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American BaroquePearls and the Nature of Empire, 1492-1700$
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Molly A. Warsh

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781469638973

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469638973.001.0001

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Rescuing “That Tired Irregular Pearl from Such Lengthy Isolation”

Rescuing “That Tired Irregular Pearl from Such Lengthy Isolation”

(p.242) Conclusion Rescuing “That Tired Irregular Pearl from Such Lengthy Isolation”
American Baroque

Molly A. Warsh

University of North Carolina Press

The conclusion considers the enduring lessons of two centuries of continuity and change in pearl production and circulation. Two hundred years after the Caribbean pearl fisheries’ heyday, the widespread interest in the diversity of form and function that pearls had come to symbolize endured in the personal and imperial imagination. This early American experiment in wealth production honed the governing impulse to contain and categorize objects and subjects by their perceived nature. But neither pearls nor people could ever be easily or entirely controlled. Like pearls, people offer an infinitely varied expression of a single unifying identity and their subjective judgment—as evidenced in assessments of pearl’s value—remained beyond the purview of imperial authority. This essential independence of imagination is embodied by the baroque pearl transformed by a jeweler into exquisite art and the enduring utility of the term beyond pearls as a metaphor for unbounded and irregular expression. Even as many of pearls’ classical associations endured—their sensuality and their association with death, unnatural pairings, and maritime peril—the global connections forged in the post-Columbus years transformed the core of pearls’ identity from simplicity to multiplicity.

Keywords:   Baroque, Subjectivity, Categorization, Subjective judgment, Subjectivity, Imagination, Jeweler

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