Claudia Swan will present at the seminar in Renaissance and Early Modern Material Culture on Tuesday, February 15, at 6 pm. Her talk is entitled “The Dutch Colonial Imaginary.”

Over the course of the first half of the seventeenth century, the northern Netherlands secured independence from the Spanish crown and the nascent Dutch republic established its might in global trade. Central to the political and cultural identity of the Dutch Republic were curious foreign goods the Dutch called “rarities.” Swan’s recent book on early modern Dutch investment in the exotic—Rarities of these Lands. Art, Trade, and Diplomacy in the Dutch Republic (Princeton, 2021) explores how rarities were obtained, exchanged, stolen, valued, and collected, tracing their global trajectories and considering their role within the politics of the new state. This lecture builds on that account through an examination of power relations less explicitly operative within Dutch culture of the time: slavery, Swan argues, was an animating force of the Dutch colonial imaginary. The talk is structured in four parts, which present depictions of Blackness; observations on exotic shells and labor; a brief history of Dutch interest in ebony; and, to conclude, an example of an image—a map—that is as much the product of the Dutch colonial imaginary as it is a record of how conceptions of the imagination figured into the visualization of racialized identity.

Claudia Swan is the inaugural Mark Steinberg Weil Professor of Art History & Archaeology at Washington University. Her principal scholarly commitment is to northern European art, with a focus on the Netherlands in the seventeenth century. Swan’s work on early modern art and visual culture contributes to intersections of art history, history of science, material culture studies, and the history of global trade and politics. Publications within the past decade include articles on seventeenth-century taste, Dutch art, trade, and diplomacy in the global sphere; a co-edited volume Image, Imagination, and Cognition. Medieval and Early Modern Theory and Practice; and the edited volume Tributes to David Freedberg. Image and Insight. Her monograph Rarities of These Lands. Art, Trade, and Diplomacy in the Dutch Republic (Princeton University Press, 2021) was published this spring, followed by the co-authored volume Conchophilia. Shells, Art, and Curiosity in Early Modern Europe (Princeton University Press, 2021).

This talk will be available on Zoom. A link will be circulated to registrants by 4 pm on the day of the event. This event will be live with automatic captions.