Christopher P. Heuer
The Roman Arctic
Christopher P. Heuer is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Rochester, where he teaches in the Graduate Program in Visual and Cultural Studies. A former Fulbright scholar, he has held appointments as Samuel H. Kress Fellow at the Kunsthistorisch Instituut of the Rijksuniversiteit Leiden, Henkel-Stifting Fellow at the Humboldt-Universität Berlin, senior fellow at CASVA, and faculty posts in the Departments of Art & Archaeology at Columbia University (2005-2007) and Princeton University (2007-2014). Until 2017, he directed the Clark Art Institute's Research and Academic Program. Heuer’s new book about the Renaissance arctic, Into the White, will appear with Zone Books/MIT Press in early 2019.
The first sustained book about the arctic was produced not in North Europe but in Rome. There, in 1555, the Uppsala bishop Olaus Magnus (1490-1557), forced out of his diocese by Sweden's Lutheran conversion, published his monumental Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus (literally: History of the People Who Live Under the Stars), illustrated with hundreds of woodcuts. Olaus's chapters covered subjects including runes, comets, sea monsters, Icelandic sea currents, paganism, and, in three separate chapters, snowflakes; “it seems more a matter for amazement than enquiry” wrote Olaus, “why and how so many shapes and forms, which elude the skill of any artist you choose to name, are suddenly stamped upon such soft, tiny objects.” Long famed as a key work of “ethnography,” the Historia uses Northern realms (and their representation) as the basis for an unprecedented interrogation of images during the Counter-Reformation. Along the way, Olaus redefined early modern ideas of theological and natural catastrophe.