In a 2006 state-of-the field essay, I wrote that “scholars have recently begun to examine the contact between Europe’s art and other regions of the world after 1492.”[i] In the dozen years since then, that trickle has become a torrent, the subject of HNA sessions as well as important anthologies, such as this recent NKJ volume.[ii] To review such a volume without merely itemizing its individual essays could evoke another review essay on this subfield, but it is important to note the varied methodologies that are evoked by the notion of early modern visual globalism.
This topic invokes many variables crucial to art history, especially the movement of both artists and artworks across boundaries, to become part of the burgeoning field of collections analysis, here Kunst- und Wunderkammern.[iii] Varied representations of the “exotic,” especially in the Netherlands, including books and maps, peoples as well as animals and plants, also absorbed artistic attentions.[iv] The attention to European representations and collections emerges naturally from the history of art history, but increasing scholarly scrutiny is given to the influence by European visual novelties on the countries encountered during the process of exploration and colonization.[v]
Many of the essays in the NKJ volume under review align with these varied approaches. Interested readers will find much stimulating in the introduction by Weststeijn and the concluding overview by Kaufmann. Weststeijn (7-26) stresses that political consciousness and socio-economic concerns outweighed any cultural awareness of the “global,” especially in the Amsterdam network. Power, as Julie Hochstrasser has examined for the subliminal dimension of still lifes, defined both consumption and consciousness.[vi] Often representations of the other or the exotic instructively provide self-imaging. And while Weststeijn warns against Eurocentric bias, a recurrent concern throughout the volume, it is repeatedly honored in the breach in the essays.
Kaufmann, an active and leading contributor to this global topic, stresses (273-95) the “entangled” nature of these connections and evokes Fernand Braudel’s Italian model of Mediterranean cultural dominance to consider the Dutch international role across the Indian Ocean. Yet while the Dutch were mediators and transmitters of objects and imagery, they could hardly be seen as a center for a periphery in the traditional sense of an empire, thus local exchanges form his intended focus. Kaufmann evokes the case of Philips Angel, largely recalled in Dutch scholarship for his 1642 remarks on art theory, but also an artist on the move via the VOC to Ceylon, Batavia, and finally the Persian Empire.[vii] He also foregrounds Zacharias Wagner, chiefly known as a copyist of Dutch Brazilian imagery but also a global traveler: Brazil, Java, China, Japan, and South Africa, where he even served as the second governor of the Cape Colony.
Many essays in the NKJ volume address European representations, whether as exports to foreign lands or as imagery of newly discovered people. In Nicole Blackwood’s initial essay (29-53), lost images by Cornelis Ketel of Inuits (echoed by John White’s watercolors) complement his surviving portrait of expedition leader Martin Frobisher (Oxford, Bodleian). Julie Hochstrasser (197-230) introduces anonymous South African drawings of the Khoikhoi from the network of VOC director Nicolaas Witsen (on whom a thorough study is sorely needed, all the more now); she relates them to other ethnographic types in Dutch maps and book illustrations. By contrast, Stephanie Porras (55-78) focuses on extromission; she considers the “viral” redistribution of Maarten de Vos’s popular Saint Michael the Archangel (painting, 1581; engraving by Wierix, 1584), widely copied in other graphics and popular in New Spain, both Mexico and Peru, as an altarpiece subject. Finally, two pieces address Rubens’s appropriation of “pagan” and “Indian” motifs. Barbara Uppenkamp (113-41) examines more broadly the use of such imagery in his (Prague) Martyrdom of St. Thomas and his (Vienna) Miracles of St. Francis Xavier, while Weststeijn with Lennert Gesterkamp (143-69) convincingly corrects the earlier identification by Stephanie Schrader of Rubens’s “Korean Man” drawing (Los Angeles, Getty).[viii] They reveal a direct VOC linkage, using an unpublished album amicorum of 1601 to show that this figure is a Chinese merchant named Yppong, who briefly visited Europe and included authentic Chinese calligraphy in the same album.
Chinese appropriation of a Dutch print model appears in a case study by Ching-Ling Wang (233-50). Han Huaide’s Bull in a Forest presents an eighteenth-century Suzhou colored woodcut (Berlin), important for both the history of printmaking in East Asia as well as for its specific replication of a Dutch engraving, Boetius à Bolswert after Abraham Bloemart (ca. 1610/11).
