New Directions in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Art (NDENCA) Seminar Series

Seminar Series

New Directions in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Art (NDENCA) seminars will be run using online software and will be open to all.

Series 1: July – September 2020


Monday 27 July 2020

5 pm GMT

Dr Melissa Gustin, Henry Moore Institute

Dr Melissa L Gustin is the Henry Moore Postdoctoral Research Fellow, 2018-2020. Her primary research focuses on the productive encounter between artists, audiences, and antique sculpture in the long nineteenth century, through interdisciplinary, creative approaches. Her broader research interests include classical receptions and archaeology, 3D scanning and printing in contemporary art and art historical research, Medusa, mermaids and mushrooms, queer theory, and the work of women artists. Her research has most recently been supported by travel grants from the Association for Art History and the Francis Haskell Memorial Foundation. She is a postdoctoral representative on the board of the British Association for Victorian Studies, and tweets @Hosmeriana.

Sporegasbord: Jean-Léon Gérôme’s Tanagra and Mushroom Temporalities

Jean-Léon Gérôme took up sculpting late in his career, after decades of success as an Orientalist painter. This turn to the plastic coincided with a turn also to the archaeological and intermedial. The 1890 sculpture Tanagra, now in the Musée d’Orsay along with Corinth (c. 1903), performs these artistic interests and interplays. The marble sculpture depicts a young nude woman seated in the manner of an ancient urban goddess figure, presenting a small polychrome statuette to the viewer. At the figure’s feet, more polychromed statuettes remain partially buried, in reference to the archaeological origins of the Tanagra figurines in the ancient Boeotian city. These figurines became immensely popular in the 1870s and were analogised to modern Parisian women, collected in Europe and America, and copied, creatively restored, and forged, displayed in private homes, public exhibitions, and major museums.

Gérôme’s evocation of the archaeological site and archaeological finds through his imitative Tanagra figurine and allegorical figure are not singular instantiations of his interest in archaeology. Rather, the sculpture and statuette both appear across numerous paintings Gérôme produced of ancient artisans and of himself at work; the Tanagresque figurine was available in multiple media and at a range of scales. This paper positions Gérôme’s Tanagra at the centre of a rhizomatic mesh of objects, appearances, and reproductions across centuries. It argues for creative scholarly response to works of art about which little information is given in the museum context: my interest in, and exploration of, this work was inspired by the nearly hallucinatory encounter I had with Tanagra in the museum. By embracing the weird, imaginative potentials of an unexpected object, and following the unpredictable emergences, cross-fertilizations, and remediations like the spread of spores, this paper plays with the temporality and mediality of late nineteenth-century sculpture.



Monday 3 August 2020

5 pm GMT

Ricarda Brosch, Courtauld Institute for Art and Victoria & Albert Museum

Ricarda Brosch is a part-time PhD student at The Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Her doctoral research is generously funded by CHASE. Ricarda also works as a China curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Asian Department. Before joining the V&A, she was a curatorial trainee at the Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Berlin preparing the museum’s move into the future Humboldt Forum. Ricarda has studied Chinese and East Asian art history in Berlin, Beijing and London.

The Intervening Years: Chinese court art between prosperity, death and revolution (1790s-1840s)

China’s long eighteenth century is often described as the Prosperous Age, or High Qing. Its three ‘Great Emperors’ – the Kangxi, Yongzheng, and Qianlong Emperors – are remembered as triumphant rulers who presided over an ever expanding, multi-ethnic empire. Qing material culture was so fine that the Qianlong Emperor, when confronted by foreign emissaries in 1793, famously refused all manner of English wares in exchange for a trading relationship. Just two years later, Qianlong abdicated in favour of his son, the Jiaqing Emperor. His story,by and large overlooked in the history of art, is portrayed as one of failure and decline.

China’s prowess at the turn of the nineteenth century gave way to the Opium Wars and the Century of Humiliation so ingrained in China’s popular psyche today. The decline of imperial China in the 1800s has long been debated, but what do art and culture from the period tell us? This paper will draw on the visual and material culture of Jiaqing’s court in answering the simple yet unresolved question: how did the Jiaqing Emperor portray himself within the broader context of China’s imperial rule? And what does this tell us about the decline narrative of the Qing?


Monday 10 August 2020

5 pm GMT

Dr Layachi El Habbouch, Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University

Layachi El Habbouch is Assistant Professor of Postcolonial Studies, Cross-Cultural Translation and Decolonial Communication at Dhar El Mehraz Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences, Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University, Fes, Morocco. His main research fields, as an early career researcher, include circus studies, postcolonial studies, cultural studies, Cross-Cultural translation and decolonial Communication.

