The discoveries of Columbus focused attention on the newly discovered but barely known regions on the far side of the earth, a new zone of convergence where East and West met and crossed over into one another. It was now possible to think beyond the “inhabited world” known since Antiquity and to consider the earth in global terms, which is to say as a geometric object viewable from more than one side. The other side of the earth, where the New World formed the nearest part of an extended Asia, was now relayed to Europeans through a series of mediated images, almost immediately becoming a mirror for the European imagination, a place where Europe found itself reflected in distant others. By considering several works of European sixteenth century art and literature, Alexander Nagel explores the dynamic reconfiguration of the world at a time when the imagination of globality was being framed explicitly as a problem of point of view, a problem directly concerning practices of image making and image viewing.
Alexander Nagel is Professor at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. His book Michelangelo and the Reform of Art (Cambridge University Press, 2000) won the Phyllis Goodhart Gordan prize for best book in Renaissance studies from the Renaissance Society of America. His study of Italian art and the Reformation, The Controversy of Renaissance Art(University of Chicago Press, 2011), won the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award from the College Art Association. His interest in the multi-temporal life of works of art led to the publication of Anachronic Renaissance (co-authored with Christopher Wood, Zone Books, 2010) and Medieval Modern: Art out of Time (Thames and Hudson, 2012). Recently, Professor Nagel has turned his attention to questions of orientation and configurations of place in Renaissance art.