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Rubens in Repeat: The Logic of the Copy in Colonial Latin America

Aaron M. Hyman

Winner of the Latin American Studies Association's 2022 Best Book in Colonial Latin American Studies.

This book examines the reception in Latin America of prints designed by the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens, showing how colonial artists used such designs to create all manner of artworks and, in the process, forged new frameworks for artistic creativity.

Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) never crossed the Atlantic himself, but his impact in colonial Latin America was profound. Prints made after the Flemish artist’s designs were routinely sent from Europe to the Spanish Americas, where artists used them to make all manner of objects. 

Rubens in Repeat is the first comprehensive study of this transatlantic phenomenon, despite broad recognition that it was one of the most important forces to shape the artistic landscapes of the region. Copying, particularly in colonial contexts, has traditionally held negative implications that have discouraged its serious exploration. Yet analyzing the interpretation of printed sources and recontextualizing the resulting works within period discourse and their original spaces of display allow a new critical reassessment of this broad category of art produced in colonial Latin America—art that has all too easily been dismissed as derivative and thus unworthy of sustained interest and investigation. This book takes a new approach to the paradigms of artistic authorship that emerged alongside these complex creative responses, focusing on the viceroyalties of New Spain and Peru in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It argues that the use of European prints was an essential component of the very framework in which colonial artists forged ideas about what it meant to be a creator. 

Aaron M. Hyman is assistant professor in the Department of the History of Art at Johns Hopkins University.

“Carefully researched, lucidly conceived, and confidently written, this book leads its readers to the scattered, still little-known artworks in Latin America and the spaces and environments which they shaped into places of new artistic and religious experiences. . . . Both for the richness of its visual material and its rigorous and insightful methodological approach this is an important book, for scholars of both Latin American and European art. It encourages us to critically engage with artistic possibilities originating in different logics of copying and repetition and to be attentive to the multiple and dynamically shifting meanings of terms such as invention and ingenuity in diverse geographical and cultural contexts. Last but not least Rubens in Repeatis beautifully produced, and the publisher’s attention to a fine layout and the con­sistent high quality of the illustrations makes it a pleasure to read.”
—Christine Göttler, 21: Inquiries into Art, History, and the Visual

“This lavishly illustrated volume allows readers to compare adaptations of Rubens's work and understand an artistic conversation that unfolded over two continents. The book will particularly absorb art historians interested in space. The book is readable and does not assume prior knowledge.”
—T. Nygard, CHOICE

Rubens in Repeat is an innovative study about the mobility of objects and their reinterpretation across the vast geography of the early modern Spanish Empire. Aaron M. Hyman’s attention to buildings, cities, and viceroyalties as settings for the transformation of print into paint, stone, and other media provides a scholarly model for thinking locally and writing globally.”
—Jesús Escobar, Northwestern University

An explosive defamiliarization of the Flemish Baroque as period, geography, and mode. Hyman weaves close looking with startling archival finds to situate Rubens not so much as a transatlantic brand, but as an inflection of what exactly “European” art—and so too Latin American visual culture—was in the long seventeenth century. No longer just the art historical fellow of Van Dyck, Snyders, and Jan Bruegel, here Rubens aligns with Dürer, Warhol, even Judd. But time remains fundamental: Hyman sinks us into the documents and places us before dozens of never-published objects, disabling the colonialist myth of the copy as “other.” Rubens—always an artist more interesting than his art—emerges as a willful ghost, forever betwixt repetitions.”
—Christopher P. Heuer, author of Into the White: The Renaissance Arctic and the End of the Image

“Both “logic” and “copy” are carefully examined, and finally subverted, in this extraordinary book. The extensive use of prints after works by Rubens throughout Spanish and Portuguese America from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries is a commonplace in studies of Latin American art. Delving deeply into specific examples and their variations in different geographies and institutions, Hyman both informs and expands the reader’s knowledge and understanding of the paths of creativity and reception.”
—Clara Bargellini, Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

320 pages
7 x 10 inches
150 color & 12 b/w illustrations
ISBN 978-1-60606-686-7
hardcover

Getty Publications
Imprint: Getty Research Institute

2021