Histories of Global Netherlandish Art, 1550-1750


24 October 2019
15:00 - 17:00
Kromme Nieuwegracht 80, Ravensteijnzaal, Utrecht

6th Global Art History and Heritage Seminar: Benjamin Smith

Prof. Benjamin Schmidt (University of Washington, Seattle): From Hot Reverence to Cold Sweat: Christian Art and the Paradox of Iconoclasm in Early Modern Japan 

This paper explores the idea and category of ‘Christian art’ in Tokugawa Japan, focusing on fumi-e (踏み絵) or ‘stepping-on pictures’.  Christian art, in the form of prints, paintings, and sculpture, flowed copiously from early modern Europe to Japan, where it was variously received, understood, and deployed—as religious artifact, visual novelty, ‘memento religio’, instrument of torment, etc. The history of e-fumi, or ritualized picture-stepping, offers a fascinating opportunity to think about the radically different ways Christian artifacts were consumed outside of Europe.  It also sheds light, more broadly, on the various ways non-Europeans engaged with and appropriated European forms and aesthetics; and, it elucidates, in subtle and fascinating ways, the differences no less similarities of these cross-cultural engagements.

Benjamin Schmidt is the Costigan Professor of History at the University of Washington, Seattle, and the author, most recently, of Inventing Exoticism: Geography, Globalism, and Europe’s Early Modern World (2015; pbk 2019; Chinese trans. 2020), which was selected as a finalist for the Kenshur Prize. He has published widely on early modern cultural, visual, and material history, including Innocence Abroad: The Dutch Imagination and the New World (2001; pbk 2006), which won the Renaissance Society of America’s Gordan Prize and the Holland Society’s Hendricks Prize. His current work explores various ways early modern Europeans engaged with Asia through material technologies and the material arts.