Renaissance Society of America, Berlin 2015: Bilderfahrzeuge Panels

The ‚Bilderfahrzeuge‘ group will present two linked panels at the Renaissance Society of America. These bring together members of the research project and invited guest speakers to talk about the movement of objects and the shaping of maritime spaces. All of the papers will be presented on Saturday 28th March in the Hauptgebäude, Unter den Linden 6, First Floor, 2094.


Panel 1: Moving Objects, Shifting Spaces I: Mediterranean Migration of Artifacts and Its Effect on Conceptions of Space (Sat, March 28, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Hauptgebäude, Unter den Linden 6, First Floor, 2094)

World from the anonymous <i>Christian Topography</i>, eleventh century, St Katherine's Monastery, Sinai

World from the anonymous Christian Topography, eleventh century, St Katherine’s Monastery, Sinai

Chair: Lisa Anderson (University of Biritish Columbia)


Rebecca Darley (Bilderfahrzeuge Group)

Textual Transmission and the Meaning of Space: From the Byzantine to the European Renaissance

Abstract: Two anonymous Greek texts, the Periplous of the Erythreian Sea (1st century AD) and the Christian Topography (6th century) were first published in western Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They contributed to Renaissance discourses which used supposed historical imaginings of space as defining features of ‘antique’, ‘medieval’ and ‘present’ thought worlds and generated an approach to the texts as windows onto antiquity, unmediated by their passage through the ‘middle ages’. Modern scholarship on ancient Indo-Roman largely preserves this interpretation. Though they now reside in western collections following the movement of Greek manuscripts westward, especially from 1453, which inspired much Renaissance thinking, the earliest surviving copies of both texts were produced probably in Constantinople during the ninth-century ‘Byzantine Renaissance’. This paper examines the effects of their organisation and interpretation into the schemata of knowledge of that earlier Renaissance, and the impact on modern scholarship of ignoring these processes.

Daniel Reynolds (University of Birmingham)

Rethinking the Christian „Holy Land“

Abstract: Attempts to uncover and reconstruct the core sites of the bible have defined research in the Levant for a century. Such research reflects the inherent tensions between medieval conceptions of sacred space and those which emerged following 1400 which transformed European perceptions of the sacred, the profane and the medieval past. Little about the Levant evokes the popular conception of the Renaissance, but it is a landscape that embodies several of its core principles. When the earliest archaeologists began to strip back the layers of occupation at archaeological sites, they did so in a conscious desire to salvage the residues of an early Christianity considered unadulterated by superstition and clerical corruption. This paper will explore the impact of these collective themes on the study of the Christian Levant and address their implications on how the Christian Holy Land of the ancient and medieval world is conceptualised in the present day.

Johannes von Müller (Bilderfahrzeuge Group)

On Charlemagne’s Shoulders: Constructions of Europe as Historical Space Mirrored in Albrecht Dürer’s Visualizations of the Frankish Emperor

Abstract: Albrecht Dürer’s 1513 portrait of Charlemagne shows the Frankish Emperor robed in the “Coronation Mantle” of Roger II of Sicily. The mantle, now in Vienna, may have found its way north as part of the Norman kings’ treasure that Henry VI sent to Staufen. Crafted in the 1130s, most likely in the king’s workshop, it predates Roger’s II famous abduction of the Byzantine textile workers in 1147. The cloth, physically already an import, undergoes another transfer, now immaterially, when Dürer relats it to Charlemagne. The paper aims to reassess the story told by this highly mobile artefact – through Dürer’s visualisation of Charlemagne. Two kinds of space fold into each other: The mantle’s factual migration defines Western Europe as merely a part of a wider Mediterranean cultural zone while its artistic arrangement mirrors the historical concept of Europe as vessel of a power that dominates its “minor” neighbours.


Panel 2: Moving Objects, Shifting Spaces II: Transatlantic Migration of Artifacts and Its Effect on Conceptions of Space (Sat, March 28, 3:45 to 5:15pm, Hauptgebäude, Unter den Linden 6, First Floor, 2094)


America or the New World map by Theodor de Bry 1596

Dietrich de Bry: Map of America, or the New World (1596)


Chair: Carolin Behrmann, Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz


Linda Baez-Rubi (Bilderfahrzeuge Group)

Traveling Objects and Configuration of Images across the Seas

Ever since the Discovery of the New World by Columbus in 1492 ideas coming from Europe, imbedded within a legacy of Arabic science and Classical heritage, were transported by means of images and texts to America through maritime routes. Prints and artifacts (mechanical and optical devices) were one of the many vehicles used for the transmission of religious and political imaginaries as well as of specific worldviews and conceptions. Within a frame of warburguian input (reflections on vehicles transporting images), I explore the different possibilities of iconic potentiality as generated by the particular characteristics of the vehicle, and how this iconicity is transformed in its cultural exchange along geographical routes and how these iconic devices transform the humans’ attitudes at the interior of a determined cultural sphere.

Emilie Ana Carreón Blaine (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México)

An Ixiptla Named Image

Abstract: In this paper I will revisit the topic of the ixiptla — a term in Nahuatl language. After discussing the implications behind its usage by art historians, seemingly in an effort to place pre-Columbian art at the same status as Western art, I will proceed to analyse the term to establish that it signifies much more than image. It has been used to refer to the physical nature and embodiment of the sacred, to describe the visual attributes that contain it as well as to name effigies shaped of stone, clay and seeds, or figures made of sticks and branches. The significance granted to images by pre-Columbian men which contemplates materials, the vehicles of images, fabrication of them, as well as characteristics fundamental to their ritual use and symbolism will also be emphasized, following written texts by Mendicant friars, Indian chroniclers and archaeological sources.

Bernhard Klein (University of Kent)

Mapping Africans in the Seventeenth Century

Abstract: Placing portraits of local figures dressed in regional costume in the margins of maps was a distinguishing feature of 17th-century Dutch cartography. This paper considers the several portraits that frame the wall map of Africa published by Willem Janszoon Blaeu in 1608, a map much copied by cartographers across Europe over the next 100 years. The sources of these portraits include contemporary costume manuals and travel accounts from Italy, France, Portugal and elsewhere, and many of them can be found in the early volumes of the India Orientalis series published by the de Bry brothers in Frankfurt. The paper will focus on the visual variations between these images as they migrate through different texts, maps, countries and continents, arguing that they helped establish the rigid racial categories through which Europe began to define its cultural and spatial distance from Africa.


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