Moroccan Acrobats and British Children under Moorish Exhibition in Victorian Britain: Decolonizing Performance Studies

Moroccan acrobatic encounters with Victorian Britain had complex social repercussions and cultural ramifications on British discourses of national identity and racial difference. The growing fascination of British society with the ethnic spectacles and racial exhibitions of “Bedouin Arabs” and “Morocco Arabs” on the Victorian performance stage had multifaceted aftermaths on the social fabric and cultural landscape of the British Empire. Such “native” artistic spectacles were not simply ethnic exhibitions to perform racial hierarchies on the stage for the social consumption and cultural reproduction of nativity for white theatre and circus audiences; they were also social processes witnessing to the tangible fascination and concrete interaction of the British Victorians with the Moroccan performance art of acrobatics. Moroccan professional entertainments of acrobatics were fascinating for British children as sporty and artistic activities and empowering for their parents as trade careers and economic obligations. The Acrobats Bill (1872), the Dangerous Performances Bill (1879) and Hadj Ali Ben Mohamed’s apprenticeship of British children in his Moorish circus in Constantinople (1882) were complex legal and discursive consequences of Moroccan acrobatic encounters with Victorian Britain. Indeed, such discursive outcomes inscribe highly complex economic, legal and political implications of an oriental cultural trade, and transcribe social and cultural ramifications of a nomadic Moroccan military sport and performance art on British society. Reading these consequences as discursive practices can help with the illumination of the material and visual culture of Victorian Britain from the perspective of the Moroccan other enjoying a position of power and subverting, if not threatening the taxonomist worldview of the British Empire.

Unpredictably, the clarification of such complex performance and colonial encounters between Morocco and Britain offers ample possibilities for decolonizing the field of performance studies beyond the mainstream view of the classical performance art historian. By using a decolonial approach to the study of the hidden and forgotten history of Moroccan acrobatics as a performance art beyond borders, archival and epistemic forms of disobedience, against the Darwinian mindset of the age of collection in Victorian Britain, start to emerge as subversive voices of dissidence, opposition and will to emancipation.


Monday 17 August 2020

5 pm GMT

Dr Ruth Noyes, National Museum of Denmark

Ruth Sargent Noyes is Novo Nordisk Fonden Mads Øvlisen Senior Research Fellow in Art History at the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen. She holds a PhD in the History of Art from Johns Hopkins University and works on the intersection of art, religion and science of the long Counter-Reformation in its global context, with special interest in cross-cultural perspectives between Italy and Northern Europe, including Germany, the Low Countries, and the Baltic region. Author of a number of articles and essays, she published her first monograph with Routledge in 2018 and is currently working on several projects. A 2014 Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, she has held various research grants and fellowships, including most recently a Marie Skłodowska-Curie EU Individual Research Fellowship. Her presentation for the NDENCA seminar series presents work in progress from her Marie Curie grant-funded project, ‘Translatio:’ (Re)moving relics and reforming holiness in Europe’s borderlands.

‘Corpisanti’ in a Time of Crisis: Sacred Paperwork, Papal Manufactories, and Producing Relics at the Dawn of the Anthropocene.

The paper draws on distinct genres of textual, material and visual source materials to offer a critical approach to the entwined histories of climate and humanitarian crises at the onset of the Anthropocene, by way of a case study in the phenomenon of so-called corpisanti (“holy bodies”) Roman catacomb relic-sculptures, a unique multimedia art form combining human remains and manmade sculptural elements whose manufacture in Roman workshops under the Vatican’s purview began c. 1750 and climaxed shortly after 1800, totaling in the tens of thousands. As centuries-long Catholic hegemony crumbled, Vatican authorities exploited as never before natural and human resources in a bid to refill depleted coffers and reaffirm the illusion of integral empire.

I explore one such initiative involving reinvigorating the Rome-centric export cult of holy relics, perceived not only (or even mainly) as symbols of power and piety, but actual galvinic resources enabling diffusion of numen much like metals conduct electricity. The manufacture of corpisanti entailed strip-mining the already over-exploited Roman catacombs for friable skeletal fragments of saints and martyrs, consolidating and assembling the often pulverized remains into a luxurious life-size material fantasy of integral anthropomorphy. Distributed to wealthy petitioners under increased Papal bureaucratic oversight through convoluted paperwork and patronage networks, corpisanti were made from byproducts of proto-industrial paper, textile and tobacco production in hazardous Vatican-run charitable manufactories, largely by vulnerable female and puerile labourers (some of them prisoners). I present an ecological perspective on the paradoxical circumstances of the ‘climate crisis’ of the pre-modern Papacy that engendered corpisanti. I also consider the scholarly ethics implicit in attending to the marginalized forms and modes of exploitive labour and industry involved in the production of spectacular works of art at the cusp of the industrial age.


