Elisa Antonietta Daniele
Tobacco, Gold, and Pearls: Performing Natural Resources in Conversion at the Baroque Court in Turin
Elisa Antonietta Daniele received her PhD from the Inter-University Doctoral School Venice Ca’ Foscari – IUAV - University of Verona. She completed one postdoctoral year (2018-19) at the UCLA Center for 17th– and 18th–Century Studies as an Ahmanson-Getty Postdoctoral Fellow and Research Associate with the project “Making Worlds: Art, Materiality, and Early Modern Globalization.” Her research interests focus on Baroque courtly performances, fifteenth-century depictions of earthly paradise, and anthropomorphic representations of the ecumene in early modern frescoes and prints. Starting in 2022, she will be taking up a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship split between the University of Bologna and UCLA.
Dancers twisting coiled ropes of tobacco as they move across the stage, Caribbean divers fishing for pearls in majestic seascapes, miniaturized rugged Alpine mountains laden with imaginary veins of gold and minerals: these are some of the landscapes and natural resources viewers would have seen in ballets staged at the Savoy court, Turin, during the lifetime of the regent Christine of Bourbon-France (1606-1663). By examining the drawings created by Giovanni Tommaso Borgonio to commemorate these events, together with a wide range of primary sources – from accounts of colonial America’s festival practices to botanical and medical treatises – this project investigates the way tobacco, gold, and pearls in particular were embedded in these narrations. The aim is to focus on these three case studies in order to probe the transformative power of these theatrical performances: how they transmuted environments into resources, abiotic and biotic resources into lucrative commodities, and destructive colonial forces into ideal landscapes. Finally, she will demonstrate how these spectacles conjured dynamics that resonate powerfully with the environmental challenges of the present day, but, at the time, also provoked innovative ways of representing the interplay among nature, commodities, and bodies through the potentialities of bodily animation and the transmutation of materials.