History of Art Research Seminar
In 1786, the cartographer René Phelipeau created a cadastral map of Saint-Domingue (Haiti), which he dedicated to the comte de Vaudreuil, a prominent courtier and art collector whose father had served as governor of the colony. The map records the parcelling of land around Cap Français, the so-called “Paris of the Antilles,” where several of the oldest and most lucrative sugar plantations were located. Instead of place names, the map is inscribed with the names of property owners, a list that includes the names of many of the highest-profile members of the Paris art world at the time.
Focusing on this map of colonial Haiti, our research sheds light on some hidden histories of the eighteenth-century French art world. Fleshing out the stories behind the names on the map – Vaudreuil in particular – we trace the colonial commerce and practices that underpinned so much artistic production in the period, while also returning the unnamed lives of enslaved people to a map of colonizers’ names. In this presentation we will also reflect on our interdisciplinary approach which brings together historical archives, art-historical objects, and digital methods.