The Exotic Otherness of Early Modern Imagery and Emblematics

Gomes, L. and MacArtney, H. (2020) The Exotic Otherness of Early Modern Imagery and Emblematics. 2022 MLA International Symposium, Glasgow, UK, 2-4 Jun 2022.

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Abstract

The Stirling Maxwell Collection of emblem books and of works related to visual arts, currently housed at the University of Glasgow's Archives and Special Collections, constitutes a unique resource for the study of emblems, iconography, and Golden Age Iberian art. In amassing his vast collection (including one of the largest collections of Spanish art outside of Spain) Sir William Stirling Maxwell (1818-1878) exercised a healthy curiosity about art in Iberia, its artists and subjects, as well as their social, political, and historical context. His Annals of the Artists of Spain (1848) set new standards in the field of History of Art, with a substantial focus on Spanish Golden Age art that reflected his own private collecting practice and values. Informed by key works in the collection, this session will interrogate Otherness and Exoticism in the context of (but not limited to) slavery, colonisation, blackness, and Christians and Moors and Ottomans in Early Modern Iberia and its overseas dominions, and the Hapsburg Iberian and Austrian empires. Since their inception in 1531, emblems were often an integral part of the visual and textual discourses. Their assimilation into a literary and iconographic language does not fill a void, but rather complements and adds to a pre-existing common framework of meanings where ‘verba significant, res significant’ (Alciato: 1536). Permeations of emblematic iconography surface in other art forms, such as drama, poetry, and ‘novelas’ (short stories). They appear also in festivals and other important events in the social and political life of Early Modern Europe. Festivals and pageants, in particular, brought together a host of artists and crafts (from poets to printers, painters to architects, sculptors to musicians, and many others), collaborating to promote the central tenet of the event. A common worldview, therefore, is endorsed, which, being public art for immediate consumption, also simplifies and polarizes perspectives of radical Otherness. Aligning with the symposium theme of ‘Welcoming the radically other (tout autre)’, we explore how early sixteenth-century language of love in ‘novelas’ can be seen as othering non-conforming individuals in Iberia. We will interrogate known and established visual representations of the varied gamut of Otherness present in Early Modern Spain to show degrees of conformity. Concurrently, leading Spanish artists (painters such as the painters Juan de Valdés Leal and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, but also sculptors, architects, and a range of other craftsmen) collaborated in an uncompromising display of a radical Counter-Reformation idealized society. Parallel to this, however, we also find surprising occasions of celebration of acceptance of Otherness in the Habsburg Austrian Empire, evidence that the expected opposing views of Us vs Others was not always as simplistic as is often portrayed. Our Session, however, also straddles into the symposium themes of ‘Decolonial thinking (different modes of “writing back” to the Empire)’, to interrogate Early Modern views of the Other in Latin America and Brazil, their passive acceptance into the present day welcoming discourses of otherness, proposing an alternative perspective (indeed, frame of mind) to interpret inherited terminology and descriptors in the digital medium.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Keywords:Emblems, exotic, otherness, race, Early Modern, Spain, Iberia, Portugal, Latin America, Moors, Habsburg.
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:MacArtney, Dr Hilary and Gomes, Dr Luis
Authors: Gomes, L., and MacArtney, H.
Subjects:N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > NE Print media
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
P Language and Literature > PQ Romance literatures > PQ6001 Spanish Literature. General Works
College/School:College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
College of Arts > School of Modern Languages and Cultures > Hispanic Studies
Research Group:Stirling Maxwell Centre

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