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Collecting and Display Research Seminar

 

4 June 2018, 6 pm

 

Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, Malet Street

 

Elsje van Kessel 

 

Ships, Inventories and Asian Goods in Europe c.1600

 

This paper asks what knowledge of early modern ships and their cargos can
contribute to the history of collecting. In what sense can we describe a
ship laden with objects as a collection, and what are the possible benefits
of such an approach? These questions derive from my project Stolen Ships and
Globalisation: Asian Material Culture in Europe c. 1600. The period around
1600 was a tipping point in the history of early modern globalisation: the
Portuguese empire reached its zenith around this time, and the Dutch
Republic and England were just beginning to take over Portuguese-Asian sea
routes and trading posts. My project studies the successes and failures of
early modern globalisation against this background through a focus on art
objects and their interaction with human beings and ideas. Central to the
research are the analysis of the seizures of Portuguese cargo ships by the
English and the Dutch and the aftermath of these events. The project
reconstructs the cargos of these ships and responses they evoked. 

 

This paper will look in particular at a range of textual sources from the
archive, such as bills of lading and inventories of stolen goods. These
record the types of objects on board: apart from spices, Chinese, Japanese
and Indian (art) objects like precious stones, jewellery, silks, porcelain,
lacquer, and furniture. As this paper will show, they also shed light on the
ways people and objects related, and how the meanings of objects changed in
the course of their trajectories. While objects’ journeys at sea usually
remain an implicit assumption, an essential yet unstudied phase in the life
of a collectible, here they take centre stage. 

 

Elsje van Kessel is a Lecturer in Art History at the University of St
Andrews. She completed her Ph.D. at Leiden University, the Netherlands, in
2011, and held an annual stipend at the Centre Allemand d’Histoire de l’Art,
Paris before moving to Scotland. She is the author of The Lives of
Paintings: Presence, Agency and Likeness in Venetian Art of the
Sixteenth-Century <https://www.degruyter.com/view/product/474348>  (De
Gruyter, 2017). Elsje has received numerous fellowships, grants and awards:
among others, grants from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Calouste
Gulbenkian Foundation and Museum, and, most recently, a Leverhulme Research
Fellowship.

 

Elsje’s research is broadly concerned with the viewing, use and display of
art in early modern Europe. Ongoing research focuses on the art of display
in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Venice, Paris, and Lisbon. Her major
current research project, from which the present paper is drawn, looks at
the circulation of Asian material culture between Portugal, England and
Holland c. 1600. Further research and teaching interests include
portraiture, early modern art theory, early museums, the visual arts in
literature, and theories of presence and the agency of things.

 

All are welcome!

 

Susan Bracken    Andrea M. Gáldy   Adriana Turpin

 

 

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