‘art in the periphery’ 5th session, May 8, 2017

may poster


Periphery as Negotiator of the Artistic Canon (few comments about Goa and its Christian Religious Art)

By Raluca E. Golesteanu, Polish Academy of Sciences / Humboldt University


Goa, the province located in the westernmost part of the Indian peninsula (the coastal area), was conquered in the sixteenth century by the Portuguese, becoming a land of the Portuguese crown. Around the mid of that century, the Jesuits started a massive campaign of Christianization. As a consequence, the destroyed Hindu temples were replaced by cathedrals adorned by statues of the Christian saints.

So far this is a classic metropolis-colony / power-submission story. It is just that the artists who were called to design the art following the Catholic canon, albeit some of them were converted to Christianity, kept as reference many features of Hindu aesthetics. The face traits, the gestures, the colors of the clothes bear strong Hindu influences. In fact, the products of this mix, including wooden statues of Virgin Mary and the Christ, Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Ignatius of Loyola that can be seen at the National Gallery for Foreign Art, Sofia, were considered as representing a style in itself, named the Indo-Portuguese. The information on this display, which is part of the gallery’s permanent exhibition, states that this type of art ‘in its outer form was Christian, but in its inner essence, it remained profoundly Indianʼ.

This expression of a local identity, which, although eradicated institutionally, kept surviving in intimate matters like religion, was doubled by an equally interesting negotiation related to the artistic genre itself. As we mainly refer to the productions of the centuries following the imposition of Christianity in Goa (as we mentioned, sixteenth century), Baroque was a style creatively adapted by the local artists who were far from the places where Baroque art was in vogue. The cathedrals and the statues they were building and carving in the remote places of the province itself were distant from Western Europe but also from the Goan centre that exhibited other samples of Baroque art. In other words, the local artists and craftsmen emulated the Baroque style by putting into play their representation of what was the Baroque art as they simply lacked the contact with the original. The result is a new art that brings its own interpretation of the ideas and values accompanying the culture of Baroque and of the related currents.


In short, the art of Goa illustrates in the best possible way the dynamics born around the center-periphery equation. Firstly, it is never a simple, unidirectional process; secondly, the imitation, if it occurs, is a highly original one, influenced by local traditions; thirdly, the negotiation by the periphery/colony of the model (artistic, political, social) imposed by the metropolis results in an alternative model. In the end, this alternative model, imbued with local (peripheral) features as it is, becomes a canon by itself, competing with the original.


Unfortunately, the museum does not have a site of its own, or a page dedicated to this section, at least in English; it is included in the national gallery directory:  http://www.nationalartgallerybg.org/index.php?l=95

The pictures are not perhaps of the best quality, being taken without flash light, but they hopefully give an idea of what has been stated here.

(text originally published in: https://rgolesta.wordpress.com/2016/07/20/periphery-as-negotiator-of-the-artistic-canon-few-comments-about-goa-and-its-christian-religious-art/)

‘art in the periphery’ 2016/2017: updated program


November 14, 2016

18.00-18.40 Arthur Valle, “Afro-Brazilian Art and Material Culture: Persecution, Incarceration, Iconoclasm”,  Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro

18.40-19.20 Inna Pravdenko, “South American painters in the salons of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (1890-1899)”, Institute for Transtextual and Transcultural Studies, Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3

19.20-20.00 Debate

December 6, 2016

18.00-18.40 Nuno Senos, “Local Dynamics in a Global Context: Franciscans in Colonial Brazil”, FCSH, Universidade Nova de Lisboa

18.40-19.20 Sofia Katopi, “The Diffusion of all’antica Architecture to a Venetian Colony: The Case of Crete”, University of Crete

19.20-20.00 Debate

March 6, 2017

18.00-18.35 Joris van Gastel, “Materiality at the Periphery. The Troubled Historiography of Baroque Naples”, Bibliotheca Hertziana, Max Planck Institute for Art History, Rome

18.35-19.10 Mihnea Alexandru Mihail, “Art in the ‘Periphery’ and the Domination of Style in the Geography of Art. The Case of the Hungarian Kingdom in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries”, National University of Arts, Bucharest

19.10-19.45 Gregor Taul, “Twentieth-century Mural Painting from Capitalist and Socialist Peripheries”, The Lisbon Consortium

19.45-20.30 Debate

April 3, 2017

18.00-18.40 Shelley Hornstein, “Views from the Margins: Albert Kahn, Archives of the Planet (1908-1929), and Borderlands”, York University, Toronto

18.40-19.20 Nikki Petroni, “Maltese Modern Art History and the Search for Identity”, University of Malta

19.20-20.00 Debate

May 8, 2017

18.00-18.35 Renate Dohmen, “Squaring the Circle: The Gift of Indian Threshold Designs”, The Open University, UK

18.35-19.10 Johannes von Müller, “Cultural Artefacts as Interfaces”, The Warburg Institute

19.10-19.45 Annie Kontogiorgi and Manolis Karterakis, “Popular Art and Material Culture in Late Nineteenth-Century Greece: The Case of Florentini Kaloutsis”, Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, Directorate of Modern Cultural Assets and Intagible Cultural Heritage; G. Gounaropoulos Museum

19.45-20.30 Debate

June 5, 2017

18.00-18.35 Elena Stylianou and Nicos Philippou, “Greek-Cypriot Locality: (Re) Defining our Understanding of European Modernity”, European University Cyprus; University of Nicosia

18.35-19.10 Birgit Hopfener, “Disjunctive Contemporaneity. Artistic Narrative Cartographies of Transcultural and Art-historical Self-positioning”, Heidelberg University

19.10-19.45 Fernando Loffredo, “Connecting Peripheries across the Spanish Empire: Sculpture and Devotion between 17th Century Peru and Sicily”, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art

19.45-20.30 Debate


moderated by Joana Cunha Leal (Instituto de História da Arte, FCSH-NOVA) & Foteini Vlachou (Instituto de História Contemporânea, FCSH-NOVA)

organized by Foteini Vlachou (postdoctoral fellow, Instituto de História Contemporânea, FCSH-NOVA; researcher, Instituto de História da Arte, FCSH-NOVA)

venue: Auditório 1, Torre B, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas, Universidade Nova de Lisboa (Av. de Berna, 26-C)