Cover image for A New Antiquity: Art and Humanity as Universal, 1400–1600 By Alessandra Russo

A New Antiquity

Art and Humanity as Universal, 1400–1600

Alessandra Russo

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$99.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-09569-1

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288 pages
7" × 10"
35 color/40 b&w illustrations
2024

A New Antiquity

Art and Humanity as Universal, 1400–1600

Alessandra Russo

“Alessandra Russo fully restores the centrality of the plural notion of antiquity to the age of the first global interactions. Her reading of a range of writings by humanists, explorers, and missionaries subverts traditional accounts of the Renaissance and reveals how the material encounter with cultures and societies around the world led Europeans to theorize art as universal and redefine the human condition on this basis.”

 

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  • Bio
  • Table of Contents
  • Sample Chapters
  • Subjects
We tend to think of sixteenth-century European artistic theory as separate from the artworks displayed in the non-European sections of museums. Alessandra Russo argues otherwise. Instead of considering the European experience of “New World” artifacts and materials through the lenses of “curiosity” and “exoticism,” Russo asks a different question: What impact have these works had on the way we currently think about—and theorize—the arts?

Centering her study on a vast corpus of early modern textual and visual sources, Russo contends that the subtlety and inventiveness of the myriad of American, Asian, and African creations that were pillaged, exchanged, and often eventually destroyed in the context of Iberian colonization—including sculpture, painting, metalwork, mosaic, carving, architecture, and masonry—actually challenged and revolutionized sixteenth-century European definitions of what art is and what it means to be human. In this way, artifacts coming from outside Europe between 1400 and 1600 played a definitive role in what are considered distinctively European transformations: the redefinition of the frontier between the “mechanical” and the “liberal” arts and a new conception of the figure of the artist.

Original and convincing, A New Antiquity is a pathbreaking study that disrupts existing conceptions of Renaissance art and early modern humanity. It will be required reading for art historians specializing in the Renaissance,scholars of Iberian and Latin American cultures and global studies, and anyone interested in anthropology and aesthetics.

“Alessandra Russo fully restores the centrality of the plural notion of antiquity to the age of the first global interactions. Her reading of a range of writings by humanists, explorers, and missionaries subverts traditional accounts of the Renaissance and reveals how the material encounter with cultures and societies around the world led Europeans to theorize art as universal and redefine the human condition on this basis.”
“Alessandra Russo’s indispensable book excavates an early modern moment when the skill and exquisite beauty manifest in art objects from around the globe served as an argument for an ethics of universal humanity. Without losing sight of the violence of European colonialism, Russo mobilizes perceptive close readings of aesthetic encounters to reveal a countertradition that has much to teach us today. This deeply researched and eloquent undertaking promises to reorient fundamentally the history of the European Renaissance and of early modern art.”

Alessandra Russo is Professor in the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures at Columbia University. She is the author of The Untranslatable Image: A Mestizo History of the Arts in New Spain, 1500–160 and El realismo circular: Tierras, espacios y paisajes de la cartografía indígena novohispana, siglos XVI y XVII and a coeditor of Images Take Flight: Feather Art in Mexico and Europe.

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgments

Introduction: A Revolution in Thought

1. Lights on the Antipodes: “Made Throughout the Entire World”

2. Acuity Through Art: Artifact-Based, Oceanic Humanism

3. An Indestructible “Indian” Universe of Artists: Thinking with Hands

4. The Sublime Art of the Idol: From Forensic to Aesthetic Judgment

5. Novel Territories of Painting: Coordinates for Another Renaissance

Conclusions: A New Artistic World

Notes

Bibliography

Index

Download a PDF sample chapter here: Introduction