Accepted paper:

A Silken Diplomacy: Venetian Luxury Gifts for the Ottoman Empire in the Renaissance

Author:

Luca Molà (European University Institute)

Paper short abstract:

The essay analyses the diplomatic gifts that the Republic of Venice sent to the Ottoman Empire during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. This paper argues that Venetian shipments of luxury goods produced by the city's industries knew an acceleration in the second half of the sixteenth century

Paper long abstract:

The essay analyzises the diplomatic gifts that the Republic of Venice sent to the Ottoman Empire during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Based on a tradition going back to the early expansion of the Turks in the Mediterranean and the Balkans, the Venetian shipments of highly prized luxury goods produced by the city's industries knew a progressive acceleration in the second half of the sixteenth century. Silk fabrics soon took the lead as the most appreciated gifts, followed by glass, mirrors, woolen cloth, clocks and a range of other items, frequently mixed together. At the centre of this diplomatic exchange was not only the court of the Sultan and his relatives and Vizirs in Istanbul, but also a complex network of high and medium rank officers throughout the various regions of the Empire, to the point that by the end of the century these gifts became a sort of disguised tribute. In order to satisfy the continuous requests for original objects coming from the Ottoman court, from the 1580s onward the government of Venice launched public competions among skilled craftsmen with the request of inventing procedures that would allow the production of new goods, thus pushing forward the technical boundaries of the Venetian artisans. In conclusion, diplomatic gifts acted as a drinving force for technological innovation.

panel P12
Global gifts: material culture and diplomatic exchange in the Early Modern world