Othello, ‘Turn[ing] Turks’ and Cornelis de Bruyn’s Copperplate of the Ottoman Port of Famagusta in the Seventeenth Century

By Michael J.K. Walsh, published November 2012


Cornelis de Bruyn’s copperplate engraving of Famagusta, Cyprus, reproduced in Reizen van Cornelis de Bruyn door de vermaardste Deelen van Klein Asia (Delft, 1698) may at first sight seem unremarkable. Upon closer inspection, however, it offers some valuable insights into, and raises some important questions about, the Ottoman port of Famagusta and its relationship with the ‘West’. Additionally, it offers the historian a rare visual panoramic of Famagusta’s historic structures before the destruction wrought by the earthquake of 1735. The artist’s written description of his visit, read in tandem with a critical analysis of the image, is also intriguing and relevant to understanding the seventeenth-century European fear of ‘turn[ing] Turks’ in this, or any other, martyred realm. The starting point of this essay on de Bruyn’s artistic treatment of Famagusta, and on what information we can glean from it, is rooted in assumed acceptance of Lawrence O. Goedde’s tenet that ‘… we encounter in Dutch seascapes the great adventure of Dutch seafaring rendered with a detail that fascinates and convinces and invites the viewer’s emotional and intellectual engagement with the history and life of that time’.

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Filed under: Other (Early Modern) | Mediterranean
Subjects include: Art & Music | Harbours & Dockyards

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