In recent years, a renewed interest in Early Modern rituals, festivals, and performances has prompted a reconsideration of ceremonious processions with a particular focus on their impact on social, cultural, artistic and political structures and practices. Simultaneously, scholars have increasingly acknowledged the mobility of Early Modern artists across geographical, religious and cultural borders. Although processions were witnessed by natives and visitors alike and were therefore prime instances of cross-cultural encounters, their depictions by artists both local and foreign remain a lesser-studied body of visual material. This symposium proposes to explore the visual representations of processions that took place within cross-cultural encounters both within and outside of Europe.
A procession was an act of movement that was particularly charged with meaning; an ambulatory mode of celebration, it had a global resonance in the Early Modern period. Processionals impressed foreign dignitaries, established modes of rule, communicated traditions and negotiated power balances and were highly sensory occasions – as such they lent themselves readily to visual representation and were enthusiastically recorded in literature. Pageantries, military processions and Joyous Entries (Blijde Inkomsten) were recorded in a variety of media, as exemplified by the festival books celebrating the ephemeral constructions orchestrated for Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand’s arrival in Antwerp (1635) or the eighteenth-century paintings depicting Venice’s dazzling boat parades in honour of foreign dignitaries. Furthermore, ceremonial processions conceived for births, weddings, circumcision feasts and funerals occasioned visual representations such as the colourful Mughal miniature Wedding Procession of Dara Shikoh in presence of Shah Jahan (1740). In addition, the notion of procession can be expanded to encompass various expressions of mobility that could be understood and were often depicted as a procession. Both Jan van Scorel’s frieze-like painting of the knightly brotherhood commemorating their Holy Land pilgrimage (c. 1530) and the depiction of ambassadors travelling with their retinue to foreign courts and cities can be perceived as a form of procession. Thus, the structure of a procession was increasingly adopted in the Early Modern period to depict moments of exchange and motion propelled by the quest for knowledge, as much as diplomatic concerns and religious piety. Well-known examples include The Voyage to Calicut tapestry series (1504) as well as the highly detailed printed frieze of a merchant endeavour by Hans Burgkmair (The King of Cochin, 1508).
Supported by the CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership.
Organised by Talitha Schepers, The Courtauld/University of Kent and Alice Zamboni – Courtauld Institute of Art