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Artistic Depictions of the Discovery of the New World Compare and contrast two artistic depictions of the Spanish discovery of the New World.

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Presentation on theme: "Artistic Depictions of the Discovery of the New World Compare and contrast two artistic depictions of the Spanish discovery of the New World."— Presentation transcript:

1 Artistic Depictions of the Discovery of the New World Compare and contrast two artistic depictions of the Spanish discovery of the New World.

2 How does Vanderlyn depict Columbus? What does this image say about the motivations behind Columbus's voyage? How does the time that the image was created shape its depiction of Columbus's landing? What events were taking place in 1847? What does the location of the painting tell you? Landing of Columbus on the Islands of Guanahani, West Indies, John Vanderlyn ( )

3 Notes on the painting: One commentary on this painting states: "John Vanderlyn's Landing of Columbus at the Island of Guanahani, West Indies, October 12th, 1492 (1847) dramatizes Weir's themes of divine determinism and origin still more deeply. While members of his train sink to their knees in the sand, Columbus ignores the surly bonds of earth and looks toward God, the cross directly behind him and close to his head. As in the Embarkation, movement is crucial to this painting. Columbus's wake, the earth- bound souls behind him, starkly contrast with his lofty ideals: the Indians cower and worship to his right, and from the left everything ascends towards the explorer, whose vision and banner lead us away from the scene itself. The banner, a symbol of European might and imperialist expansion, precedes Columbus himself, who is depicted as a mere standard-bearer for forces much larger than human agency."

4 Questions about the Diego Rivera painting: What characters does Diego Rivera include in his painting? How does he represent these various figures? What does the image tell us about the artist's attitude toward the Spanish Conquest? How does the time that the image was created shape its depiction of the Spanish landing at Vera Cruz? What does the location of the painting tell you? The Disembarkation at Veracruz, Diego Rivera ( )

5 Columbus’ Journal

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7 What do the excerpts from Columbus’ journal tell you about his attitudes towards the Native people? Sunday, 14th of October...these people are very simple as regards the use of arms, as your Highnesses will see from the seven that I caused to be taken, to bring home and learn our language and return; unless your Highnesses should order them all to be brought to Castile, or to be kept as captives on the same island; for with fifty men they can all be subjugated and made to do what is required of them.... Sunday, 16th of December...your Highnesses may believe that this island (Hispaniola), and all the others, are as much yours as Castile. Here there is only wanting a settlement and the order to the people to do what is required. For I, with the force I have under me, which is not large, could march over all these islands without opposition. I have seen only three sailors land, without wishing to do harm, and a multitude of Indians fled before them. They have no arms, and are without warlike instincts; they all go naked, and are so timid that a thousand would not stand before three of our men. So that they are good to be ordered about, to work and sow, and do all that may be necessary, and to build towns, and they should be taught to go about clothed and to adopt our customs. “Journal of the First Voyage of Christopher Columbus, ," in E.G. Bourne, The Northmen, Columbus and Cabot, (New York, 1906), 114, , 182

8 Washington Irving's Account of the Landing of Columbus From The Works of Washington Irving: The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, Volume II, New York: P.F. Collier Publishers As he approached the shore, Columbus, who was disposed for all kinds of agreeable impressions, was delighted with the purity and suavity of the atmosphere, the crystal transparency of the sea, and the extraordinary beauty of the vegetation. He beheld, also, fruits of an unknown kind upon the trees which overhung the shores. On landing he threw himself on his knees, kissed the earth, and returned thanks to God with tears of joy. His example was followed by the rest, whose hearts indeed overflowed with the same feelings of gratitude. Columbus then rising drew his sword, displayed the royal standard, and assembling round him the two captains, with Rodrigo de Escobedo, notary of the armament, Rodrigo Sanchez, and the rest who had landed, he took solemn possession in the name of the Castllian sovereigns, giving the island the name of San Salvador. Having complied with the requisite forms and ceremonies, he called upon all present to take the oath of obedience to him, as admiral and viceroy, representing the persons of the sovereigns. The natives of the island, when, at the dawn of day, they had beheld the ships hovering on their coast, had supposed them monsters which had issued from the deep during the night. They had crowded to the beach and watched their movements with awful anxiety. Their veering about. apparently without effort, and the shifting and furling of their sails, resembling huge wings, filled them with astonishment. When they beheld their boats approach the shore, and a number of strange beings clad in glittering steel, or raiment of various colors, landing upon the beach, they fled in affright to the woods. Finding, however, that there was no attempt to pursue nor molest them, they gradually recovered from their terror, and approached the Spaniards with great awe ; frequently prostrating themselves on the earth, and making signs of adoration. During the ceremonies of taking possession, they remained gazing in timid admiration at the complexion, the beards, the shining armor, and splendid dress of the Spaniards. The admiral particularly attracted their attention, from his commanding height, his air of authority, his dress of scarlet, and the deference which was paid him by his companions ; all which pointed him out to be the commander. When they had still further recovered from their fears, they approached the Spaniards, touched their beards, and examined their hands and faces, admiring their whiteness. Columbus was pleased with their gentleness and confiding simplicity, and suffered their scrutiny with perfect acquiescence, winning them by his benignity.

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10 Late in the eighteenth century, around the time of the three hundredth anniversary of Columbus's voyage of discovery, the Abbé Raynal, a French philosopher, offered a prize for the best answer to the question: "Has the discovery of America been beneficial or harmful to the human race?" Eight responses to the question survive. Of these, four argued that Columbus's voyage had harmed human happiness. The European discovery of the New World had a devastating impact on the Indian peoples of the Americas. Oppressive labor, disruption of the Indian food supply, deliberate campaigns of extermination, and especially disease decimated the Indian population. Isolated from such diseases as smallpox, influenza, and measles, the indigenous population proved to be extraordinarily susceptible. Within a century of contact, the Indian population in the Caribbean and Mexico had shrunk by over 90 percent. During the sixteenth century, observers like Bartolomé de las Casas ( ), condemned maltreatment of the Indians. As a way to protect Indians from utter destruction, las Casas proposed an alternative labor force: slaves from Africa. Given the drastic decline of the Indian population and the reluctance of Europeans to perform heavy agricultural labor, African slaves would raise the staple crops that provided the basis for New World prosperity: sugar, coffee, rice, and indigo. Las Casas would come to regret his role in encouraging the slave trade. Although he rejected the idea that slavery itself was a crime or sin, he did begin to see African slavery as a source of evil. Unfortunately, las Casas's apology was not published for more than 300 years. Take it from me! Choose your words carefully!


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