New Book | Images on a Mission in Early Modern Kongo and Angola

Posted in books by Editor on January 24, 2023

From Penn State UP:

Cécile Fromont, Images on a Mission in Early Modern Kongo and Angola (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2022), 336 pages, ISBN: 978-0271092188, $110. Also available as an ebook.

Early modern central Africa comes to life in an extraordinary atlas of vivid watercolors and drawings that Italian Capuchin Franciscans, veterans of Kongo and Angola missions, composed between 1650 and 1750 for the training of future missionaries. These ‘practical guides’ present the intricacies of the natural, social, and religious environment of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century west-central Africa and outline the primarily visual catechization methods the friars devised for the region. Images on a Mission in Early Modern Kongo and Angola brings this overlooked visual corpus to public and scholarly attention.

This beautifully illustrated book includes full-color reproductions of all the images in the atlas, in conjunction with rarely seen related material gathered from collections and archives around the world. Taking a bold new approach to the study of early modern global interactions, art historian Cecile Fromont demonstrates how visual creations such as the Capuchin vignettes, though European in form and crafstmanship, emerged not from a single perspective but rather from cross-cultural interaction. Fromont models a fresh way to think about images created across cultures, highlighting the formative role that cultural encounter itself played in their conception, execution, and modes of operation. Centering Africa and Africans, and with ramifications on four continents, Fromont’s decolonial history profoundly transforms our understanding of the early modern world. It will be of substantial interest to specialists in early modern studies, art history, and religion.

Cécile Fromont is Professor in the History of Art department at Yale University. She is the author of the award-winning book The Art of Conversion: Christian Visual Culture in the Kingdom of Kongo (2014) and the editor of Afro-Catholic Festivals in the Americas: Performance, Representation, and the Making of Black Atlantic Traditions (2019), the latter also published by Penn State University Press.


List of Illustrations
List of Tables

1  ‘Nonsense’: Capuchin Images of Kongo and Angola Against Italian Preconceptions
2  Practical Guides to the Mission: The Capuchin Central-African Corpus
3  Images and Devotion
4  Images as Method
5  Images against Idolatry
6  With ‘the Consent of the People, and the Secular Arm of the Prince’
7  Penned by Encounter: Capuchins, Central Africans, and the Making of a Cross-Cultural Discourse


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