Visual Encounters with a Significant Other: The Travels of Maria Bambina from Italy to India (and Beyond), in Bornet, Philippe und Cattoni, Nadia (Hrsg.): Significant Others, Significant Encounters: Essays on South Asian History and Literature, Heidelberg: Heidelberg Asian Studies Publishing, 2023, S. 57–76. https://doi.org/10.11588/hasp.1155.c16210

Identifier (Buch)

ISBN 978-3-948791-50-6 (PDF)
ISBN 978-3-948791-51-3 (Hardcover)




Philippe Bornet

Visual Encounters with a Significant Other

The Travels of Maria Bambina from Italy to India (and Beyond)

The chapter analyses the transnational life of an image of the child Mary as it travelled from Italy to India around the end of the nineteenth century. The first section sketches out some methodological and theoretical considerations. The second part recounts the image’s origins, as it was modelled in wax by a Franciscan nun around 1735, and its development in Italy with the Sisters of Charity, and then across Europe through ecclesiastical networks. In the third section, the contribution deals with the image’s appropriation in South India, and especially in the region of Mangalore (Karnataka, India). Retaining some of the characteristics of the “original” image (in particular, its relation to health), the Indian context gave it additional dimensions: a relation to harvests, a celebration with many elements borrowed from a South Indian Hindu framework, and a specific relation to the Konkani-speaking Roman Catholic community of Mangalore. Comparing European and Indian evidence, the chapter concludes by asking to what extent the image’s usage in both contexts reflects (or not) different visual cultures.

Keywords Mary, South India, Catholicism, Hinduism, Sisters of Charity