“Visual reflections”, the PIMo series edited by Paola von Wyss-Giacosa (University of Zurich), focuses on the cultural dimension of pictorial and material sources, highlighting their importance for the project and more generally for research in the field of connected histories.
Some of PIMo’s core themes – people, things, ideas, and paper in motion; cultural and emotional entanglements; histories of migration, displacement, and dispossession – and a cross-section of the stimulating approaches taken by participants in this multi-disciplinary project about histories of displacement within and from the Mediterranean (15th–20th centuries) are presented here.
Each short essay takes an image as a point of departure for reflecting on the multiple functions, meanings and expressions of the visual. The common aim is to share with a wider readership the relevance and fascination of exploring the historicity of representation, and the enduring implications of media presence and circulation.

Ignacio Chuecas Saldías, “A Lamp in the Holy City”: Sephardic Exile, Family Ties and the Messianic Jerusalem. The Ladino Version of the Passover Haggadah, Venice (1624)

By |2023-06-01T14:58:28+00:00June 1st, 2023|Visual Reflections|

On Wednesday 11 November 1665, Venetian public notary Angelo Maria Piccino received the last will of “Signora Ester Senior consort of Signore Josef Senior, Hebrewess,” penned by herself in the form of a sealed testament and handed to him, in person, in the house of her usual residence in the Ghetto Vecchio of Venice. In this document, which begins with the declaration of faith, “In the name of Adonay, Lord of Hosts, in whom I firmly believe”, Ester alludes to the material losses and childlessness that had affected her marriage; the existence of an absent sister, for whom she professed great love; and a nephew, identified as Manuel Aboab, son of her deceased brother. Among the pious dispositions, she makes bequests to her sister, her nephew, a child she had raised whom she names as “Abranelo”, and some relatives residing in Livorno and Aleppo. She also asks her executor to pay for a lamp which, in her intention, was to burn for a whole year in the holy city of Jerusalem (Fig. 1). The text of the will reflects the [...]

Loredana Lorizzo, Perceiving Others. Representing the Different in Baroque Europe

By |2023-06-02T15:25:43+00:00May 31st, 2023|Visual Reflections|

The production of pictorial, sculptural and engraved portraits greatly fostered knowledge of the Other. Effigies of African natives, Moors, slaves, Turks and ambassadors from distant lands helped to entrench or change certain opinions, while reshaping the image of Europe itself, which has always been multicultural and host to a constant struggle between its self-perception as an uncorrupted unicum and the reality of vital and inevitable exchange with other cultures. Images of the Other also penetrated Baroque Europe due to the widespread diffusion of engravings: a phenomenon that can be analysed through a selection of case studies. One of the best known is the representation of Antonio Manuel, Marquis Ne Vunda, ambassador of King Alvaro II of the Congo. He arrived in Rome in 1608 and after his death was celebrated with engravings and a magnificent funeral monument with an outstanding polychrome marble portrait in Santa Maria Maggiore. Another example which has not entered the critical debate to such an extent is provided by Moulay Al-Rashid ibn Sharif, sultan of Morocco from 1666 to 1672. Known as the Great Tafiletta, his [...]

Emanuele Giusti, Johann Fischer von Erlach, the Mediterranean and Persepolis

By |2023-05-31T17:14:53+00:00May 31st, 2023|Visual Reflections|

Johann Bernard Fischer von Erlach (1656-1723) is known as one of the most prominent representatives of European Baroque. His architectural work had a significant impact on the identity of imperial Vienna. However, Fischer von Erlach is also well-known for the Entwurff einer historischen Architectur. First published in 1721, the Entwurff consists of five books containing plates and descriptions in German and French. The scholarly literature on the Entwurff offers two major interpretations. The first sees the Entwurff as a repertoire of architectural examples to be perused by amateurs, while the second sees it as a history of architecture, more appealing to antiquarians, and the first of its kind in its universal reach. Arguably, Fischer himself intended the Entwurff to be seen as the former, stating in the preface that he wanted to: provide specimens of any sort of architecture to art amateurs, and new sources of inventions to those who are devoted to this activity, rather than instruct the savants. […] This is but a sketch; a show of different specimens of architecture. Nothing more should be seen in it. [...]

