This dissertation investigates the extent to which early modern depictions of the three magi of the biblical Adoration story can be understood within a representational "economy," that is, an economy defined by ideas and ways of knowing that circulate through the visual innovations and re-imaginings of this story. This project is significant in its potential contribution to our understanding of defining events in the early modern period, specifically those having to do with the changing boundaries of world knowledge brought on by the range of encounters with the New World. While much of the scholarship on depictions of the Adoration has focused on stabilizing formal and iconographical content, pictorial innovations suggest a more complex conceptual work that these images are called on to perform which has yet to be adequately explored. Through a framework that utilizes the concepts of exchange and the movement of people and goods, the "work of the magi" helps refine our vision of the production and exchange of material and global identities within and at the borders of the Christian contexts of early modern Europe and the Americas, much the same way the power of the magi themselves is bound to their intrepid pilgrimage and offerings of gifts. Particularly notable in the early modern era is the marked increase in the numbers of Adoration images and atypical compositions. Through these pictures, artists and their patrons--clergy, merchants, rulers, and nobles--used the story of the magi to address the most urgent questions of the day surrounding the complexities of trade, conquest, and world exploration. These compositions, in turn, inform our examination of the history of globalization.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. February 2015. Major: Art History. Advisor: Michael Gaudio. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 366 pages.
The Work of the Magi: Adoration Images and Visions of Globalization in Early Modern Europe.
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