Larry Silver has long been a prominent advocate for the study of world art. His Art in History, a textbook published three decades ago, was one of the first of its kind to present “views from the outside” – vignettes on the art of Japan, China, Ancient Mexico, Ancient West Africa, Imperial Islam, Modern Mexico and Modern Africa – to complement chapters on more traditional subjects of the art history survey. Expanding upon this line of inquiry, Europe Views the World c.1500-1700 delivers what the title of its opening chapter promises, a “Preface to an Early Modern Global Art History.” Written in clear expository prose and argued in the lively style characteristic of Silver’s work, this new book synthesizes much recent scholarship and offers some new ideas on the ways in which Europeans depicted denizens of the rest of the world.
Although indelibly “Eurocentric” in its historical methodology, as Silver is quick to admit, Europe Views the World leads its readers in direct exploration of a host of non-European subjects. After an introduction providing a background in the treatment of monsters and aliens (including Muslims and Jews) in the Medieval European Imagination, it offers a tour of European encounters with peoples throughout the world starting with the Mediterranean, where Europeans’ depiction of Muslims changed from Saracens to Turks. It then proceeds through the Americas, Sub-Saharan Africa, and India to East Asia. Resembling the pattern of the earlier textbook, sections added “in response” discuss some non-European images of Europeans. The conclusion traces changes in European attitudes seen in the “new 18th century,” including the establishment of lasting connections with Australia. Copious notes and suggested readings, all in English, serve as rich repositories for anglophone readers wishing to delve further into the subjects treated in the book.
In general, the book adopts the position of much colonial and post-colonial criticism and many newer global histories that early modern European views of the world (largely meaning the people of the world) were largely negative. The introduction describes how medieval mindsets, in which antisemitic imagery and persecution of Jews were prominent, may have conditioned such disapproving attitudes. European imagery of others was subsequently often filled with prejudicial bias, damaging stereotypes, and nascent racism. While taking note of the emergence of more cosmopolitan outlooks and greater intellectual curiosity in the eighteenth century, the book suggests this situation continued unabated in later imperial times. According to Europe Views the World, “natural and cultural observations made by European powers in the lands they visited…almost never were disinterested” but instead “gathered with the goal of realizing useful settlements abroad and making the best use of exploitable natural resources.” (171)
Although the point is undeniable, it may be argued that European disapprobation of the peoples of the world is only one aspect of global inter-relations. The situation was both far deeper and richer. Recent scholarship has, for example, highlighted the role of Europeans, particularly Netherlanders, as mediators of material culture and ideas not only between Europe and other parts of the world, but within intra-Asian and intra-continental interchanges. The Mughal manuscript that Silver himself illustrates (fig. 70) shows, for example, a European bringing a lacquer box as gift. Europeans also linked with non-Europeans in networks in which materials, artifacts, and ideas circulated. For instance, the production of objects with lacquer that arrived in the Americas could have involved Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, South and Southeast Asians, Chinese, and Japanese
The avid attention that Europeans of the early modern period paid to features of the world environment also suggests a more complex mindset than is usually imagined. Silver duly addresses depictions of fauna and flora in other parts of the world by Netherlandish artists and European collecting of creatures and artifacts. But in the light of recent scholarship their extent seems underestimated and their possible significance undervalued. To the first point: discovery of multiple hands in Eckhout’s Brazilian paintings has been published, while ongoing research on their preparatory watercolors and gouaches in Krakow reveals more artists made them too. Other figures like Zacharias Wegenaer, who served the VOC in Brazil, Java, Japan, and South Africa, made many illustrations of flora, fauna, and insects as well as of people (including a slave market). To the second: a powerful argument by science historian Harold J. Cook has proposed that Dutch engagement in commerce led to a new emphasis on such values as objectivity, accumulation, and description, and laid the groundwork for the rise of science globally. And as far as accumulation is concerned, the 1607-1611 inventory of the most important Kunstkammer, that of Rudolf II in Prague, lists artifacts and specimens from far-off places first. To be sure, Silver recognizes that objects from Africa were prized in curiosity cabinets, but he calls them “craft items” (102) and does not make clear the degree to which princely collectors may have esteemed these items as objects of art.
The part ascribed to European Jewry is also, in my view, oversimplified, the book all but ignoring the role of the Sephardic diaspora in European expansion, enterprise, and imperialism. Over 40% of the population of Dutch Brazil was Jewish, and the number is higher if only European settlers or military are considered. Many New Christians (among them so-called Marranos) went to Portuguese Brazil early, where they, before the Dutch, also engaged in the sugar trade. Jews from Dutch Brazil and from Europe settled in Nieuw Amsterdam and in many places in the Caribbean. They were also involved in encouraging British conquest of Spanish colonies. Many conversos went to Spanish America. Sephardis also settled in Dutch and Portuguese footholds in India, as Inquisition records suggest. Peter Mark and José da Silva Horta have uncovered a “forgotten diaspora” in West Africa and suggested that people who were Jewish or identified themselves as such were involved in both the weapons and ivory trade, which included Amsterdam merchants. While the Inquisition consequently expanded all over, the complication of racial categories in Africa should make us cautious about introducing such notions. Likewise the exclusion from the Amsterdam synagogue of Baruch Spinoza and Uriel DaCosta (whose subsequent humiliation provoked his suicide), indicates that demands for orthodoxy could also characterize the Sephardic community itself.
Europe Views the World leaves much to be said about the variety of non-European depictions of Europeans, and illustrations of nature often derived from European art. European prints had a well-known impact on paintings in the Armenian church New Julfa and inside the Chihil Situn in Safavid Isfahan: less known is the prominent depiction of Europeans themselves on the central façade of the entrance to the Grand Bazaar there, and also on the exterior of the veranda of the Chihil Sutun where among others nude figures appear. The latter (which in context are to be associated with Europeans) may be compared to the often eroticized depiction of both women and men in European attire or poses derived from Europeans seen in Safavid miniatures. This may be related further to the adaptation by Persian youths of European (Dutch) fashions, for their homoerotic appeal, paralleling European sexualizing of non-Europeans that Silver emphasizes. Besides Japanese caricatures of others mentioned by him, Chinese painters treated the VOC ambassadors alongside the miniature zebu they gave as exotica.
While it attentively cites the Mughal adaptation of European sources in miniatures and albums, the book surprisingly does not pick up the more public deployment of European figural imagery in the forts in Lahore and Delhi and the use of decorative elements for imperial imagery. Nor does it mention Ebba Koch’s lengthy analysis of Florentine pietre dure depicting birds and flowers in the Delhi throne room. Depictions of naturalia in pietre dure (some conveyed by the VOC) and in Netherlandish books had an impact on Indian stone carving (e.g. in the Taj Mahal) that has lasted to the present.
Europe views the World provides a provocative and useful introduction to a large body of material, but leaves open many paths to future scholarship.
Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann
 Harald J. Cook, Matters of Exchange. Commerce, Medicine, and Science in the Dutch Golden Age, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2007.
 Peter Mark and José da Silva Horta, the Forgotten Diaspora. Jewish Communities in West Africa and the Making of the Atlantic World, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011.