Journey Across Waters: Allegories of Navigation in the Global Renaissance
Andrew H. Chen is an art historian with particular interests in visual-verbal relationships and the cultural mediation of response. He received an AB from Harvard and his PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2016. His first book, Flagellant Confraternities and Italian Art: Ritual and Experience, was published in 2018. An interest in portraiture has led to the identification, with Charlotte Bolland, of works by a Netherlandish artist employed at the Tudor court. This and other research on medieval and Renaissance art have been published in the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Rivista di storia della miniatura, Word & Image, Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz, and The Burlington Magazine.
In the Renaissance, the coincidence of particular cultural orientations with unprecedented opportunity for movement opened up new expressive possibilities for visualizing what had been, since antiquity, a versatile metaphor for life: a journey across waters. This project traces the history of this visual metaphor from the time of its redeployment in Florentine and Venetian allegory of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries into the age of the global Jesuit missions ca. 1600. Images of ship and sail were instrumental to the existential thinking of Florentine pepper merchant Filippo Sassetti; the formation of links across cultures in new colonial contexts made possible new readings of journeys in Dante’s Commedia; an Italian composition showing Christ on an allegorical ship was remediated in the border of a Mughal album and in the form of small-scale ivory plaques created by Chinese carvers in Macau and the Philippines. Examination of sources related to these topics permits study of not only the movement of images across media and geographies, but also the interaction of cultural coding systems themselves. In Italy, growing knowledge of pictorial script-forms used in Mesoamerica and Asia precipitated doubts around, and reconceptualizations of, the very notion of symbolic image over the course of the sixteenth century.