For the past few weeks Elika, David, and I have been working on an abstract to go to DH2014 about Casta paintings. We took about 300 paintings from the Baroque Art database and, selecting certain descriptors, described the characters in the paintings with their actions and the setting in which they are situated. The characters themselves were described by their race (as stated in the title), their position on the canvas, and whether they were parent or child. The actions were joined to whether the character received or did an action, and the setting was chosen from a small list of landscapes (categorized by indoor or outdoor).
We have found some interesting results, including those that confirm some of my suspicions. I had noticed when I was going through the catalogued there were some interesting patterns, however the database and visualizations confirmed my suspicions. There was one particular issue that stood out to us – the problem of blood mending. The preoccupation with genealogical origins was already a big concern in the Spanish culture – being a good Christian also took into account a bloodline free from Moorish or Jewish blood. This thought came with the Spanish into the Americas, and this time the focus was a bloodline free from indigenous or African blood. However, there were also ways of having bloodlines “cleaned” through a process of blood mending. Through a certain path of unions an offspring would eventually return to a status of “white” or Spanish. The result showed that although Spanish children are highest in number, they are representative of only 7.8% of the types of children in the paintings.
The collaborative process has been a really great experience, especially working with different people in the lab; it definitely gives a different result. We were all responsible for different details, but at the same time we all had overlapping responsibilities. This project has also showed me some interesting perspectives that I can take for my thesis, as the general subject will be the same. I’m really excited to get started on my own work now!