University of South Florida

College of The Arts

University of South Florida

Elisabeth Fraser, USF Art History Professor, Recognized for Recent Publications

Congratulations to USF Professor of Art History Elisabeth Fraser for the publication of her edited book, The Mobility of People and Things in the Early Modern Mediterranean: The Art of Travel. The book, published by Routledge (2020), comprises chapters by seven scholars and Fraser herself. Additionally, it will be out in paperback in spring 2021.

With the support of an NEH fellowship at the American School of Classical Studies of Athens during 2020-21, Elisabeth completed the research and writing of a chapter for her new book, Dressing the Ottoman Empire: Costume Books and Transculturation. The chapter is entitled, “Two Sultanas and a Beardless Youth: Sexual Politics and Imperial Authority in a 17th-Century Ottoman Costume Album.”

Through research at the School’s Gennadius Library for Dressing the Ottoman Empire, Fraser analyzes its extensive collection of costume albums and books depicting the diverse peoples of the Ottoman Empire from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries.

Her essay, “The Ottoman Costume Album as Mobile Object and Agent of Contact,” was recently awarded a prize for best article on early modern global exchange in 2019 and 2020 by the Forum for Early-Modern Empires and Global Interaction (FEEGI).

According to their site, “FEEGI prizes recognize outstanding and path-breaking scholarship that furthers our historical understanding of the circumstances, causes, and consequences of increased global interaction, worldwide exchanges, and cross-cultural connections in the early modern period” and the FEEGI Article Prize Committee awarded Fraser this honor unanimously (, 2021).

About Mobility of People and Things in the Early Modern Mediterranean

For centuries artists, diplomats, and merchants served as cultural intermediaries in the Mediterranean. Stationed in port cities and other entrepôts of the Mediterranean, these go-betweens forged intercultural connections even as they negotiated and sometimes promoted cultural misunderstandings. They also moved objects of all kinds across time and space. This volume considers how the mobility of art and material culture is intertwined with greater Mediterranean networks from 1580 to 1880. Contributors see the movement of people and objects as transformational, emphasizing the trajectory of objects over single points of origin, multiplicity over unity, and mutability over stasis.

About Ottoman Costume Album as Mobile Object and Agent of Contact 

The Ottoman costume album served as a vital agent of contact in the early modern world. Conceived and collected through the movement of people in the greater Mediterranean, bound, rebound, sold, gifted, copied and reworked, Ottoman costume albums, produced from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries, are mobile objects constituted by a flexibility that lends itself to reinvention and reconfiguration. The costume album transcended geographic points of origin, connecting artisans of the book and diverse audiences across time and space in unforeseeable ways. Composed of individual sheets, each bearing a single costumed figure representing variously the Ottoman court, military, professions, and civil society, a costume album was custom made and inflected according to the interests of the owner. The Ottoman costume album is defined by an essential mutability. This chapter explores these ideas in relation to one particular eighteenth-century album, Costumes turcs, now in the British Museum. Costumes turcs exemplifies the kind of accidental cross-cultural collaboration typical of costume books: as it moved from Istanbul to Berlin to London, it was elaborated by successive owners, who added to its material state and reinterpreted and redefined it.