For sixteenth-century Europeans, the so-called demon and idol known as the “devil in Calicut” vividly epitomized the town of Calicut on India’s Malabar coast. Ludovico di Varthema’s textual invention of the devil in 1510 was rapidly followed by a range of visual images that circulated in print. This article explores how and why the most persistent and vigorous images of this devil emerged from Reformation and Counter-Reformation northern Europe. It further proposes that aspects of the visual and material culture of southern India—and specifically metal sculptures and coins—should be mined in order to better understand the European creation of the “devil in Calicut” and its constant reinvention and circulation. The article argues that the devil maintained its polemical usefulness to a northern European world view in which the heresy of non-Europeans mattered a great deal, but so too did religious changes in Europe that were shaping views about idolatry, materiality, and the role of religious images.
ScribnerFor the Sake of Simple Folk134-135; and Wolfgang Harms and Michael Schilling eds. Deutsche illustrierte Flugblätter des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts. Teil 2. Die Sammlung der Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel. Historica (Tübingen 1997) 26.
Gülru Necipoglu“Süleyman the Magnificent and the Representation of Power in the Context of Ottoman-Hapsburg-Papal Rivalry,”The Art Bulletin71 no. 3 (1989): 401–27. The turban seems to have been dropped in some French version of the Histoires prodigieuses after 1583.
Ibid.91; and Pratapaditya Pal Indian Sculpture. Volume 2: 700-1800 (Berkeley 1988) 227.
See SivaramamurtiSouth Indian Bronzes65. The wildy gesticulating many-armed pose is somewhat less frequent for bronzes than those in figures 11 and 12 but the features demonstrate the fundamental iconography of Narasimha as well as the continuing vigour of sixteenth-century work. Gelders usefully but very briefly proposes a general identification with Narasimha in his “Genealogy of Colonial Discourse” 572.