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In “My Name is Red" by Orhan Pamuk, the character Enishte Effendi, for his part, believes that “’Every picture serves to tell a story," and that “The miniaturist…depicts the most vital scenes," which serves to “beautify the manuscript we read" (Pahmuk 25). Unlike the paintings of old, which considered certain objects and images to be taboo in terms of the subject matter they sought to represent, Enishte Effendi believes that the miniature paintings should depict “Our Sultan’s entire world…the material objects [as well as] the inner riches, the joys and fears of the realm" (Pahmuk 25). Enishte Effendi attributes this idea about the possibility of an expansive inclusiveness of miniature paintings to the “paintings of the Venetian masters" (Pahmuk 25). Enishte Effendi also discloses that he once believed that the relationship between the illuminated miniature painting and the manuscript was a symbiotic one.

In “My Name is Red" by Orhan Pamuk the character Enishte Effedi explains that the “illustration comes at once to our aid" when “our intellect and imagination are at pains" to understand the meaning of a story. Even still, it is important to note that in stating this, he is careful to point out that the “painting without its accompanying story is an impossibility" (Pahmuk 26). This philosophy of painting changed, however, after his second trip to Venice, where he encountered a painting that bewildered him. After studying the painting for some time, Enishte Effendi was forced to conclude, in one of the important quotes from “My Name is Red” by the author of this novel Orhan Pamuk, “the underlying tale was the picture itself. The painting wasn’t the extension of a story at all, it was something in its own right" (Pahmuk 26).

The other important evolution that marks the discrepancy between the two views of miniature painting involve the notion of anonymity. In the earliest days of miniature painting, the artist of “true art and genuine virtuosity" could “paint an incomparable masterpiece without leaving even a trace of his identity" (Pahmuk 18) which means that the work itself stood alone and was not something that was related to artist, but stood on its own value, devoid of the outside context. While it is true that many other miniaturists might recognize the style of their colleague, the painter was not to be overtly present in his work. As ideas about the very processes and meanings of painting changed, however, along with the subjects and objects that such miniature paintings could include, so too did the idea about the painter’s position with respect to the painting begin to change. This, then, was another point of contention between traditionalists and what might be called modernists. In short, the main difference between these two is the notion of the presence of the artist within a particular work.

Elegant Effendi was a miniaturist who was murdered because he accused Black of committing “an unpardonable sin by illustrating that book" (Pahmuk 19). Elegant Effendi believed that the “picture [they] made is in fact a desecration…a heresy, a sacrilege that no decent man would have the gall to commit" (Pahmuk 19). Black knows that Elegant would be able to convince other people of Black’s sacrilege because Elegant’s words in one of the important quotations from “My Name is Red” by Orhan Pamuk, “had such strength and gravity that… people would heed them, hoping that they would prove true about miserable creatures other than themselves" (Pahmuk 19). Black feels compelled to kill Elegant not only because of their differing beliefs about the types of paintings that should be made, but also the reasons for painting miniatures. Black is a pragmatist who paints because it is a job, and one which pays well. He advocates painting that does not hold the painters “responsible for anything more than the illustration" (Pahmuk 20). Elegant, on the other hand, believes that the painters have been given a gift from Allah himself, and that the painters “have responsibilities" (Pahmuk 20).

Thus, Elegant Effendi’s murder is not merely a personal attack based on Black’s sense of being threatened by Elegant’s beliefs, which differ significantly from his own. Rather, Elegant’s murder serves as the symbolic death of the traditional approach to miniaturist paintings, both in terms of philosophy and practice. To highlight this point it is worth looking at the very beginning of the text. In the opening chapter of My Name is Red, Elegant Effendi proclaims that his “death conceals an appalling conspiracy against our religion, our traditions, and the way we see the world" (Pahmuk 5). It is important, then, to understand that the shift that occurred, both literal and symbolic, after Elegant Effendi’s brutal death is not only about miniature paintings and art itself, but about the very relationship to and understanding of the society in which the miniaturists lived and the role that their work played in that society. Elegant Effendi notes that this transition, which he himself considers a fall from grace, was predicted by the cleric Nusret Hoja of Ezurum. Nusret Hoja predicted “attributed the catastrophes that had befallen Istanbul in the last ten years…to our having strayed from the path of the Prophet, to disregard for the strictures of the Glorious Koran," and to other self-indulgences (Pahmuk 9). Thus, Elegant’s death is merely one more event signaling the decline of the great empire and centuries old traditions.

Work Cited

Pahmuk, Orhan. My Name is Red. New York: Vintage, 2001.