Monday 24 August 2020

5 pm GMT

Aparna Andhare, Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum

Aparna Andhare is a curator at the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, City Palace, Jaipur, where she is working on a new gallery on transport, and has collection management and outreach responsibilities. She holds a MSc in Art in the Global Middle Ages from the University of Edinburgh (2017) and a MA in Arts and Aesthetics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi (2012). When not preoccupied with the treasures of the eighteenth and nineteenth century palace museum, she likes exploring funerary and commemorative monuments in the Deccan.

Politics of Presents: Art and Objects of Exchange in the Royal Court of Jaipur

I unwrap a few presents in this paper: a set of paintings from the ruler of the newly founded capital of Hyderabad to his counterpart in Jaipur (also founded around the same time) in the late eighteenth century; a model of a traditional Jaipur Haveli (mansion) in the nineteenth century and other objects presented by the Maharaja of Jaipur to the visiting Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) in 1875-76. The practice of gift-giving in medieval and early modern India was an important aspect of court culture, protocol and held religious significance. Royal favour was bestowed, allegiance and power were articulated through gift-giving. Khillat, a ceremonial gifting of robes, from an emperor was a great honour and from a spiritual leader or guide, it was a special blessing. Early European emissaries brought curiosities for attention and favour at courts in the subcontinent. By the nineteenth century, diplomatic ties with the English necessitated a different approach, as colonisation was taking over, and each princely state had to negotiate their own versions of sovereignty.

This paper explores shifts in the nature, allegories and meaning of gift-giving and the subtext of the items produced and presented in Jaipur, with an emphasis on skill and aesthetics in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. These gifts were exhibited in London, Paris and Copenhagen, perhaps in continuation of the legacy of the Crystal Palace, and forged new identities and power dynamics between courts within the subcontinent and England. While traditional scholarship on Jaipur and the Deccan has looked at materials in isolation, research is now moving to interdisciplinary examination. Gifts are a window into exploring the evolution of visual and material culture, the development of art schools and exhibitions, in a vibrant and dynamic court.


Monday 31 August 2020

Please note this seminar will take place at the slightly different time of 12 midday GMT

Dr Nikita Vanderbyl, La Trobe University

Dr Nikita Vanderbyl is a precariously employed early career scholar currently based in Victoria, Australia, on the unceded lands of the Paakantyi peoples. Her research has appeared in Aboriginal History, The La Trobe Journal and online via the Conversation AU. During Covid-19 Nikita was a lecturer in history and social inquiry at La Trobe University in Mildura. She tweets intermittently at @nikitavanderbyl.

Art according to whom? The question of nineteenth century Aboriginal Australian artwork and cultural objects.

For Aboriginal Australian creative productions ‘artwork’ is not a fixed classification. What audiences today view as paintings and drawings produced by Australia’s First Peoples during the 1800s and early 1900s were not always understood as artworks by those who viewed them. Their classification is the result of a decades long process of changing conceptions of the creative productions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Descendants today may also challenge the designation of artwork, referring to instead to ‘cultural documents’ or ‘cultural objects’. These contested meanings reveal the differing attempts of non-Indigenous interlocutors to understand the Other through aesthetics. This paper explores the ways in which these competing epistemologies reveal the limits of cultural understanding during the life of one artist.

Ngurungaeta (leader) William Barak (c. 1823-1903) was a Wurundjeri Woi- wurrung artist whose work documents the cultural traditions and knowledge of his people during the tumultuous period of Victoria’s colonisation. Barak dedicated his life to preserving Wurundjeri culture and he adopted a range of strategies derived from the colonising culture to advocate for his people. His artworks were an integral part of this diplomacy. While Barak styled himself as an artist his audience took decades to understand his work as anything other than tourist souvenir or ethnographic material. By contrasting Barak’s presentation and productions with the observations of his varied audiences, I contend that artwork should remain a contested category. Art as a concept in the Western discourse is an evolving one, the challenges posed by Indigenous epistemology is one among many new directions. Does ‘artwork’ do enough to encompass all that Barak’s paintings and drawings did and continue to do for the preservation of Wurundjeri heritage?


Monday 7 September 2020

pm GMT

Dr Kate Nichols, University of Birmingham

Kate Nichols is currently Birmingham Fellow in British Art at the University of Birmingham. She studied for her PhD in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at Birkbeck College London (2009). Since then, she has been a Henry Moore Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Bristol’s Institute for Greece, Rome and the Classical Tradition; Teaching Fellow in the History of Art at the University of York; Postdoctoral Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art; Teaching Fellow in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Bristol, and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Research in Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH, Cambridge).

