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Art Through Time: A Global View

Converging Cultures Compare: How Can Hybrid Art Define Individual Identity?

The Sultan Mehmet II

The Sultan Mehmet II
Artist / Origin: Attr. to Gentile Bellini (Italian, ca. 1429–1507)
Region: Europe
Date: 1480
Period: 1400 CE – 1800 CE
Material: Oil (19th-century repaint) on canvas, possibly transferred from wood
Medium: Painting
Dimensions: H: 27 ½ in. (69.9 cm.), W: 20 ½ in. (52.1 cm).
Location: The National Gallery, London, UK
Credit: Courtesy of Bridgeman Art Library

Portrait of East India Company Official (probably William Fullerton)

Portrait of East India Company Official (probably William Fullerton)
Artist / Origin: Dip Chand (Indian, active 18th c.)
Region: South and Southeast Asia
Date: 1760-63
Period: 1400 CE – 1800 CE
Material: Opaque watercolor on paper
Medium: Painting
Dimensions: H: 10 ½ in. (26.2 cm.), W: 9 in. (22.7 cm.)
Location: The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK
Credit: Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London/Art Resource, NY

How can hybrid art define individual identity?

We generally think about portraits as expressions of one’s identity. What does it mean when an individual is painted by a foreign artist in a hybrid style? Does it always mean the same thing? A comparison of Gentile Bellini’s portrait of Mehmet II and Dip Chand’s picture of the Scottish surgeon William Fullerton can provide insight into the choices that went into making the works and the function of cultural fusion in art.

Questions to Consider

  • Under what circumstances was each of these portraits produced? What can you infer about the function of each work based upon these circumstances?
  • Both of these works are marked by stylistic fusion—Italian and Islamic in one instance, European and South Asian in the other. To whom might such hybrid styles have appealed and why?
  • What kinds of messages are conveyed about the individuals depicted in these two portraits? What role do you think hybrid style had in communicating those messages?

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Art Through Time: A Global View


Produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG. 2009.
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