From Orientalism to Americanism, Parallel Grammars. Pre-Hispanic Motifs in European Ornamental Grammars of the Second Half of the 19th Century

From Orientalism to Americanism, Parallel Grammars. Pre-Hispanic Motifs in European Ornamental Grammars of the Second Half of the 19th Century

Research project by Elodie Vaudry, Scientific Coordinator at the DFK Paris

This research project aims to analyze pre-Hispanic motifs in European ornamental grammars of the 19th century in order to understand the formal and theoretical processes by which ancient Latin American forms were integrated and “ornamentalized” as part of their European appropriation. In its broader, multidisciplinary aspect, the project takes a social, theoretical, plastic, historical, and cultural approach to the topic at hand. An analysis of the pre-Hispanic ornamental symptom in the 19th century interrogates the semantic and aesthetic instrumentalization of these motifs in a European register and proposes a re-reading of theories of ornament through the lens of pre-Hispanic forms. Moreover, the ornamental grammars of the second half of the 19th century conceived of the ornamental system as linguistic, with the juxtaposition of motifs producing syntax just as words form sentences. The topic of ornamentation additionally invites us to reflect on the evolution of European taste in light of ancient American motifs, examining, for example, whether the selection of pre-Columbian motifs responds to sociological, artistic, and plastic issues, and whether perceptions of ancient American arts correspond to a certain conceptual representation or are the result of a temporary visual mode. Furthermore, the attitude toward the “New World” developed, to a large extent, out of the discourse constructed by orientalists in Europe. The organization of Americanist exhibitions and congresses was modeled on that of the orientalists, and the theoretical treatment in Europe of pre-Hispanic creations follows a trajectory parallel to that of the Middle East. Inscribing these practices in the orientalist tradition allows us to underline that these two fields of study are inseparable and that the orientalist reference is decisive for studies that relate to America. Finally, this project, based on a historical articulation between the local and the global from a transversal perspective, contributes to research on the plastic and terminological characteristics attached to Latin America in Europe.

Leadership

Contact
Élodie

Dr. Élodie Vaudry

researcher and scientific coordinator