Mobility and Artistic Exchange in the Long Eighteenth Century #1

Wednesday, 8 December 2021, 12:00:00 am UTC

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Session Convenors

Dr Matthew Martin, University of Melbourne
Belinda Scerri, University of Melbourne

Session Moderators

Dr Matthew Martin, University of Melbourne
Belinda Scerri, University of Melbourne

Session Speakers

Dr Louise Voll Box, University of Melbourne
Dr Sophie Matthiesson, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
Dr Matthew J Martin, University of Melbourne

In early modern Europe artists, collectors, and merchants served as cultural intermediaries. They facilitated the exchange not only of objects but of the ideas, technologies, and the social relations embedded within them. The resultant intercultural exchanges were not always comfortable or sympathetic interactions and their impact could be unpredictable, resulting in misunderstandings. The transfer of materials, styles, and techniques from one culture or country to another could also result in aestheticisation of objects, which elided the realities of intercultural conflict, and colonial trade and violence. These material exchanges also moved cultural artefacts of all kinds across time and space with their final resting place not always reflecting or revealing the circumstances of their original display and manufacture. This panel invites papers that explore the impact of artistic exchanges within Europe and around the world during the long eighteenth century (1643–1815), a period that saw an intensification of European economic, cultural and military encounters – and interventions – across the globe.

PAPER #1
Eighteenth-century afterlives: eremitic prints in translation

PRESENTER
Dr Louise Voll Box, University of Melbourne

This paper follows the trajectory of images that transitioned from one medium and location to another. Four eremitic-themed prints connect an ancient religious order, paintings in a Milanese library, the social performance of garden visiting, watercolours in King George III’s collection, Catherine the Great’s tableware, and albums of prints now housed at the University of Melbourne. In the 1700s, there was a renewed appreciation of hermits depicted in bucolic settings, inspired by eremitic prints published in the 1500s by the Sadeler family after designs by Maarten de Vos. These engravings evoked the solitary, scholarly lives of hermits. But although hermits might seem to embody an ideal of material denial, in the eighteenth century eremitic imagery became synonymous with dichotomies of country and city/court; nature and artifice; society and solitude; moderation and indulgence. Sadeler’s hermit prints were enthusiastically acquired by collectors, including by Lady Elizabeth Seymour Percy, 1st Duchess of Northumberland. This paper reveals how eremitic statuary installed on the Northumberland estates embodies the mobility of images. I examine these figures in the contexts of solitude, sociability, and display, and argue that images of hermits from the Duchess’s print collection were deployed in stone to reflect her heritage, identity, and legacy.

PAPER #2
What Rouet did next

Dr Sophie Matthiesson, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

In 1759 William Rouet traded in his career as an esteemed ecclesiastical historian, linguist, art historian, legal advisor and all-round fixer for Glasgow University to become a so-called bear-leader or tutor to the son of the Earl of Hopetoun on his Grand Tour to Italy. What follows is a story of patronage, diplomacy and international friendships as Rouet slipped the noose of a restrictive institution and weaved his way through the upper echelons of European court and Enlightenment culture, armed only with his unique knowledge of antiquities gained from the first excavations at Herculaneum. Friend of David Hume and foe of Adam Smith, William Rouet (1714-1785) is perhaps the least-known leading figure of the Scottish Enlightenment. Rouet’s history and enduring legacy to Glasgow art history is unearthed in the course of analysing a splendid Grand Tour portrait now at Auckland Art Gallery.

PAPER #3
Catholic China

Dr Matthew J Martin, University of Melbourne

In 1712, the French Jesuit missionary François-Xavier d’Entrecolles, penned a letter from Jingdezhen in China that presented to European readers, for the very first time, an accurate account of the methods employed in the production of Chinese porcelain. At last, after centuries of wild speculation, details of the key mineral components of a true porcelain were available in Europe. The 1712 letter, as well as a second missive penned in 1722, has often been framed as a classic example of industrial espionage in pursuit of technology transfer effected in a mercantilist context. Far less attention has been paid to the circumstances in which d’Entrecolles obtained his information – from Christian Chinese converts working at Jingdezhen – and the implications of this for our understanding of the meaning of porcelain in eighteenth-century Europe. This paper will explore European knowledge of Chinese porcelain production as a product of the Jesuit mission to China. It will consider how the subsequent mastery of porcelain in Europe assumed a significant role in contemporary Catholic propaganda; including a reconsideration of a neglected area of eighteenth-century European porcelain production – the creation of porcelain devotional sculptures.

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Biographies

Dr Matthew J Martin, University of Melbourne

Matthew Martin is Lecture in Art History and Curatorship in the University of Melbourne. Prior to joining the university in 2019, he worked for over 12 years as a curator of European decorative arts in the National Gallery of Victoria. His current research focusses on the intersections between art history and the history of science in the eighteenth century, especially in relation to ceramics and glass, and the transcultural object in the early modern period.


Dr Louise Voll Box, University of Melbourne

Dr Louise Voll Box teaches in the Master of Art Curatorship and the Master of Arts and Cultural Management programs at the University of Melbourne. Her research centres on eighteenth-century visual culture, prints, the history of collecting, and business and the arts. In 2018, she was the Harold Wright and Sarah and William Holmes Scholar at the British Museum’s Department of Prints and Drawings. She has received research funding from the Francis Haskell Memorial Fund and the Paul Mellon Centre. Her research on an eighteenth-century print collection was awarded ‘The Chancellor’s Prize for Excellence in the PhD Thesis’ (Melbourne University).


Dr Sophie Matthiesson, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Sophie Matthiesson is Senior Curator of International Art at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. Sophie was previously curator of International Art at the National Gallery of Victoria, where she co-curated Monet’s Garden (2014) and was contributing curator to Napoleon: Revolution to Empire (2012), The Legacy of Catherine The Great (2015), Degas: A New Vision (2016) and Van Gogh: The Seasons (2017). Her doctoral research was on artists in prison in the French Revolution. Her recent exhibitions include Enchanted Worlds Hokusai, Hiroshige and the Art of Edo Japan (2020), Mary Quant: Fashion Revolutionary (2021) and Manpower: Myths of Masculinity (2021).


Belinda Scerri, University of Melbourne

Belinda Scerri is a doctoral candidate and sessional tutor in Art History at the University of Melbourne. Her dissertation examines the relationship between patronage and the ascendancy of the ornémaniste in early eighteenth-century Paris.