Art Assessment

By the seventeenth century, European artwork came to reflect the increasingly globalized world that Columbus’ voyage created. Timothy Brook’s book, Vermeer’s Hat, illustrates this point. In it, Brook analyzes several masterpieces that Johannes Vermeer, the famous Dutch painter, completed in the mid-1600s. Each painting shows signs of the transformative impact of long-distance travel and commerce: we see beaver pelts from North America used to make fashionable European headwear; and ceramics from China used to make flashy fruit bowls.

This assignment requires you to take Brook’s approach and assess globalization through artwork. In a short essay, roughly three double-spaced pages, using 12-point font and standard margins, you should focus in on a single aspect of one single painting and describe how it illustrates globalization. It is up to you to identify an appropriate piece of art to assess. It does not need to be from Europe, though European artwork is admittedly much easier to access online and would therefore give you a wider selection from which to choose. The artwork you assess should have been produced before 1700, given that we are reflecting on a very particular type of globalization.

The possibilities for this essay are almost literally endless. To narrow down your focus you should do some web searches using basic phrases (“seventeenth century artwork,” for example). Wikipedia has a pretty thorough listing of paintings here: to an external site.. You may use that site but can also draw from different online repositories.

The key is that you will have to not only identify a suitable painting or piece of artwork but also research it so that you fully understand what you are looking at. If you find a painting that features pearls, generally worn as earrings, you can write your essay on where seventeenth-century pearls came from and how they got to, say, the Netherlands. You can do the same thing for any other object. In other words, you’re trying to accomplish what Brook did in his chapters, though in a shorter and more streamlined way, of course. If you are struggling to identify a suitable starting point, reach out to me for help.

This assignment does not require in-depth research, but you should nevertheless consult at least one academic source. I spend time in the lecture I uploaded this week describing how to find reliable sources, so please watch it carefully. You should cite sources using the Chicago Manual of Style, which is the standard citation style for history papers. I also cover that in the lecture. A separate guide, with examples, is available here:

The artwork chosen is The Portrait of Juan de Parejaázquez)