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Naturalistic Painting And Drawing From Life in 13th Century Rum Seljuk Anatolia

This paper discusses some of the literary references to figurative painting, drawing from life and naturalistic representational painting in 13th century Rum Seljuk Anatolia. Although the works themselves have not survived, the contemporary literary evidence provides us with a clear picture of the status of representational painters at the Rum Seljuk court and the references cited in the paper provide us with an idea of the quantity and quality of this type of artistic output in the Rum Seljuk Sultanate. The frequent occurrence, not only of passing remarks on the lifelike-representational art of the period, but also the use of the imagery of "painter-portrait" as a metaphor for God and Creation in 13th century poetry, provide us with evidence of another face of artistic activity in the Sultanate which has received scant attention due to the loss of this representational art in the course of the ensuing centuries. This literary evidence is conclusive as to the prevalence of these works of drawing from life and painting, not only in respect of eyewitness accounts but also because in terms of poetry, there is no point in a poet using imagery in verse which the audience is not familiar with, thus the parallels drawn between painter, brush and painted work of art and its creator would have no resonance if the audience was not also familiar with life drawing, wall painting, artists and the practice of representational art.

Given the troubles in late 13th century after 1277, and in early 14th century Anatolia under Mongol control, loss of life through famine, wars and rebellions and the loss of wealth, stability and continuity in court life. It is not surprising that this burst of naturalistic art in 13th century Rum Seljuck Anatolia died, but what matters is that it happened. What is perhaps as interesting is that these works of naturalistic painting and drawing preceded the naturalism of the early Italian Renaissance and may have influenced the initial stages of the Italian Renaissance, through works of Seljuck drawing and painting reaching Italy by way of the well established trade links between Rum Seljuck Anatolia and the city states of 13th century Italy.

*T.M.P. Duggan. B.A.hons. Man., Genlik Mah. 1315 S. Ekin Apt. D. 3/7, Antalya.

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