Roxana Coman: Subjects and Agents of Orientalism in the 19th century Romania: Carol Popp de Szathmary and Theodor Aman

19.01.2022, Vorlesung, online

Invitation to an online lecture by the Orient Institut Istanbul


IMPORTANT NOTICE: To attend this online lecture via Zoom, prior registration is necessary: Please send an email specifying your name and academic affiliation to events(at) by 17 January 2022 (Monday) at the latest. For technical reasons, the number of participants is limited. You will be informed about the organizational and technical procedure before the lecture starts.


As is the case with many other former Ottoman regions, Romania’s relation with its imperial Ottoman legacy is a complex, multilayered, contradictory, and ambiguous one. These ambiguities seem to permeate almost every aspect of 19th and 20th century’s Romanian culture and society in the constructivist spirit of searching for roots while building a new and modern nation state. However, the double role of being both subject and agent of an Orientalist gaze becomes even more apparent in visual culture. Artists Carol Popp de Szathmary (1812-1887), born and educated in Habsburg Transylvania, and Theodor Aman (1831-1891), the descendent of an Aromanian merchant from Oltenia, represent two of the kaleidoscopic discourses on what was perceived and constructed as Oriental in 19th century Romania. Both used various artistic mediums and techniques in their work, cultivated a tight knit relationship with Romanian central authorities and nationalists, and were quite adept in what would today be called marketing strategies. This talk will address the complexities of their artworks as products of social representations of history (Pascal Ory) making use of specific conventions of representation (Peter Burke) that mediate a certain text as image/image as text approach to art.


Dr. Roxana Coman is a museologist working in the Modern and Contemporary History department of the Bucharest Municipality Museum. She studied Art History and Romanian Modern History at the University of Bucharest, with a BA and MA in Art History and a PhD in History. Volunteering during her BA and MA studies in the National Museum of Art of Romania, she has pursued since 2016 a career in the Bucharest Municipality Museum as both a museum educator and a curator.

Her research interests cover a broad and interconnected spectrum of topics ranging from the history of Romanian collections and nationalism, the cultural history of emotions, oriental representations in Romanian Modern Art, Ottoman material culture in the two former provinces of Wallachia and Moldavia, to Ottoman residential architecture. Exploring in her PhD the various narratives and representations of what was constructed as Oriental vs Romanian during the 19th century by drawing on a great variety of sources, she continued to research the dynamic between the presence of Ottoman material culture in Wallachia and Moldavia, and the strategies of the national state of Romania to deal with its Ottoman legacy.