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BY-NC-ND 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter 2020

Fruits of Heaven: Artistic Knowledge and the Aesthetic Order of the “New World” in Albert Eckhout’s Still Lifes

From the book Competing Knowledges – Wissen im Widerstreit

  • Karin Gludovatz


In the 1620s, the expansionist politics of the Dutch West India Company focussed on areas of present-day Brazil, then colonised by the Portuguese. For only a few years, the United Provinces appropriated the North-Eastern part of the country, where Count Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen spent seven years as Governor of Dutch Brazil (1636-1643). Johan Maurits presented himself as a humanistic ruler whose entourage included artists and scholars, like the painters Albert Eckhout and Frans Post, the physician Willem Piso and the German naturalist and astronomer Georg Markgraf. The artists and explorers produced knowledge about the country and its populations which proved to be formative for the next two centuries - based on close observation and simultaneously with the distanced gaze of the colonist. The essay focuses on a picture series, which Eckhout perhaps painted for the residence in Mauritsstad (todays Recife). It consists of a serial typology of different peoples of the region and still lifes. Especially the still lifes - as exponents of a genre central for Dutch painting - expose negotiations between the artist’s knowledge of genre traditions, the Eurocentric hierarchies implied in colonial knowledge formations and his individual experience of landscape and people. The presentation will analyse the transformation of traditional artists’ knowledge in conflict with individual experience of alterity, framed by the conditions of colonialism.

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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