Miniatures between East and West: The Art(s) of Diplomacy in Thomas Roe’s Embassy

Etudes Epistémè. 2014;26 DOI 10.4000/episteme.343


Journal Homepage

Journal Title: Etudes Epistémè

ISSN: 1634-0450 (Online)

Publisher: Institut du Monde Anglophone

LCC Subject Category: History (General) and history of Europe | Language and Literature: French literature - Italian literature - Spanish literature - Portuguese literature

Country of publisher: France

Language of fulltext: French, English

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Anne-Valérie Dulac


Double blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 24 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

Following his arrival at Jahangir’s imperial court, Thomas Roe – the first duly accredited English ambassador to India – presented the Emperor with a miniature by Isaac Oliver, a gift deemed worthy of the occasion by Wazir Asaf Khan. As he recalls and writes about the episode, Roe explains that he had taken with him ‘a pickture of a frend of myne that I esteemed very much, and was for Curiositye rare, which I would giue his Maiestie as a present, seeing hee so much affected that art.’ The Mogul Emperor’s ‘Cheefe Paynter’, upon discovering Oliver’s work and hearing Roe’s public paean to the artist’s skills, wagers he can paint as well as the English limner. The quality of the copies accordingly brought to Roe some days later is such that the episode ends with James’s ambassador being offered to ‘choose any of these Coppies to show in England wee are not so unskillfull as you esteeme us.’Although this lesson in ethnocentrism has often been discussed and commented upon by historians, one question still remains partly unanswered: why would the ambassador choose a miniature, of all formats, to (re)present himself and his country? Starting from this highly revealing moment of political performance and negotiation in The Embassy, I would like to enquire into the techniques and significance of limning to try and understand why miniatures would feature both among curiosities and political negotiations between East and West.