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Asian Art and Its Impact in the Americas, 1565–1840

Dennis Carr

in Latin American Studies

ISBN: 9780199766581
Published online October 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0044
Asian Art and Its Impact in the Americas, 1565–1840

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Between 1565 and 1815, the Spanish viceroyalties of New Spain and Peru imported vast quantities of Asian export goods shipped across the Pacific, becoming one of the most important trade hubs in the world. At the same time, the Portuguese established key port cities at Salvador and Rio de Janeiro in its colony of Brazil that profited from direct trade with Asia from the east across the Atlantic. In both of these major colonial centers, the exotic, beautifully crafted Asian imports—predominantly silks, porcelain, furniture, lacquerwork, and other decorative arts—had a profound impact on the visual and material culture of the regions, capturing the imaginations of consumers and artisans alike. This happened over a century before the rage for all things Asian—commonly known as “chinoiserie”—swept Europe in the late 17th and 18th centuries. This later phenomenon had a dramatic effect on all of the European colonies in the Americas, particularly British North America, where colonists embraced the new fashionable styles drawn from Asian art, as well as imported commodities, such as tea from China and spices from across Asia, long before direct trade routes opened up with the newly established United States after the American Revolution. Economic and social historians, art historians, anthropologists, and material culture scholars have addressed the topic of Asian influence in the colonial Americas for over the past century. Their inquiries into both the trade itself and the artistic impact of Asia throughout the hemisphere have shed new light on this critical early episode of globalization. In particular, recent scholars have been intensely interested in the notion of artistic hybridity and how cross-cultural interactions are key to understanding cultural identity and artistic production in this period. The colonial Americas is an exceptionally rich place to study this phenomenon, given the diverse nature of the population and the central role that trade and exchange played in colonial society. However, because of the wide geographical expanse of this area and the diverse nature of colonial rule as exercised by different, often competing, European governments, no single written source covers this broad topic. Rather, as this bibliography sets out, the subject is best explored through a wide range of scholarship approaching the topic from many different angles, building up to a composite view. This article is divided geographically and thematically, arranged into sections covering the major political regions in the colonial Americas: the Spanish viceroyalties, Portuguese Brazil, and British North America.

Article.  12731 words. 

Subjects: Regional and Area Studies ; History of the Americas

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