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Barbara Karl: Allegory and Narrative
Allegory and Narrative
(p. 119 – 140)

Barbara Karl

Allegory and Narrative
Two Bengal ›Colchas‹ and the Independence of Portugal

PDF, 22 pages

The later sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth centuries experienced attempts of European merchants to gain direct access to Indian production centres and markets. By providing European prints as models for the professional – in this case Bengali – embroiderers they integrated new elements into the form vocabulary of Bengal textile production. Thus they helped create new, customized high quality luxury products for the European market. In this article, Barbara Karl is proposing to discuss the points of intersection between Muslim locals and foreign Portuguese that are mirrored in the context of the textiles. The traces of this encounter did not only survive in the textiles’ complicate iconography but also in written sources of the time, albeit in different forms. Both will be addressed in the contribution.

  • analytics of power
  • iconography
  • 17th century
  • art history
  • 18th century
  • Portugal
  • theory of the image

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Barbara Karl

studied art history and languages in Innsbruck, Lisbon, Vienna and Paris. After her PhD at the University of Vienna (2004) on Early Modern Indian textile production for export, she carried out a project at the SNS di Pisa on objects from the Islamic world in the collections of the Medici. In 2008 she became researcher at the Institute for Iranian Studies /ÖAW, where – in a project – she published a book entitled “Treasury-Kunstkammer-Museum” discussing the objects from the Islamic world in Vienna’s museums. Since 2010 she has been curator of textiles and carpets at the Museum für angewandte Kunst (MAK) in Vienna. Barbara Karl has published articles on art in intercultural networks during the Early Modern period, e.g. Indian export textiles, Indian textiles and mother-of-pearl items in European inventories, Habsburg collecting of Islamic art, Ottoman flags as booty items or merchants as mediators of Indian art.

Urte Krass (ed.): Visualizing Portuguese Power

Images have always played a vital role in political communication and in the visualization of power structures and hierarchies. They gain even more importance in situations where non-verbal communication prevails: In the negotiation processes between two (or more) different cultures, the language of the visual is often thought of as the most effective way to acquaint (and overpower) the others with one’s own principles, beliefs, and value systems. Scores of these asymmetrical exchange situations have taken place in the Portuguese overseas empire since its gradual expansion in the 16th century.
This book offers new insights into the broad and differentiated spectrum of functions images could assume in political contexts in those areas dominated by the Portuguese in early modern times. How were objects and artifacts staged and handled to generate new layers of meaning and visualize political ideas and concepts? And what were the respective reasons, means, and effects of the visualization of Portuguese power and politics?

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