillery, after a stay at the royal castle of Moulins.
Published in 1567, 'Quatre premiers livres des navigations' (Travels in Turkey) recorded Nicolay's observations about the Ottoman court and peoples from his 1551 mission to Istanbul on behalf of the French government. The book served as the first comprehensive survey of customs and costumes in the Ottoman world and is hailed as one of the earliest and most accurate depictions of the Islamic world to appear in Europe. Travels in Turkey achieved a high level of commercial success upon its release. It was later reissued and translated for a number of different countries, including Italy, the Netherlands, England, and Germany. The widespread popularity of the book contributed to the proliferation of costume books throughout Europe at the end of the 16th century and continued to influence Orientalist artists well into the 19th century such as Eugene Delacroix and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.
Travels in Turkey is divided in four books, following Nicolay's voyage to Istanbul, accounts of ethnic groups and Ottoman court life, and the religious and military administration in Istanbul. Louis Danet made 60 engravings based on Nicolay's original drawings, which serve as the core of the books, and each print is followed by a caption, describing Islamic ritual, religion and monuments. The images cover all aspects of Ottoman daily life and depict figures ranging from sultans and sultanas to wrestlers, cooks and Janissary generals. The images are typical of costume books, and consist of lone figures depicted on a very sparse background, which emphasizes the dress of the figure, rather than geography. In the costume book, figures are schematized and follow general types, and Brafman writes that "Nicolay, or his engravers, render facial expressions in an exaggerated style. Emotional reaction is evoked artistically, whether it be identified with a mother, sympathy for a Christian slave, or fascination with exotic and 'monstrous' alien practice". (Text source: Wikipedia)
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