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Tyler Fellow Update: Merih Danalı

Posted On November 21, 2014 | 08:54 am | by jessicas | Permalink

I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Art and Architectural History at Harvard University. I received my BA in economics at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, and my MA in the history of art at Pennsylvania State University. My research focuses on visual and cultural encounters between Byzantium and the Islamic world (ca. 1300–1453), and the impact of these encounters on late Byzantine artistic, cultural, and political identity.

This semester, I have had the privilege to be in residence at Dumbarton Oaks with a very stimulating cohort, to have my office in the library where I have all the sources I need at arm’s reach, and to take my coffee breaks while strolling in the beautiful garden after lunch every day. It has truly been a wonderful experience being in this inspirational place, which has allowed me to make significant progress on my dissertation even though I am working full-time this semester at the Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (ICFA) as part of my fellowship requirement.

My institutional project at Dumbarton Oaks involves establishing the scope, content, and copyright status of some of ICFA’s most frequently used photographers’ collections, those of Ihor Ševčenko, Cyril Mango, Beat Brenk, Slobodan Ćurčić, Ann Wharton, and Thomas F. Mathews. At the very initial stages of my work here, I browsed several hundred photographs taken by each art historian, representing Byzantine monuments and artifacts from a wide geographical and chronological range, from Syria to Serbia and from late antiquity to the Ottoman period. I have taken a different journey with each photographer, following their footsteps as they moved from one site to another photographing monuments, fragments, and inscriptions. Having familiarized myself with their work, I was then able to assess, identify, and describe a large corpus of physically separated visual material for each photographer, and then arrange them intellectually. In the meantime, I was able to reattribute a number of formerly misidentified or unidentified photographs.

My work at the ICFA has also been very beneficial for my dissertation research. While working here, I was informed about the existence of a restoration report dated to 1989 as well as some unpublished photographs of a partially uncovered mosaic panel in Hagia Sophia, which is the subject of one of my chapters. In addition, while accessing the material that will form Cyril Mango’s collection, I was very excited to find out that Mango deposited color slides of the watercolor reproductions of this mosaic panel. These watercolors, which were executed by the Fossati brothers in the nineteenth century, and copies of which Mango acquired from the Bellinzona Archives in Zurich, constitute important visual documents for the study of the mosaic portrait.

My dual status here at Dumbarton Oaks as a Fellow as well as a staff member significantly enhanced my experience as a scholar in residence here, and I am grateful for the opportunity.