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A New Antiquity. Art and Humanity as Universal (1400-1600)


A brief synopsis of the new book I am presently writing. This is the result of a large archival and theoretical project that I am also developing in both undergraduate and graduate seminars, and through related published or forthcoming essays.

During the Iberian expansion in America, Africa, Asia and Europe, between the fifteenth and the seventeenth centuries, the discourses on the aesthetic sphere faced a double movement: they became more and more shaped in terms of Ancient and Renaissance categories (such as Proportion, Imitation, Antiquity, Idolatry, etc.), and yet profoundly renewed after the encounter with unexpected objects, and with new ways of thinking about artistic practices. We can trace this double movement in the numerous texts written by missionaries, conquistadors, and functionaries of the Iberian crowns of Portugal and Spain, but also by a variety of other authors, such as Nahua historians, Italian naturalists, and even by artists, ambassadors, and collectors who wrote thoughtful testimonies in their diaries, treaties, or inventories. Based on a substantial corpus of sources, this book studies the origins and transformations of these multiple aesthetic categories in Early Modernity as an unpredictable result of the expansion projects of Portugal and Spain.

Some of the materials and questions addressed in A New Antiquity are related to my  Global Core course Artistic Humanity, to the undergraduate course Seeing and Describing, and to the graduate seminar Theories of the Arts in the Iberian Worlds. This book project has been supported by a fellowship at the Wissenschaftskolleg of Berlin (2012-2013), a visitorship at the EHESS in Paris (2011), and a sabbatical semester in the Fall 2014.

Last Updated 4 years ago


  • Several published and forthcoming articles are at the origin of the ideas that I now fully develop in this new book :
  • Alessandra Russo, “An artistic humanity. New positions on art and freedom in the context of the Iberian expansion, 1500-1600”, RES. Anthropology and Aesthetics, n. 65/66 (2014/2015), pp. 352-363, Harvard University Press.
  • Alessandra Russo, “Devenir MundoMaquinarias para una antigüedad universal », Machina-Medium-Apparatus. Invención, fantasia e intstrumentalización en la Nueva España, Anna More, Karla Jasso, ed., Universidad Iberoamericana/INBA, in press.
  • Alessandra Russo, “A Contemporary Art from New Spain”, in Alessandra Russo, Gerhard Wolf, Diana Fane (editors), Images Take Flight. Feather Art in Mexico and Europe 1300-1700. Hirmer/KHI/MUNAL distributed by Chicago University Press, 2015.
  • Alessandra Russo, “De tlacuilolli. Renaissance Artistic Theory in the Wake of the Iberian Global Turn”, in Jill Casid, Aruna D’Souza, ed., Art History in the Wake of the Global Turn. Clark Institute/distributed Yale University Press, 2013, pp. 20-39.
  • Alessandra Russo, “These statues they generally called çemi. A new object at the crossroad of languages” The Challenge of the Object/Die Herausforderung des Objekts, Ed. by Ulrich Grossmann, Petra Krutisch, Nuremberg, 2013, pp. 45-49.






Alessandra Russo, « A New Antiquity. Art and Humanity as Universal (1400-1600) », Blogs, Columbia University | LAIC, Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures (online), published on October 27, 2014. Full URL for this article

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