Art History Assistant Professor Paul Niell shares his research on the fountain sculpture of 19th-century Havana in an article in this month’s Art Bulletin: “Rhetorics of Place and Empire in the Fountain Sculpture of 1830s Havana.” In the 1830s, Cuban and Spanish patrons sponsored three public fountains, designed and carved in Italy, for new and redesigned urban spaces in Havana. As Niell explains, in their reconfiguration of international forms, materials, and iconographies, the fountains reveal diverging notions of the patria (motherland) within the Spanish Empire. The works partook of broad visual and textual rhetorics that speak to a burgeoning Atlantic world city renegotiating its engagement with empire and its growing conception of itself as a distinctive, local setting. Employing transatlantic discourses, the classicizing fountains addressed the center-periphery dialectic established by Spanish colonialism.
Dr. Niell’s book Urban Space as Heritage in Late Colonial Cuba: Classicism and the Dissonance of Place on the Plaza de Armas of Havana, 1754-1828 (under contract with the University of Texas Press) considers the commemoration of Havana’s foundational site in the late colonial period as a heritage process. His co-edited volume Buen Gusto and Classicism in the Visual Cultures of Latin America, 1780-1910 (due in November from the University of New Mexico Press) addresses the revival, multiple uses, and multivalence of the Greco-Roman classical tradition in late colonial and early national Latin American contexts.