“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.

Dónal Hassett, ‘Marseille’s Porte d’Orient: Commemoration of Conflict and Colonialism on the Mediterranean’s Northern Shore’

By |2024-01-12T15:11:55+00:00January 12th, 2024|Visual Reflections|

Perched on a promontory along the Corniche in Marseille’s salubrious quartiers sud, the Monument aux Héros de l’Armée de l’Orient et des terres lointaines represents an ambiguous lieu de mémoire of conflict and colonialism. Built to commemorate those who died while serving in French forces during the First World War on the Balkan fronts, at the Dardanelles, and in colonial spheres of the conflict, the monument, commonly known as the Porte d’Orient, does de-centre the Western front in commemorative discourse and underline the global nature of the conflict. However, the symbolism embedded in the sculptural form of the monument and the subsequent commemorative interventions on the site elide the centrality of coercive system of colonialism to the histories of violence it claims to memorialise. This selective silence raises broader questions about cosmopolitan modes of commemoration on the Mediterranean’s Northern Shore, both past and present, that elevate limited conceptions of diversity over the harsh realities of domination and discrimination rooted in colonialism and the resistance which they have provoked. Marseille’s status as the principal port of the French empire is embedded [...]

Ilaria Berti, ‘Between Imaginary and Reality: Ethnicity and Cooks in the Colonial Space of Cuba at the Turn of the Twentieth Century’.

By |2023-07-03T15:14:56+00:00July 3rd, 2023|Visual Reflections|

Cover Image: Nuevo manual del cocinero Criollo, book cover, 1903, Courtesy University of Miami Library, Digital Collections   In the cover image, we see a busty young woman with a tiny waist, a characteristic of female fashion illustrations of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, is depicted in the act of cooking. She is wearing a spotless apron over a fancy striped dress, and is shown in an apparently modern kitchen, stirring her meal at a stove decorated with colourful tiles and surrounded by exotic fruits including pineapples, bananas, papayas and a fish, along with kitchen containers.   Figure 2: How they cook in Cuba, in The American Kitchen Magazine, 1898, Courtesy of the Hathi Trust Digital Library This untitled photo portrays a woman and a man in a seemingly clean, modern kitchen. For hygienic reasons, the wood stove area is tiled. The kitchen has five if not six different wood stoves, all of them occupied by a kettle, two pans, a pot and possibly, on the right side, a fish kettle. The vast quantity of stoves and the [...]

Matteo Calcagni, ‘Keeping up Appearances: The Indian Sedan Chair, or Palanquin, through the Eyes of an Eighteenth-century Livornese Seaman’.

By |2023-07-03T19:00:33+00:00July 3rd, 2023|Visual Reflections|

At the end of the eighteenth century, many Tuscan seamen periodically landed their ships in ports on the Indian coast. At a certain point, the presence of Tuscan interests in India was so massive that the grand ducal government established a Consulate General for the East India ports in these remote regions, protecting both Tuscan and Austrian interests, owing to the kinship ties that bound the two sovereigns. More importantly, between 1779 and 1783, an attempt was made to revitalize the Imperial Company of Ostend. This enterprise, supported by Vienna with the participation of several Livornese trading houses, attempted to open up the route to India and China; however, it was stopped by the wars of the revolutionary era and the blockade of maritime traffic. It is a moment in the history of Tuscan trade that deserves more careful investigation. Indeed, very little is known about these voyages and even less is known about what the seamen who made these crossings saw while sailing, or during their stay in these faraway lands. However, the recent discovery of the Francesco Montemerli [...]

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 [...]