Vertiginous Mirrors

The animation of the visual image and early modern travel

By Rose Marie San Juan

Vertiginous Mirrors

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8481-2
  • Pages: 256
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: August 2011
  • BIC Category: Art History, History of art, 18th century, c 1700 to c 1799, 17th century, c 1600 to c 1699, TRAVEL / South America / Brazil, ART / History / Baroque & Rococo, Brazil, The arts / History of art & design styles: c 1600 to c 1800
  • Series: Rethinking Art's Histories


In early modern Europe, the visual image began to move, not only as it traveled across great distances but also due to the introduction of innovative visual formats that produced animation within the image itself.

This book traces the arduous journeys of visual images through evidence of their use and reproduction along missionary routes from Europe to India, Japan, China, Brazil and Chile. It argues that missionary world travel was crucial to the early modern re-animation of the image through devices such as the reflection of the mirror, the multiple registers of vision of the anthropomorphic image, the imaginative and disorienting possibilities of the utopic image, and even the reconstitution of the sacred image with memories of the relation of travel to life and death. Within the journeys traced in the book, the visual image forged new connections between different locations and across different cultures, accumulating increasingly entangled histories. Even more intriguingly, these images frequently returned to Europe, changed but still recognisable, there to be used again with an awareness of their earlier travels.


San Juan introduces a radical contingency into our sense of the past by treating the early modern image as a site of potential animation without resolution, and as a result the 'early modern' itself becomes a site of openness and possibility.

Vertiginous Mirrors is a deeply original, provocative and sometimes brilliant rethinking of the status of the visual image in early modern Europe. Her readings of seventeeth-century Jesuit imagery convincingly make the case that, in order to get to the truths we seek so far afield, we should learn to travel with images.

This volume is full of fascinating, if densely packed observations and a creative use of sources...


List of illustrations
Introduction: Dying to see
I. Travel and the re-animation of the image
II. Resemblance between proximity and distance
1. The anthropomorphic image: negotiations of space between body and landscape
2. The imperfect replica: departures and arrivals from Naples to Nagasaki
3.The visionary image: the return of the image from Brazil to Rome
4. The utopic Image: unsettling circuits between Chile and Rome
Epilogue: The proliferation of the body: Francis Xavier in Goa


Rose Marie San Juan is Reader in History of Art at University College London.

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