Public History PhD Student, Mandy Paige-Lovingood, Talks Turquerie

Every graduate student hopes they’ll be awarded a grant that requires no service in return so they can pursue their research. Public History PhD student, Mandy Paige-Lovingood, was awarded two such grants. The first is the Mary D Sheriff Research and Travel Grant for feminist studies in art history and visual culture from the Historians of Eighteenth-Century Art & Architecture (HECCA). The grant provided Mandy with $2000 to travel to France this summer to do research at the Bibliothèque nationale à Paris, National Archives, and the Louvre. The second fellowship is through the Istanbul Research Institute, which will pay for her flight and hotel to Istanbul this Fall to conduct research in the Pera Museum’s Orientalist painting collection.

Tell me about your research and what you’ll be doing while you’re in Europe and Asia

My research focuses on the exhibition of 18th-century turquerie portraits that display French women adopting Ottoman dress. These portraits depict women dressed in Turkish fashion and are (often) set in rooms mimicking the harem, set against an Ottoman landscape, or surrounded by various Turkish textiles. During the early modern period, trade took off between Istanbul (a main trading hub in the Ottoman Empire – now Turkey) and France, which resulted in various forms of cross-cultural exchange, including adaptions and hybridizations in architecture, decoration, fashion, art, theater, and literature. Following the death of Louis XIV in the early 18th-century, less control was administered over French aesthetics and the need to keep France French, so Turkish influence began to seep into upper-class trends at a much higher rate, making such portraits widespread, particularly with women patrons. Thus, my work seeks to examine how women displayed their turquerie portraits in their homes, at salons, and in various public spaces. Yet, I am also interested in understanding the intentions behind their displays, how these objects were perceived by the public and art critics of the 18th-century, and how our contemporary museums continue to interpret and display these objects.

Much of the previous turquerie research focuses mainly on architecture and some portraiture of elite men and women and what their compositions convey about the patron. I plan to build upon this past scholarship but expand the field by examining how we exhibit and interpret these objects in contemporary museums. Because the research on turquerie primarily looks at it from a 18th-century French perspective, my dissertation includes an analysis on how Istanbul’s Pera Museum currently exhibits these objects so we can consider and understand how Turkish museums have and continue to interpret and display French turqueries. I’m particularly curious to see the similarities and differences between the Louvre and the Pera’s interpretations and whether they include all, some, or none of the original narratives and spatial arrangements crafted by women patrons. This is particularly important to my research because if they are not including aspects of the original narratives in exhibition labels, we’re losing the visual stories of personal identity crafted and told by women in their current display.

While in France, I plan to focus on finding inventory lists at the BnF and the National Archives to discover where these objects were displayed in women’s houses. I also plan to examine Salon engravings to see where these objects were placed in state sponsored exhibitions and how and French art critics understood them. I will also visit several museums, the Louvre and the Musée des Arts décoratifs, where these objects are currently displayed to see how they’re displayed and interpreted today. This study correlates with my research at the Pera Museum in Istanbul, taking into consideration how these objects have been arranged and what narrative they communicate in their current text labels, as well as how their turqueries were interpreted in past exhibitions.

How did you get interested in Turquerie?

As an undergrad studying Art History at UNC Chapel Hill, I was advised by 18th-century French art historian Dr. Mary Sheriff. Dr. Sheriff’s work centered on gender analyses and the examination of French art in a global context. Her chapter, “The Dislocations of Jean-Etienne Liotard, Called the Turkish Painter,” in Cultural Contact and the Making of European Art since the Age of Exploration piqued my interest in turquerie and the meanings behind such cross-cultural portraits. In preparation for graduate school, Dr. Sheriff and I began to formulate how I would shift my interest in gender and identity in 18th-century art to a more global context once accepted into the Art History MA program. After much discussion my MA thesis undertook a case study on the Marquise de Pompadour and her turquerie room at the Château de Bellevue to examine how women adopted and employed Turkish culture for social and political purposes. While this paper provided clarity and insight into turquerie, I knew I had just scratched the surface and needed to expand my thesis into a dissertation. But such a task requires more case studies focusing on how spatial display, in tandem with composition, convey identity. I aim to, therefore, understand how women displayed these portraits, what meaning/s they may have conveyed, and if their turqueries were used as leverage for social mobility or reinforcement of their social and political prominence.

How did you find out about the fellowship?

As an 18th-century specialist, I belong to several 18th-century history and art associations and try to apply to as many fellowships or grants as I can. With regards to the Mary D Sherriff award, which was set up after she passed away, applying for the award was an absolute necessary since she both influenced and shaped my academic interests and passion for the reclamation of French women in the arts. To say I was thrilled to be the recipient of the 2021-2022 award is an understatement. I will always consider receiving that grant as one of my greatest achievements.

Why do you think you won the fellowships? What made your application stand out?

Having been in my field for over a decade and working on the topic of turquerie for almost 8 years, I know where the scholarship has and hasn’t been. It is important to be very clear and concise in your fellowship proposal and provide a thorough historiography detailing where the field has been, where it’s heading, and how your research will compliment and advance your field. In my case, my dissertation will not only expand the study of turquerie through a social, political, and gendered lens, but it will also take a contemporary look at it from both a French and Turkish perspectives, which has never been done. And, in a more current vein, I am also interested in the present-day perception of cultural appropriation (even though that wasn’t a term in the 18th-century) vs appreciation both in the past as well as in the present.

Mandy will be doing her comps at the end of the summer and teaching Global History in the Fall.


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