The Amerasian extension in the European imaginary, 1492-1700
Alexander Nagel is Professor at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU. His interest in art and religious reform produced Michelangelo and the Reform of Art (2000, winner of the Renaissance Society of America’s Gordan book prize), and The Controversy of Renaissance Art (2011, winner of the College Art Association’s Morey book prize). His interest in the multiple temporalities of art led to the publication of Anachronic Renaissance (co-authored with Christopher Wood, 2010) and Medieval Modern: Art out of Time (2012). His current work addresses questions of orientation and configurations of place in Renaissance art and culture. In 2016, he received an NEH Fellowship for a collaborative project (with Elizabeth Horodowich, NMSU) entitled Amerasia: A Renaissance Discovery.
Long after Columbus, Europeans continued to imagine an extension between Asia and the newly discovered lands of the Americas. By considering a range of texts, maps, objects, and images produced between 1492 and 1700, a coherent, if malleable, vision of a world comes into view, one where Mexico really was India, North America was an extension of China, and South America was populated by a variety biblical and Asian sites. American artifacts (often called “Indian” or “from India”) mingled with Asian objects in Western collections, making it necessary to think across the “area studies” that currently organize study of these materials. One is led to ask: What cartographic, cosmological, and cultural concepts stabilized this flexible yet resilient association of America and Asia? During his time in Florence, Professor Nagel will be studying maps, travel compilations, works of art, artifacts, and collection histories that shed light on the colorful but forgotten history of Amerasia, and of the Europe that imagined it.