Colonial Representations of Brazil and their current display at Western museums: The Mauritshuis case and the Dutch gaze

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Colonial Representations of Brazil and their current display at Western museums: The Mauritshuis case and the Dutch gaze

Type: Master thesis
Title: Colonial Representations of Brazil and their current display at Western museums: The Mauritshuis case and the Dutch gaze
Author: Monteiro, Carolina
Issue Date: 2019-08-30
Keywords: colonial Brazil
colonial artworks
Dutch Brazil
representation
exotic gaze
Frans Post
Albert Eckhout
Abstract: From 1630 to 1654 the Dutch West India Company have succeeded in establishing a colony in the Northeast part of Brazil, then under the dominance of Portugal. Its most preeminent governor, Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen, administered the protectorate through slave and sugar trade, inviting artists, botanists and scientists to document the natives and new inhabitants’ daily life and customs. Johan Maurits’ collection of Brazilian representations and artefacts was mostly donated throughout his life in order to secure him alliances after his return from Brazil and most of the works made during the period are now in European museums, such as the Mauritshuis, in the Netherlands. As art is rarely dissociated from its appreciation, it is vital in the contemporary postcolonial world that we discuss, not only the production of these artworks, but also their display, their reception and more importantly, their role in present day societies. The role of Johan Maurits as a ‘benefactor of the arts’ has been broadly praised by scholarly research, and his effort in documenting the daily life in the ‘New World’ has been commonly seen as the work of a ‘humanist prince’ in the tropics. Nonetheless, I argue that precisely because of this mythification of Dutch Brazil, historiography has failed so far – with a few exceptions – in critically analysing the representations produced during the Dutch occupation. By considering these works as true masterpieces only possible because of the effort of a magnificent patron, the relationship between the artist, his commissioner and the object is overlooked. The social and hierarchical interpretations of what is depicted give room to formalist approaches, and the impact of this fruitful production in the imaginary of a European audience is again ignored. This thesis intends to analyse these representations and their impact on the understanding and the construction of an identity of Brazilian society as viewed by Europeans. Taking Frans Post's View of Itamaracá Island (1637) as a case study, it envisions to connect the postcolonial debate of representation with the museum practice in the contemporary and discuss the role of institutions as bearers of colonial legacies.
Supervisor: Zijlmans, Kitty
Faculty: Faculty of Humanities
Department: Arts and Culture (Master)
Specialisation: Museums and Collections
ECTS Credits: 20
Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/77718
 

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