From Descriptive/Verbal to Pictorial Visualizations Appropriating Images of Nature in the Portuguese Empire in Asia (16th and 17th Centuries)
PDF, 27 pages
Portuguese empire in the early modern period was an unprecedented source of visual experience. In this article, my aim is to understand the way in which the empire provided the political ecology for the creation of images and visualization of Asian nature in medico-botanical books and the first-hand accounts of the 16th and the early 17th century. By focusing more closely on the printed books by the three most famous authors on Asian materia medica (Garcia de Orta, Cristóvão da Costa and Charles de l’Ecluse), I trace the moments in the transition between textual/verbal to pictorial visualization and link it with the changing nature of imperial patronage.
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?