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 Cécile 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.