But the volume also includes instances of the exchange of material objects, often produced for export or else produced in Europe to imitate Asian models. Christine Göttler (81-110) examines “Indian daggers with idols,” the kris knives interpreted as demonic in Netherlandish collections and in frequent depictions. In the manner of Dutch copies after Chinese porcelains, Annemarie Klootwijk (253-71) discusses Dutch taste for “japanned” lacquer. Ebeltje Hartkamp-Jonxis (171-95) points to the hybrid production of Ceylon ivory caskets and cabinets on Dutch commission, 1640-1710, much as the Portuguese commissioned ivory salt cellars and carved tusks from West Africa.[ix]
Even these material objects reveal the complexities of mediation and exchange in the early modern Dutch global world, which went both ways and also stimulated hybrid products, for avid consumers and collectors in the homeland, newly curious about the expanded reach from Amsterdam, but also in foreign courts that received European artworks or the artists who also followed the fleet to far-flung capitals. These case studies hint at wider overviews by such active authors, promising new perspectives about this Golden Century but also about the emerging incorporation and exchange of foreign elements into Europe – including the Chinoiserie and Turquerie of the following century.
University of Pennsylvania
[i] Larry Silver, “Arts and Minds: Scholarship on Early Modern Art History (Northern Europe),” Renaissance Quarterly , p. 366-67. The following references are highly selective, focusing chiefly on recent Anglophone studies.
[ii] Especially Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann and Michael North, eds., Mediating Netherlandish Art and Material Culture in Asia (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2014), notably the culminating essay, Astrid Erll, “Circulating Art and Material Culture. A Model of Transcultural Mediation,” ibid., 312-28; also Benjamin Schmidt, Inventing Exoticism. Geography, Globalism, and Europe’s Early Modern World (Philadelphia: Penn Press, 2015). Attention must be paid to the three early modern volumes, David Bindman and Henry Louis Gates, jr., gen. eds., The Image of the Black in Western Art (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2010-11), Vol. III, pts 1-3.
[iii] Daniela Bleichmar and Peter Mancall, eds., Collecting Across Cultures. Material Exchanges in the Early Modern Atlantic World (Philadelphia: Penn Press, 2011); Lia Markey, Imagining the Americas in Medici Florence (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2016); or a major exhibition. Karina Corrigan, Jan van Campen, and Femke Diercks, eds., Asia in Amsterdam (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016).
[iv] Elizabeth Sutton, Early Modern Dutch Prints of Africa (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012); Surekha Davies, Renaissance Ethnography and the Invention of the Human (Cam-bridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016); Michiel van Groesen, Amsterdam’s Atlantic (Philadelphia: Penn Press, 2017). Plus a current exhibition, Stephanie Schrader, ed., Rembrandt and the Inspiration of India (Los Angeles: Getty Museum, 2018).
[v] Gauvin Bailey, A Global Partnership: Art on the Jesuit Missions in Asia and Latin America, 1542-1773 (Toronto: U. Toronto Press, 1999); Timon Screech, The Western Scientific Gaze and Popular Imagery in Later Edo Japan (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 1996) remain foundational.
[vi] Julie Hochstrasser, Still Life and Trade in the Dutch Golden Age (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007).
[vii] Gary Schwartz, “Terms of Reception. Europeans and Persians and Each Other’s Art,” in Kaufmann and North, 25-63, esp. 34-36. See also NKJ vol. 63 (2014), Art and Migration. Netherlandish Artists on the Move, 1400-1750.
[viii] Stephanie Schrader, ed., Looking East. Rubens’s Encounter with Asia, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: Getty Museum, 2013).
[ix] Anne-Marie Jordan Gschwend and Johannes Belz, eds., Elfenbeine von Ceylon. Luxusgüter für Katharina von Habsburg, exh. cat. (Zurich: Kunsthaus, 2010); Peter Mark, “Portugal in West Africa. The Afro-Portuguese Ivories,” in Jay Levenson, ed., Encompassing the Globe. Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Essays. (Washington, DC: Sackler Gallery, 2007), 77-85.