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 […]

Jahangir’s Turkey: Early Modern Globalization and Exotic Animals

The above image is one of my favorite examples of the bizarre cross-pollinations that early modern globalization brought about. It is a detail from a lavish watercolor painting created in 1618 by Bichitr for the Mughal emperor Jahangir (1569-1627). Here we find the strange juxtaposition of James I and VI of England and Scotland (1566-1625) […]

Lisbon before the Great Earthquake

“Come, ye philosophers, who cry, ‘All’s well,’And contemplate this ruin of a world.Behold these shreds and cinders of your race… …Did fallen Lisbon deeper drink of viceThan London, Paris, or sunlit Madrid?” – Voltaire, On the Lisbon Disaster (1755) The Great Lisbon Earthquake and Tsunami of 1755 sent reverberations throughout European society. Leveling around 85% […]

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 […]

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,’ Redux [February 2011 update]

A post today inspired by last week’s post on early modern Japanese and Chinese depictions of Europeans. Thinking about that led me to look more closely at an image I’ve had filed away for awhile — a remarkable example of sixteenth century Japanese Nanban (‘Southern Barbarian’) art depicting a group of Portuguese merchants at a […]

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 […]