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On 9th November 2020 at 11:00, via Zoom.

Meet & Discuss Session

For the fourth session of the “Talking about things” seminar series, the Visual and Material History working group invites you to look into the specific case of diplomatic gifts. In this session, organized jointly with the Diplomatic History working group of the European University Institute, two presentations will be followed by questions and a discussion.

‘Rhythms of the Gift: Rivalry and Exchange between the Ottoman and Safavid Empires’ – by Sinem Arcak Casale (Max-Planck-Institut/University of Minnesota)

The rivalry of two great empires dominates the history of the early modern Muslim World. Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the shahs of Safavid Iran and the sultans of the Ottoman Empire championed opposing versions of the Islamic faith, staked opposing claims to universal sovereignty, and repeatedly faced one another on the battlefield. This study presents a reinterpretation of this history, told not through the lens of warfare or religious conflict but rather art. Foregrounding the story of diplomatic gifts exchanged between two rival courts, I demonstrate the central role of visual and material culture in shaping that relationship. By placing  gifts at the center of diplomacy, this presentation on my forthcoming book sheds light on their function as broader tools of art, politics, warfare and religion.

Exchange of gifts: The cases between the Japanese Tensho Embassy and Italian courts (1585)’ – by Takuya Shimada (EUI)

The so-called Tensho Embassy was a late sixteenth-century Japanese embassy orchestrated single-handedly by Italian Jesuit Alessandro Valignano. Representing three local Japanese lords, four teenage boys from the Embassy attracted a great deal of attention from the Italian signori and prelates especially after they were given an official audience with Pope Gregory XIII in March, and they were invited to and visited a series of Italian courts in the northern half of the Italian peninsula. In this presentation, I would like to introduce some examples of the Japanese gifts and specially address the possibility that Valignano did not expect the Embassy to visit so many different courts in Italy. I would also like to talk about how comparing gifts that the different Italian courts gave to the Embassy may suggest the courts’ similar and dissimilar character and thinking behind this rare early-modern encounter in Italy between Europe and East Asia.

This event will take place on Zoom. To register and receive the Zoom link, please contact Ana StruillouMatthias Ebejer or Moïra Dato.