The Copy as the Work of the Original

Aaron M. Hyman

Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore

Wednesday, 25 November 2020, 5:30 pm

ONLINE Lecture, hosted by the Warburg Institute.

Free and open to all via Zoom; please book in advance for this event via the Warburg Institute website.

In the early modern period, European prints flooded colonial Latin America, where artists routinely “copied” them to craft objects in paint and stone. A particular print, The Austroseraphic Heavens by Peter Paul Rubens, was taken up with unusual frequency across the viceroyalties. While the entire composition was copied, more often its figures were reconfigured and augmented. This paper argues that these works constituted a unified discursive field engineered by artists on behalf of a trans-continental Franciscan network, and that these “copies” offer the potential to critically reexamine Rubens’s “original,” an engraving that has puzzled scholars. Colonial “copies” and other works of art reveal the function of a European print, thereby advocating for an expanded conception of art historical context and arguing that Latin American artistic production might be brought to bear on rereading Europe’s art and history: that is, that the copy might reveal the work of the original.

The Bilderfahrzeuge Lecture series: “Not A Copy”

This annual lecture series is organised by the international research project “Bilderfahrzeuge. Aby Warburg’s Legacy and the Future of Iconology.” Entitled “Not A Copy,” this year’s series seeks to discuss the advent of new forms of visual expression in response to preceding artefacts and following from an interplay with their materiality and mediality. Humanities tend to reduce these dynamics to a dichotomy of a supposed ‘original’ and its ‘copy’. By doing so, the productive quality of transformation is often overlooked, whereas terms such as imitation, emulation, repetition, transmission, translation or recording are in continuous need of critical re-evaluation.

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