Exhibition | A Century of French Elegance

Posted in exhibitions by InternRW on September 16, 2016

On view this week in Paris from The State Hermitage Museum:

A Century of French Elegance / Un siècle d’élégance française 
Grand Palais, Paris, 10–18 September 2016

Curated by Tamara Rappe

Watch on a chatelaine

Julien Le Royi, Watch on a chatelaine, Paris, mid-18th century.

The State Hermitage Museum presents the exhibition A Century of French Elegance, organized within the frames of the 28th Biennale des Antiquaires. The exhibition presents 34 works—some on view for the first time—in an installation of important eighteenth-century masterworks from the institution’s renowned collection. For centuries, France represented a certain model of art de vivre for all of Europe and Russia; the eighteenth century was profoundly marked by this ‘French elegance’, found both in fashion and in furniture. The collection of French decorative arts at the Hermitage is considered one of the finest outside the country itself. This is explained by the close Russian-French ties over many centuries. Russian monarchs regularly visited Paris for the acquisition of objects in porcelain, silver and bronze, and were offered exceptional masterpieces as diplomatic gifts.

In 1717, Tsar Peter the Great laid the foundation for official Russian-French relations during a visit to Paris. The main achievement of this visit was that Peter attracted French craftsmen of various trades to Russia. In subsequent years, Russian monarchs almost exclusively took their cue from the French capital. During the reign of Elizabeth Petrovna, French goods arrived from Paris in a constant stream. It was in the period of Elizabeth’s reign that items made of porcelain came to Saint-Petersburg. It was a favourite material in France in the mid-18th century, and the ‘green service’—items of which are preserved at the Hermitage—proves this perfectly. The porcelain plaque with a portrait of Louis XV presented at the exhibition is a rare example of this type of work from the Sevres Manufactory. Under Elizabeth Petrovna, furniture was ordered for the Chinese Palace in Oranienbaum. This delivery included the famous filing cabinet that is now kept at the Hermitage.

However, the main items from Paris in the Hermitage collection date from the time of Catherine the Great. The Hermitage has a unique collection of commissions from David Roentgen dating from Catherine’s reign. The Empress royally rewarded her numerous favourites. The magnificent French porcelain service, the ‘cameo service’, was ordered for Grigory Potemkin. Catherine’s political ambitions were reflected in the works of decorative art connected with Russian military victories. Thus, the Chesma inkstand, a unique work from the second half of the eighteenth century, was designed as a memorial to the victory over the Turkish navy. The author of the inkstand, the goldsmith and enameller de Mailly, created an ensemble which symbolised in allegorical form the victories of the Russian navy in the war with the Turks.

Clock Vase

Clock Vase, Sevres, 1780s.

We encounter the name of the renowned enameller de Mailly once again on the signed ‘Egg shaped Vase’ decorated with the scene of the ‘Sacrifice of hearts at the altar of Catherine the Great’. Silver table services were ordered in Paris for the provinces, so that each Russian province would have its own. The Kazan, Yekaterinoslav, Nizhny Novgorod and Moscow services were made by Robert-Joseph Auguste from 1776 to 1782. The attention of the Russian court was focused on the French capital where the empress and her circle placed their main orders. In a very brief period, first class collections of works of art, drawings and cameos were gathered. However, the decorative objects ordered in Paris were not intended to form collections, but were rather purchased to delight the eye and ensure that the imperial palace in Saint-Petersburg was the equal of its European counterparts.

The reign of Paul I was also marked by a keen fondness for everything French. The architect Vincenzo Brenner ordered most of the furniture for Saint Michael’s Castle, built for Paul I, from France. Thanks to this, the Hermitage holds a unique collection of decorative bronzes and furniture bought in Paris at the end of the 18th century. Among these pieces of furniture were the only known console table signed by Pierre-Philippe Thomire, lacquered furniture, and a fall front desk and its matching chest of drawers ornamented with Sevres plaques.

Medal Cabinet.jpg

Medal Cabinet, Paris, 1723.

