This dissertation examines the imagined worlds of the Cuban plantation system. It tells a story of print culture in a slave society. The story is based in the city of Havana, capital of Cuba, the great fortified port of the Spanish Empire, and seat of one of the largest plantation economies in the Atlantic World. The dissertation is primary concerned with what I call “Havana Impressions,” printed and mental images of the city that impressed a sense of modernity upon the viewer. These images, I argue, lay bare the struggle to define urban modernity under the cultural regimes of Spanish colonialism and nineteenth-century slavery.
The story’s main character is the French painter and lithographer Frédéric Mialhe. Mialhe arrived in Havana in 1838 under the sponsorship of the Sociedad Patríotica de la Habana, an economic society and forum for the plantocracy. For nearly two decades the artist lived among Havana’s elites. He taught classes in the San Alejandro Art Academy and produced hundreds of images of the island and its capital. His broadly reproduced lithographs are today inseparable from the image of colonial Cuba. One of the contributions of this study is to provide a nuanced understanding of Mialhe’s oeuvre and his role in drafting Plantation imaginaries.
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Sepulveda, Asiel, "Havana Impressions: Print Culture And Global Modernity In Plantation Cuba (1790-1860)" (2021). Art History Theses and Dissertations. 11.
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