American Monsters: Images of Brazilian Nature from Early Modern Europe

“The most disgusting and nauseating thing which man ever saw.” -Spanish chronicler Andres Bernaldez on Christopher Columbus’ first impression of Caribbean iguanas, 1513. IN HIS BOOK Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World, Harvard literature professor Stephen Greenblatt argues that “the production of a sense of the marvelous in the New World is at the very […]

Le Monde Aquatique

The images below are hand-colored details from two lavishly illustrated atlases of the world’s oceans produced by the workshops of Pieter Goos (d. 1670) and Johannes van Keulen (1654-1715).  Goos’ L’Atlas de la Mer, ou Monde Aquaticque (“Atlas of the Sea, or the Watery World”) the title page of which is visible at left, was published in Amsterdam in 1670. […]

Smokers and Drunkards in the Dutch Golden Age

I’ve recently been amassing an image library of paintings by the likes of Frans Hals, Adrian Brouwer, Gerrit Dou, Gabriel Metsu and Jan Steen — Dutch painters who were contemporaries of Rembrandt and Vermeer and, though less well known, were in my view almost as good. I suspect that Vermeer’s popularity has given us a […]

Paintings from Dutch Brazil

Dutch Brazil, which officially called itself ‘Nieuw Holland,’ was a short-lived (1630-1654) state in the north-east of Brazil that resulted from the Dutch Republic’s aggressive policy of territorial expansion at the expense of the Portuguese colonies in the first half of the seventeenth century — a policy that also led to the Dutch occupation of […]

A Borgesian Index and Images of the Indies

My apologies for the gap in posts recently – recently I’ve had to concentrate on my actual work a bit more. But I wanted to share two things: some extracts from the bizarrely detailed index of the seventeenth century buccaneer William Dampier‘s Voyages (1697) and two gorgeous images of the East Indies from the 1599 […]

Waterboarding in the Seventeenth Century Spice Islands

  “[He] poured the water softly upon his head until the cloth was full, up to the mouth and nostrils, and somewhat higher, so that he could not draw breath but he must suck in all the water.” — A True Relation of the Unjust, Cruel and Barbarous Proceedings against the English at Amboyna (London, […]

Image of the Week 5: The Restitution of Bahia, 1631

This remarkable map was produced by the cartographer João Teixera Albernaz the Elder (d. 1662) as part of his 1631 atlas Estado da Brasil (The State of Brazil). Lavishly illustrated in watercolors, the map meticulously depicts the recapture of the city of Salvador — the old colonial capital of Brazil — from an invading Dutch […]

Europeans as ‘Other’

They eat with their fingers instead of with chopsticks such as we use. They show their feelings without any self-control. They cannot understand the meaning of written characters. – From Charles R. Boxer, The Christian Century in Japan, 1549-1650 (London, 1951). Chinese and Japanese representations of sixteenth century Europeans have always fascinated me. We’re used […]