After the 1917 revolution, the fate of the Hermitage collection of decorative arts changed drastically. Through the National Museum Fund, the Hermitage received pieces from nationalized aristocratic collections, many of which had been converted into museums after the Revolution.

Another component of the museum collection comes from the Baron Stieglitz School of Technical Drawing the museum of which became attached to the Hermitage in 1924. The Russian patron Baron Stieglitz bequeathed an enormous sum of money to acquire items for the collection of the School’s museum founded in Saint-Petersburg in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.

Unfortunately, there was a period in the Hermitage’s history when, by order of the Soviet government, paintings and pieces of decorative arts were sold through the special agency called ‘Antiquariat’ established by the Government in order to export the museum objects. This is why porcelain pieces from the ‘Green’ and ‘Cameo’ services, silver from the Orlov, Paris and provincial services, and furniture by Charles Cressent can be found in museums in Europe and America. Despite all the historical vicissitudes, the Hermitage has a unique collection of French pieces of decorative arts. These works are displayed in the rooms of the Winter Palace and the Hermitage. Many of them can be seen at temporary exhibitions, both in Russia itself and abroad. At the Biennale, we are showing just 34 items of French decorative arts from the Hermitage collection, but they give an idea of the high level of our collection dating from the eighteenth century—the century of French elegance.





Call for Participants | Resembling Science: The Unruly Object

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on September 16, 2016

This working group will meet at the RBS-Mellon Conference Bibliography among the Disciplines in October 2017.

Resembling Science: The Unruly Object across the Disciplines
Philadelphia, 12–15 October 2017

Proposals due by 25 October 2016

Organizers: Meghan Doherty (Berea College), Dahlia Porter (University of North Texas), and Courtney Roby (Cornell University)

The task of transforming observation and experience into representational media is a constant concern in the long history of scientific knowledge. We might even argue that the history of of consolidating and communicating scientific thought is structured by a tension between two kinds of unruly objects: the objects we seek to represent, and the objects produced by representational media. Scientific media instantiate a wide range of representational modes, from drawings, tables, and diagrams to printed text and script in various languages. In this working group, we will examine the strategies deployed by writers and artists to transform material objects—whether a body, a specimen, a machine, or an observed phenomena—into knowledge that could be shared and disseminated materially as image, text, and/or book.

This working group will meet for four sessions over three days (see schedule below) to discuss the tension between the unruly material object and the equally unruly materiality of the objects used to represent it. In so doing, we seek to promote conversations about the tools, practices, and processes of scientific knowledge making across modern disciplinary divisions. What verbal and visual strategies are used to discipline objects of scientific study? How do the conventions of description and depiction render objects knowable to particular communities, or within a specific cultural context? Within any given context, is it possible to identify a ‘visual grammar’, or ‘regime of description’, on which scientific knowledge depends? How does the combination of text and image forward, or disrupt, the communication of scientific ideas? What methods of analysis or interpretive approaches might advance the study of images, texts, and objects across the history of science?

Interested scholars, librarians, curators, and members of the book trade are invited to send statements of interest describing a particular representational problem or proposing a case study that exemplifies the materiality of scientific knowledge. Statements may address any national tradition or time period from antiquity to the present; those focused on non-western representational traditions are particularly welcome.

Participants should be able to commit to attending all sessions of the working group:
Thursday, 12 October 2017, 2:00–5:00
Friday, 13 October 2017, 1:45–3:15
Saturday, 14 October 2017, 10:45–12:15

Participants should further be able to commit to meeting again within one year after the conference to work toward the final publication of the results of the working group. In their statements of interest, participants should indicate their availability to meet during the year following the conference (e.g., will you be abroad—if so, when, and do you anticipate that you will have sufficient internet connectivity to meet virtually?).

In order to be considered please submit proposals for participation by 25 October 2016 here. Proposals should include a statement of interest of no more than 250 words, outlining your relevant research, what you hope to contribute toward the group, and what you hope to take away from it.

