In a new review in Historians of Netherlandish Art Review of Books, Miya Tokumitsu discusses Christopher Heuer’s Into the White: The Renaissance Arctic and the End of the Image. Click here to learn more about the book. Click here to read the full review. An excerpt appears below:
“A frustrated attempt to describe an iceberg opens Into the White, Christopher P. Heuer’s fascinating book on the Arctic as seen and imagined during the European Renaissance. In a pamphlet produced after he journeyed with Martin Frobisher to the Far North in 1578, sailor Thomas Ellis struggles in four captioned illustrations to describe a ‘monstrous peece of yce.’ Upon first glance, it appeared a certain way; however, ‘In coming neare unto it, it appeared after this shape;’ later it ‘opened in shape’ and then shape-shifted again as Ellis’s ship sailed away. Ice, sea, and fog swirl about, refusing to hold still to be portrayed. Blink, and the view changes. Or perhaps, it was misremembered?
This mercurial Arctic matter posed significant challenges to the gridded fixity of Renaissance representation, and thus yielded numerous muddled accounts like Ellis’s. At the same time, Heuer argues, the Arctic’s denial at being depicted was grounded in many of the same uncertainties—distrust of sensory experience, the questionability of visual representation—that led to widespread Protestant disinvestment from the image.
Into the White unfolds over seven chapters, each efficiently yet learnedly presented and amply illustrated, often with obscure sources, such as a sixteenth-century Norwegian clergyman’s doodle of the Northern Lights. Heuer conjoins such visual sources in discussion with canonical works like Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s winter scenes and popular woodcuts to piece together a comprehensive picture of how the Arctic manifested across European visual culture.”