Saturday, December 1, 2007
A Persuasive Precedent for a New World Order
Art has been a decisive tool for mass propaganda and the legitimization of imperial sovereignty throughout history. An apposite illustration which attests to the persuasive precedents for a New World Order may be found in Roma Spiridione’s The East Offering its Riches to Britannia. Through this artistic rendition of merchant capitalism, we find a stark reminder of our felonious past as Americans, in part of the European structure of commerce. This early modern art is also emblematic of Europe’s egocentric views from its period of Enlightenment.
This oil painting was finished on an oval canvas by Spiridione, while commissioned by The East India Company in 1777 (British Library). He was assigned to paint a ceiling piece for the Revenue Committee Room at the East India House (British Library). Although it is representational art depicting early corporate colonialism, it combines the Rococo style by accenting the luxurious state, dainty figures and by placing cherubs in the background (Stokstad 378). This style is further accentuated by his use of polychromy combined with a high concentration of the primary hue blue, which creates a cool palette (Stokstad 5). His use of other colors contrasts the blue, such as the use of red on the Roman God Mercury’s garments and the dark complexion of the Indian woman. Mercury’s red commands authority as he stands amongst the ‘Easterners,’ in the middle right quadrant. The Indian woman is kneeling at the center of the painting, and as her complexion contrasts with her surroundings, the observer’s attention is directed to the paintings midpoint. There is also linear symmetry which focuses at the center, by depicting majority of the figures facing or pointing towards the middle.
The heavy use of iconography (Stokstad 6) captures the observer’s intimate attention. The major concentration of the painting is on the middle and lower quadrants of the left and right side. In the aforementioned quadrants of the right side, we find the ‘Easterners’ represented by the Asian delegates of India, China, and Indonesia. They are giving their wealth to Britannia at the command of Mercury. On the quadrants aforesaid of the left side, we find Britannia identifiable by the flag she is wearing. She stands over a lion which symbolizes power. Below it in the lower left quadrant of the foreground, lays Old Father Thames (Robins 6) also symbolizing navigational might. In the center lower quadrant, we find a ship with the East India Company flag (Robins 3). This painting can be interpreted as the lowly Asians engaging in commerce with the mighty Brits, through the East India Company. Roma juxtapositions Britannia in a higher quadrant over the kneeling Asians to show an early classical styled relationship akin to God and worshiper.
As Western societies hypocritically stand as pillars for justice and righteousness, their consciousness lays in a continuum of atrocious crimes against humanity and the peoples of hundreds of nations. The historical subject matter of this painting, captures these evils of merchant capitalism and their present day neoliberal policies. Although an afflicted eye can capture the true nature of this work, this painting gave merchant capitalism legitimacy to its intended audience. It held fast to the egoistic views of European supremacy. This allowed them to economically rape Asia, so they can enjoy their pathetic luxuries while profiting from human misery. This painting is a reminder of how our governing and economical systems, which are both geared towards the New World Order, need to be completely replaced!
Stokstad, Marilyn. Art: A Brief History. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2004 (DiYanni 154).
DiYanni, Robert. Writing About the Humanities. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2004.
Spiridione, Roma. The East Offering its Riches to Britannia. British Library. c5945-03
Robins, Nick. “The East offering its riches to Britannia.” openDemocracy.com. 22 January