Identity of the Artist

A central theme in My Name is Red is the struggle between Eastern and Western art. The Eastern ideal states that the viewer should not be able to tell who the artist of an illumination is because by incorporating his own signature into his painting style, the artist seeks to take credit for his work and is therefore creating it for his own benefit instead of for Allah. Throughout the novel, it is shown that even those who outwardly profess to believe in this Eastern ideology do not truly buy into it. For example, Nuri Effendi tells Black, “it is important that a painting, through its beauty, summon us […] toward reflection and faith. The identity of the miniaturist is not important” (58).

However, on the next page Nuri shows off his own work to Black, “proudly [stating] that he finished a gilded royal insignia for Our Sultan” (59). In showing pride in his work and wanting Black to know that it was he who the Sultan hired to paint, Nuri betrays that he really does put stock in the identity of the miniaturist. I wonder if these inconsistencies in ideology are Pamuk’s way of showing how Istanbul is changing and becoming Westernized, or if he believes that the Eastern stance on art is an impossible ideal. Is it really possible to create a great piece of art without wanting credit for one’s work?

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