Juan Muñoz, Portrait of a Turkish Man, 1995. Bronze with painted patina, 25 × 22 × 29 inches (63.5 × 55.9 × 73.7 cm). Gift of Barbara Lee, in honor of Jill Medvedow. Courtesy the Estate of Juan Muñoz. © Juan Muñoz
Casting realistic, slightly under-life-size human figures in bronze, Spanish sculptor Juan Muñoz was interested in the transitory moments when the viewer contrasts what is recognizable from what is unknown to create, in his words “a wide distance between the spectator and the object.” During a four-week residency in 1995 at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Muñoz created a series of objects that responded to a work in the museum’s collection, the Gentile Bellini miniature Portrait of a Seated Turkish Scribe or Artist (1478–80). Muñoz’s Portrait of a Turkish Man, a larger representation of the seated scribe, draws from a speculative narrative developed in the drawing. Other works included in the Gardner exhibition was a sound installation that involved a stereo speaker floating in the Muddy River across the street from the museum. The speaker, visible from the second-story window of the Early Italian Room where Muñoz’s sculpture was installed, transmitted a voiceover from an Arabic speaker, transforming Muñoz’s sculpture into an open-mouthed vessel.