Michał Boym, the Sum Xu, and the Reappearing Image

In: Journal of Early Modern History
Tomasz Grusiecki Boise State University

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By examining images of the imaginary Chinese animal Sum Xu, this essay engages with questions about artistic origins and authorial originality, two art-historical concepts that so often exclude peripheral artists and their supposedly derivative artworks. Drawn by the Polish-Ruthenian Jesuit Michał Boym, the Sum Xu challenges the conventional accounts of images’ origins. As will be demonstrated, Boym’s image cannot be associated with a single place; its visual form derives its appearance from a multitude of sources, and the creature’s erratic afterlives further destabilize the concept of origin as an authorial act tied to a singular moment in space and time.

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