Bibliography among the Disciplines, a four-day international conference, will bring together scholarly professionals poised to address current problems pertaining to the study of textual artifacts that cross scholarly, pedagogical, professional, and curatorial domains. The conference will explore theories and methods common to the object-oriented disciplines, such as anthropology and archaeology, but new to bibliography. The program aims to promote focused cross-disciplinary exchange and future scholarly collaborations. Bibliography among the Disciplines is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and organized by the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in Critical Bibliography at Rare Book School.

Call for Articles | Transatlantic Literary and Cultural Relations

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on September 16, 2016

Transatlantic Literary and Cultural Relations, 1776 to the Present
Special Issue of The Wenshan Review of Literature and Culture 11.2 (June 2018)
Guest Editors: Li-hsin Hsu and Andrew Taylor

Articles due by 30 June 2017

This special issue The Wenshan Review of Literature and Culture seeks essays of 6,000 to 10,000 words engaged in debate around historical, cultural, and literary issues in the Atlantic World. Whilst national narratives have often sought to assert the truth of universal values, a more self-conscious focus upon the methodological framework of the transnational Atlantic world concerns itself explicitly with ways in which diverse and competing local or national paradigms might contest the kinds of ideological assumptions that underwrite narratives of progress, civilisation and modernity. The editors are keen to receive submissions that explore what happens when the assumptions of a nationalistic model of doing literary and cultural criticism, in which geography is allegorised as the autonomous locus of all possible meaning, are challenged by forms of encounter and contagion that disrupt and expand our frames of interpretation. How might the Atlantic space map a series of textual disruptions and contagions during the period? In what ways does transatlanticism open up possibilities for thinking about literary comparison as a critical practice? How do the crossings of people, objects and ideas complicate our sense of literary and intellectual inheritance? What kinds of relationship does the Atlantic world have with other spatial paradigms—the Pacific, the Orient, Australasia? The essays in this special issue seek to explore the meshed networks of interaction—aesthetic, ideological, material—that constitute the space of Atlantic exchange. This, we hope, will result in a wide-ranging, geographically diverse collection that displays much of the best research being undertaken in this exciting and vibrant field.

Possible areas of interest may include, but are not limited to:
• ecology and landscape
• migration and travel
• nature and nation
• Asia/Orientalism and transatlanticism
• social reform
• class and conflict
• gender and sexuality
• art and aesthetics
• slavery and empire
• science and technology
• nationalism and cosmopolitanism

The Wenshan Review of Literature and Culture (www.wreview.org) is a Scopus-indexed journal of interdisciplinary nature based in the Department of English, National Chengchi University, Taipei, Taiwan. Please follow the submission guidelines to submit articles online by 30 June 2017.

Li-hsin Hsu is Assistant Professor of English at National Chengchi University, Taipei, Taiwan. She holds a PhD in Transatlantic Romanticism from the University of Edinburgh and specialises in transatlantic studies, ecocriticism, and Orientalism. She received the 2014 Emily Dickinson International Society (EDIS) Scholar in Amherst Award and has published in journals such as Symbiosis: A Transatlantic Journal and The Emily Dickinson Journal.

Andrew Taylor is Senior Lecturer and Head of English Literature at the University of Edinburgh. He specialises in 19th- and 20th-century North American literature and intellectual history and has an interest in the intersection of historiography and contemporary American fiction. He’s the author of Henry James and the Father Question (Cambridge UP, 2002), Thinking America: New England Intellectuals and the Varieties of American Experience (U of New Hampshire P, 2010), and co-author of Thomas Pynchon (Manchester UP, 2013). He’s the co-editor of several books including Transatlantic Literary Studies: A Reader (Johns Hopkins UP, 2007), Stanley Cavell: Literature, Philosophy, Criticism (Manchester UP, 2012), and Stanley Cavell, Literature and Film: The Idea of America (Routledge, 2013). An awardee of the Leverhulme Trust Project Grant, Dr Taylor is a series editor of the Edinburgh Critical Studies in Atlantic Literatures and Cultures, published by Edinburgh UP.

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