Katie Barclay, Legacies of Exile: The Stuarts in Rome

By |2023-03-26T19:49:23+00:00March 26th, 2023|Visual Reflections|

A portrait of Maria Clementina Sobieski (1702-1735) overlooks the left aisle of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It forms part of an elaborate monument to her memory, commissioned by Pope Clement XII, after her death in 1735, designed by Filippo Barigioni, with sculptures by Pietro Bracchi and a mosaic by Pietro Paulo Cristofari. Queen Clementina, the wife of James Francis Edward Stuart, the Jacobite claimant to the British throne and granddaughter of the Polish king John III Sobieski, had in the years before her death devoted her life to her faith, and especially the practice of charity, giving to the poor and serving them in hospitals. Her death, following a period of strict self-denial, including limited food, was treated as evidence of her saint-like existence and immediately capitalised on by the Church and her family. Clementina was presented as a model of piety, her status as queen marking her life the more remarkable while simultaneously affirming the power of the Church. Figure 1: Maria Clementina Sobieski Memorial, St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, CC 3.0 Kim Traynor. Clementina was a Jacobite queen. [...]

Philippe Bornet, The Mediterranean Space through South Indian Eyes, 1778–1786: Visual and Material Elements in the Varttamānappustakam

By |2023-03-26T19:40:38+00:00March 26th, 2023|Visual Reflections|

December 1779. Four men from distant Kerala are waiting for quarantine clearance in Genoa after sailing from Lisbon on a ship belonging to Swedish merchants. Some six years later, a letter was sent by one of these men from Lisbon to the Propaganda Fide in Rome, just before embarking on a boat, destination South India. After exposing details about the logistics of the planned travel, the letter was also referring to a ‘small collection of books costing about 6000 cruçades’, about to be transferred with its owner to South India. Who were these men and what were they doing in the Mediterranean? What can we learn from this case as to the circulation of material and visual goods between India and Europe in that period? And what were the books in that ‘small collection’? Figure 1: Last known letter of Kariyattil about his trip back to India, including a mention of a small collection of books worth of about 6000 cruçades that he took with him to India. The letter was sent to S. Borgia, secretary of the Propaganda Fide [...]

Giulia Iannuzzi, Early-Modern Luxury Timekeeping

By |2023-03-07T16:21:26+00:00March 6th, 2023|Visual Reflections|

An ivory diptych dial made soli deo gloria by Paulus Reinman (active 1575-1609) around 1600 in Nuremberg, at the time an important centre of manufacturing specialised in scientific instruments (Fig. 1). This pocket dial is part of a remarkable collection of objects for measuring and representing time, at the Poldi Pezzoli Museum in Milan (Italy). This type of dial is formed by two panels that fold flat when not in use, with a string between the inner surfaces casting a shadow. It was used to tell the time and, among other things, to regulate mechanical clocks. Clocks’ rapid technical development had in fact by no means caused the abandonment of gnomon-based methods, i.e., those systems, of which the sundial is the most well-known, that tell the time of the day by measuring the solar shadow cast by an object - the gnomon - on a flat surface. Figure 1. Paulus Reinman, ivory diptych dial, 1602, 11,3 x 9,2 cm. Poldi Pezzoli Museum, Milan (Italy), accession no. 4111. Photo courtesy of Poldi Pezzoli Museum, all rights reserved. In the invention of the [...]

