Introduction: The Art of Embassy: Situating Objects and Images in the Early Modern Diplomatic Encounter

Clark, Leah and Um, Nancy (2016). Introduction: The Art of Embassy: Situating Objects and Images in the Early Modern Diplomatic Encounter. Journal of Early Modern History, 20 pp. 1–16.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/15700658-12342487

Abstract

This essay makes the case that visual and material approaches may hold the key to the study of early modern diplomatic encounters, which were always undergirded by the exchange of objects and often represented (or imagined) in pictorial form. It calls for a visually and materially intensive approach to diplomacy by privileging objects of exchange, such as gifts, as crucial tools of cross-cultural mediation and communication, while also looking closely at visual representations of encounter in line with relevant textual sources. Building on recent studies that have called for a "new diplomatic history," this essay situates ambassadors as envoys with a certain amount of agency and independence, rather than conveyors of fixed state positions, thus calling for a dynamic understanding of early modern embassy, which was comprised of meanings articulated not just by polities, but also by individual human actors and things.

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