Building the Image of the Portuguese Empire The Power of Quadratura Painting in Colonial Brazil
PDF, 38 pages
This essay aims to deepen the dynamics of circulation and re-invention of “quadratura” painting in Portuguese America throughout the 18th century. It focuses on the modalities of reception and transformation of original models produced by Bolognese artists in the 17th century (A. Mitelli and A. M. Colonna) and their Atlantic diffusion, namely in Portugal and in colonial Brazil during the reign of D. John V (V. Bacherelli, N. Nasoni, A. Simões Ribeiro, J. de Deus Sepúlveda). The art of “quadratura” builds and displays the symbolic and hierarchical structure of the power/s. It is able to fully meet the political, cultural and visual demands of the Lusitanian court, of the colony’s elites and of the social groups that integrate the complex process of construction of the Portuguese empire in America.
Images have always played a vital role in political communication and in the visualization of power structures and hierarchies. They gain even more importance in situations where non-verbal communication prevails: In the negotiation processes between two (or more) different cultures, the language of the visual is often thought of as the most effective way to acquaint (and overpower) the others with one’s own principles, beliefs, and value systems. Scores of these asymmetrical exchange situations have taken place in the Portuguese overseas empire since its gradual expansion in the 16th century.
This book offers new insights into the broad and differentiated spectrum of functions images could assume in political contexts in those areas dominated by the Portuguese in early modern times. How were objects and artifacts staged and handled to generate new layers of meaning and visualize political ideas and concepts? And what were the respective reasons, means, and effects of the visualization of Portuguese power and politics?