She has published widely on Victorian visual culture. Her first book Greece and Rome at the Crystal Palace: Classical Sculpture and Modern Britain, 1854-1936 (OUP, 2015) examines the social, political, and aesthetic role of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture in modern Britain. She is co-editor (with Sarah Victoria Turner) of After 1851: The Material and Visual Cultures of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham (Manchester University Press, 2017) and (with Gabriel Williams and Rebecca Wade) Art vs. Industry? New perspectives on Visual and Industrial Cultures in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Manchester University Press, 2016).

A Global History of Victorian Painting: methods, challenges and implications

Question: what do you call a painting made of Indian pigments and Egyptian linseed oil, painted by an artist trained in Rome and Paris, whose models include a range of European, African and South Asian people resident in London, which features ancient Assyrian sculpture, Imperial Roman architecture, and whose subject is the visit of an Ethiopian queen to Jerusalem? Answer: ‘essentially such a picture as the nation ought to possess, for it is wholly English in character’ (The Universal Review, June 1890).

How did such global conditions come to be understood as ‘wholly English’? And how might we write and rethink ‘Victorian’ art histories to include the models, materials, vast time scales and scattered geographies that these works embody? Despite – or indeed because of – its ‘wholly English’ attributes, the subject of this riddle, Edward John Poynter’s painting The Visit of the Queen of Sheba (1890), did not remain long in England; in 1892 it was shipped over to a new home at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia while a second, smaller version of the painting became part of the founding collection of the Baroda Art Gallery in Gujarat, India (opened 1920). This paper sets out the methodological framework and rationale for my current research project, A Global History of Victorian Painting. It will query what art historical objects and methods might add to Victorian Studies’ increasing interest in reviewing its objects of study through a global lens.


Monday 14 September 2020

Please note this seminar will take place at the slightly different time of 6 pm GMT

Dr C. C. McKee

C.C. McKee is an Assistant Professor of Modern Art in the Department of History of Art at Bryn Mawr College. McKee received a dual doctorate from Northwestern University and the École des hautes études en sciences sociales. In their current monographic project, McKee uses painting and scientific imagery to trace the coeval developments in colonial race and environmental sciences in the francophone Atlantic World. This project represents one facet of McKee’s broader investment in the relationship between colonialism and its continued effects in the present. These interests include, the art history of science in the Atlantic World, contemporary African and African diasporic art, and queer aesthetic practices.

In addition to their scholarship, McKee has developed these perspectives in various pieces of art criticism; with exhibitions at the Block Museum, Iceberg Projects (Chicago, IL), and the Ghetto Biennale (Port-au-Prince, Haiti); as well as in an articles in Art Journal and CASVA Seminar Papers. McKee’s research and curatorial projects have been supported by a number of grants including the College Art Association Professional Development Fellowship.

Images of Imperial Florescence and Withering: Botanical Memory and the Post-Revolutionary Haitian Landscape

For this digital seminar, I endeavor to trace the concatenated histories of colonial botanical imagery and revolutionary Afro-Caribbean personhood in the eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century French Caribbean. Beginning from Michel Rolph Trouillot’s characterization of the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) as “being unthinkable even as it happened,” I interrogate the extent to which the visual constitutes an alternate approach to the revolutionary archive. At the heart of this seminar are two works by François-Richard de Tussac and Michel Étienne Descourtilz, French botanists who lived and worked in Saint-Domingue/Haiti during the revolution and published treatises on Caribbean plants during the Empire and Bourbon Restoration. Looking to the relationship between illustration and text in these colonial botanical treatises, I trace the lamentation of colonial loss, and the threat it posed to the superiority of white French subjectivity, through scientific images of florescence and withering. Their respective atlases—Tussac’s Flore des Antilles (1808-1827) and Descourtilz’s Flore médicale des Antilles (1821-29)—depart from representational conventions inaugurated by Carl Linnaeus and emblematized by Pierre-Joseph Redouté. These foundational botanical illustrations centered on the flower, as the locus of identification vis-à-vis vegetal sexuality, and divorced the plant from its broader ecology on the folio page, choosing instead to depict a single, generalized specimen at the peak of health. Tussac and Descourtilz depart from convention to represent plants from Saint-Domingue in states of rot, desiccation, and etiolation.

These images of vegetal withering are contextualized with anecdotal stories about the plants and their uses that encompass the violence of the Haitian Revolution and critiques of the nascent black republic that extend beyond positivistic descriptions of taxonomy and medical use. The botanists use the false objectivity of scientific writing to mourn the lost territory as if it were their own. Their images of botanical withering construct an ecological lamentation of Haitian independence and the impossibility of its reintegration into the French empire. With an attention to representations of the ecological and environmental, this seminar reveals new art historical modes of recognizing the extent to which Haiti was visually retained within the French imperial imagination and in colonial discourse to vastly different ends and effects.


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