Dynamic Otherness: Technologies of Representation in Colonial Dutch Brazil


  • Shweta Raghu Dartmouth College, Yale University




Soon after Dutch explorers reached the port at Pernambuco in the early seventeenth century, expeditions of scientists and artists were sent to the new territories to study the flora, fauna, and indigenous people of the new territories. These, along with slaves who were imported from the western coast of Africa, became common subjects for artists tasked with examining the region. Among these artists were Albert Eckhout and Frans Post, who in the 1640s produced a series of paintings illustrating Tapuya natives, African slaves, and local tropical flora. But scholarly discussions of the painters’ oeuvres often isolate the artists within their own tradition, eschewing comparisons with contemporary exoticist painting in the Netherlands. Yet both painters were educated in the humanistic traditions of representation and scientific precision, and only completed their canvases upon their return to the Low Countries. In this paper, I plan to contextualize Eckhout’s and Post’s paintings within contemporary discourses on representation, exoticism, and consumerism. In doing so, I intend to demonstrate that naturalistic representation practices transformed these canvases into realms in which the Netherlands’ foreign exploits could be consumed by domestic viewers. As such, these paintings rendered black slaves and Amerindian natives both subjects and objects- metonymies of the mercantile operations of the West Indies.