Authority and Spectacle in Medieval and Early Modern Iberia, Part 3: In Honor of Teofilo F. Ruiz: Spectacle in Early Modern Iberia and Beyond

AHA Session 239
American Academy of Research Historians of Medieval Spain 2
Sunday, January 4, 2015: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Mercury Ballroom (New York Hilton, Third Floor)
Anthony Grafton, Princeton University
Teofilo F. Ruiz, University of California, Los Angeles

Session Abstract

A new imperial age dawned upon Spain, Europe, and the world in the early modern period.  How did spectacles taking place in imperial settings make an impact on considerations and projections of self?  From spectacles of purity in the Middle Ages, our panels in honor of Teofilo Ruiz culminates by focusing on spectacles of empire and their relationship to  individual and collective identity.  Spain’s imperial age was marked by Habsburg ascendancy over the kingdom.  Hilario Casado Alonso takes a measure of Burgundian influence on Spanish tastes by investigating the changing choices of fabric and color that both elites and the masses made for their clothing in the sixteenth century.  Analyzing sales records and inventories from Medina del Campo (the most important textile market for Spain, Portugal, and the Americas), Casado Alosno uses fabric and color to identify shifts in prevailing social norms.  Europe’s, in particular Spain’s, imperial ambitions were challenged and checked by Ottoman power.  However, the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453 did help deliver an unexpected treasure - the relic of the apostle Andrew’s head - from the east to Rome.  Maya Maskarinec studies accounts of the ceremonies surrounding Pope Pius II’s reception of this relic in 1462 and how they portrayed Andrew’s reunion with St. Peter as the reunion of Old and New Rome.  While the Mediterranean constituted an age-old arena for imperial competition, the Americas emerged as a new space for imperial expansion.  Spanish soldiers practiced in combat in peninsular settings transferred martial skills, such as horsemanship, to the American theatre.  Such abilities, however, were not always directly applicable as New World circumstances demanded an adjustment of tactics and increased availability of horses also diffused elite prerogatives over the art and discourse of horsemanship.  Kathryn Renton investigates the emergence of a new class of expert horsemen among criollos, peruleros, and conversos who made their own marks on the ideals of horsemanship and re-presented them to Spanish society in the late sixteenth century.  Katherine Van Liere’s consideration of the identity of “homo hispanus” aptly serves as the final paper on the panel.  Though the concept of homo hispanus existed prior to the Middle Ages, an emphasis on Christian identity subsumed Spain’s pre-Christian past among medieval writers.  Under the influence of humanist scholarship in the fifteenth century, Spanish writers returned to the figure of the pre-Roman hispani.  In this case, the hispani were portrayed as simple folk who were subjected to but also civilized by Roman conquerors.  This reconception of the homo hispani, taking place as Spain embarked on conquests in the New World, would also be projected onto Amerindians to help justify their subjugation by Spaniards.  The themes of “authority” and “spectacle” are central to Professor Ruiz’s work and the array of papers presented in his honor demonstrates exciting and new perspectives he has helped trailblaze.  Teofilo Ruiz’s much-anticipated comment will close out these proceedings by offering suggestions on how to move forward as we prepare these papers for publication.