Georgina Wilson, Water/marked

By |2022-12-22T13:45:41+00:00December 22nd, 2022|Visual Reflections|

One afternoon during the Paper in Motion symposium at the Arnamagnæan Institute, Copenhagen, our group of paper conservators, literary scholars, archivists, and digital humanists attempted to twist and clip small pieces of wire onto a mould to make a watermark. Having abandoned several more ambitious designs, I settled on a watermark in the shape of a boat: a half-moon shaped base, topped with a single sail. The wobbly result only vaguely captured some essence of boat-ness, but, as my freshly-made sheet of paper dried on a sheet of blue felt, I began to dwell on the aquatic connections between watermarks and the act of papermaking. It was by generating these interdisciplinary modes of thinking – in this case, moving between the material realities of papermaking, and the creative impulses of my own literary training – that the Paper in Motion workshop formed new connections between its participants’ differing areas of research. Figure 1                             Boat, watermark (Wilson, 2022) Where did the word watermark come from? In its first uses, a ‘water mark’ had nothing to do with paper at all, and [...]

Dónal Hassett, The Ile Sainte Marguerite: Geographies of Repression and Incarceration in the Colonial Mediterranean

By |2022-07-19T09:29:22+00:00July 19th, 2022|Visual Reflections|

The low clicking of the cicadas combines with the gentle lapping of the sea to block out all other noises. The canopy of Aleppo pines offers some much-needed shade on a hot June day. The bulk of the holidaymakers who boarded the ferry with me that morning in Cannes are now sunning themselves in one of the coves that dot the southern shore of the Ile Sainte Marguerite. Some might have briefly visited the island’s Fort Royal, best known as the place of incarceration of the mysterious Man in the Iron Mask immortalised in ink by Alexandre Dumas. Few, if any, will have made it to where I now find myself. The ticket vendor at the Fort was puzzled at my request for directions and Google Maps barely works out here on the island. No matter. This is a place best discovered in tranquil solitude. Amidst the encroaching vegetation, I can clearly see the carefully arranged lines of stones, each one marking the resting place of a North African once imprisoned on the island for their resistance to French colonial [...]

Andreas Isler, Wandering Images: A Dervish and his Garb

By |2022-06-22T10:19:37+00:00June 22nd, 2022|Visual Reflections|

A man stands in front of a door and looks the observer directly and intensely in the eyes. Under a tight-fitting cap, long dark hair and a beard can be seen framing his serious-looking face. He wears several layers of clothing under a dark coat, jewellery around his neck and several implements typical of his profession or, in other words, of the image he is supposed to give: a large leather bag, a vessel made of half a sea coconut from the Seychelles or coco-de-mer with a carrying chain, a curved signalling horn whose tip with its eye represents the face of a fish with its mouth wide open.   A postcard from Istanbul from the early 20th century shows this motif (Fig. 1). Its content is explained and categorised as briefly as possible by a legend in French in the bottom right-hand corner: “Derviche”. At the bottom left, the number 8 indicates that this image is part of a series of pictures. The reverse of this card does not reveal much more: apart from lines to mark the demarcation [...]

Marco Fratini, From Exile to Revenge: The Return of the Waldensians of Piedmont to Their Valleys in a Late-Seventeenth-Century Map

By |2022-06-22T10:08:53+00:00June 22nd, 2022|Visual Reflections|

The gaze ranges over the territory of the three valleys of western Piedmont, now known as ‘Waldensian’ – because of the centuries-long presence of the Protestant minority of the same name in the heart of the Alps – ensconced between high mountains overlooking a plain seen from a bird’s eye view, crossed by three main waterways, and dotted with villages and hamlets. Entitled Nieuwe Caerte der Valleyen in Piemont door de Waldensen and printed in 1691 in Amsterdam by Joachim Ottens, the map provides a detailed depiction of the territory of the Pellice and Germanasca-Chisone valleys, including the Po valley. (Fig. 1) Figure 1:  [Romeyn de Hooghe], Nieuwe Caerte der Valleyen in Piemont door de Waldensen, [1691]; H476mm, W572mm (Torre Pellice, Museo Valdese, property of Archivio della Tavola Valdese). © Courtesy Museo Valdese, Torre Pellice Both from the layout of the representation and most of the topographical information, the descriptive model for the map can be seen to be the Carta delle Tre Valli di Piemonte. Dated 1640, it is known only in a printed version signed by Valerio Grosso [...]