Aaron M. Hyman: Rubens in a New World: Prints, Authorship, and Transatlantic Intertextuality

Rubens in a New World: Prints, Authorship, and Transatlantic Intertextuality

Nicolás and Miguel Ximénez (?), after a printed composition by Peter Paul Rubens, The Assumption of the Virgin, c. 1672-89, stone relief, Catedral Metropolitana, Mexico City (photograph by Aaron M. Hyman).

The European print was one of the most important factors in shaping the artistic landscapes of the Spanish Americas. In the colonial period, European prints flooded the viceroyalties of the New World; and today Latin American churches and museums are filled with paintings that are copied, in part of whole, from these sources. This book project uses this transatlantic frame both to reassess how works of art relate to one another across geographic distances and cultural divides, and to rethink the terms through which early modern authorship has been understood: originality, invention, replication, and slavish copying. At the nexus of these terms stands the print, the graphic circulator of compositions throughout Europe and its colonies. When prints entered new cultural contexts with varying artistic traditions, both their textual information (inscriptions about content, authors, and places of production) and their pictorial forms of printed could be understood differently. New World artists reconfigured these objects within their own artistic practices, generating new ideas about what it meant to be a painter or creator.

This project interrogates local contexts—ranging from Mexico City, to Cuzco, to extra-urban spaces—in which prints circulated and the ways in which they came to matter for individual artists. I focus on works of art in both Mexico and Peru made from prints by Rubens, the feted painter of the Southern Netherlands who has come to define the standards by which art historians understand the status of painters and the parameters of authorship during the early modern period. In this project, Rubens, the consummate authorial “genius” of Europe’s early modernity, becomes a lens through which to understand the much greater range of artists—from similarly famous painters to anonymous craftsmen—who reconstituted his printed compositions in paint and stone across the Atlantic.

Aaron M. Hyman is Assistant Professor in the department of the History of Art at Johns Hopkins University. During the 2017-18 year, he is on leave as Andrew W. Mellon fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. He received his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley (2017) and an MA from Yale University (2010). Hyman’s research has been supported by the Jacob K. Javits Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the UC-Mexus Foundation, the Belgian American Educational Foundation, the Mellon Fellowship in Critical Bibliography (Rare Book School), and the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts. He has published articles in Representations and Colonial Latin American Review (co-author Barbara Mundy), and The Art Bulletin. He is currently at work on a book manuscript, provisionally entitled Rubens in a New World: Prints, Authorship, and Transatlantic Intertextuality.

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