Williamsburg Acquires Rare Danish Abolitionist Medal

Posted in museums by Editor on January 15, 2018

Abolition of the Slave Trade Medal, dies by Pietro Leonardo Gianelli, Denmark, bronze, 1792 (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Museum Purchase, Lasser Numismatics Fund and Partial Gift, John Kraljevich).

Abolition of the Slave Trade Medal, dies by Pietro Leonardo Gianelli, Denmark, bronze, 1792 (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Museum Purchase, Lasser Numismatics Fund and Partial Gift, John Kraljevich).

Press release (10 January 2018). . .

One of the most important medallic items related to the Atlantic slave trade and one of Denmark’s most iconic medals is now part of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s collections. Designed by the Danish artist Nicolai Abildgaard and struck in bronze in 1792 from dies by the Italian medalist Pietro Leonardo Gianelli, the extremely rare piece commemorates that year’s royal edict ending trade in enslaved persons on Danish ships. Only a small handful of these medals produced in a variety of metals are known to exist: white metal examples are in Danish museums and others, held in private collections, were struck in bronze and silver.

“The items of Colonial Williamsburg’s collections capture tangibly our complex, shared history,” said Mitchell B. Reiss, Colonial Williamsburg president and CEO. “In this rare 1792 medal we see an Atlantic power affirming the humanity of a people exploited as property, as well as a foretelling of abolition in America. We welcome our guests 365 days a year—and especially in February during Black History Month—to experience the diverse stories of our nation’s founding.”

In Denmark in 1792, as the move towards banning slavery was taking hold throughout Europe and two years before Congress prohibited the slave trade between the United States and foreign countries, Crown Prince Frederik VI, acting as regent for his mentally unstable father, Christian VII, issued what is considered to be the Prince’s most important proclamation: the Edict of the Abolition of the Slave Trade. This decree made Denmark the first European nation to outlaw trade in enslaved persons on ships flying its flag, though the measure did not fully take effect until 1802. This medal, made at the beginning of the abolitionist movement on the European continent, marks a dramatic shift in the way Denmark sought to treat the enslaved African population in the nation’s Caribbean colonies, the Danish West Indies. The male head depicted in profile on the face of the medal is likely the oldest Danish naturalistic portrait of an African. The Latin phrase ‘Me Miserum’ (‘Woe is me’ or ‘Poor me’) is imprinted as a border around the profile. The reverse image shows the mythological winged goddess Nemesis, who was thought to be the avenging goddess of divine indignation against and retribution for evil deeds and undeserved good fortune. She is depicted seated and facing forward on a platform decorated with a shield that bears her name while holding an apple branch in one hand and touching her wing with the other. The Latin legends indicate the medal was produced under the Danish King’s law and includes the date of the edict, March 16, 1792.

“Objects in the Colonial Williamsburg collection are remarkable not only for their aesthetic qualities, but for the history they illustrate,” said Ronald L. Hurst, the Foundation’s vice president for collections, conservation, and museums and its Carlisle H. Humelsine chief curator. “This medal sheds light on some of the first steps toward the end of slavery, a painful chapter in the Atlantic world’s history.”

“This masterfully executed work of medallic art is a benchmark piece for two reasons,” said Erik Goldstein, Colonial Williamsburg’s senior curator of mechanical arts and numismatics. “Not only does it beautifully and sensitively display the portrait of an African man, it also marks the beginnings of the abolitionist movement in Europe.”

The medal was acquired through the Lasser Numismatics Fund and a partial gift by John Kraljevich. It is scheduled for public display in 2020 following completion of the entirely donor-funded $41.7 million expansion of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. Both institutions, the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, remain open throughout construction.

Conference | Circulating Crafts

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on January 15, 2018

I’m always interested to see how one might extend the significance of a CAA panel beyond the conference itself. Here’s an interesting attempt with programming in Paris and LA. Last month I noted the first CAA panel, but I didn’t connect it to these other events. CAH

From the programme:

Circulating Crafts: Art, Agency, and the Making of Identities, 1600–2000
Paris, 24 January 2018 / Los Angeles, 21 February 2018

Organized by Yaëlle Biro and Noémie Étienne

Circulation and imitation of cultural products are key factors in shaping the material world—as well as identities. Many objects or techniques that came to be seen as local, authentic and typical are in fact entangled in complex transnational narratives tied to a history of appropriation, imperialism, and the commercial phenomenon of supply and demand.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, artists and craftspeople in Europe appropriated foreign techniques such as porcelain, textiles, or lacquers that eventually shaped local European identities. During the 19th century, Western consumers looked for genuine goods produced outside of industry, and the demand of Bourgeois tourism created a new market of authentic souvenirs and forgeries alike. Furthermore, the 20th century saw the (re)-emergence of local ‘Schools’ of art and crafts as responses to political changes, anthropological research, and/or tourist demand. This multi-part conference will explore how technical knowledge, immaterial desires, and political agendas impacted the production and consumption of visual and material culture in different times and places. A new scrutiny of this back and forth between demanders and suppliers will allow us to map anew a multi-directional market for cultural goods in which the source countries could be positioned at the center.

Contacts: yaelle.biro@metmuseum.org and noemie.etienne@ikg.unibe.ch

2 4  J A N U A R Y  2 0 1 8

Part 1 | Workshop: Circulating Crafts
La Colonie, 178 boulevard Lafayette, 75010 Paris

9.00  Welcome and Introduction by Yaëlle Biro and Noémie Étienne

9.15  Session A
• Ariane Fennetaux (Université Paris Diderot), From Coromandel with Love: The Glocalisation of Indian Cottons in the 17th and 18th Centuries
• Chonja Lee (Bern University), Made in Switzerland: How Swiss Indiennes Became Autochtone and Dressed the World at the Same Time
• Aziza Gril-Mariotte (Université de Haute-Alsace), Modèles, emprunts et circulation des formes occidentales dans les toiles peintes au XVIIIe siècle

11.15  Coffee break

11.30  Session B
• James Green (University of East Anglia), Appropriating Kongo Colors: Red, White and Black in 19th-Century English Trade Cloth
• Manuel Charpy, CNRS, Lille), Changing Sides? Consumption and Political Uses of Western Clothing in Congo, 1830–1960

13.00  Lunch break

14.00  Session C
• Thomas Grillot (CNRS, Paris), Marketing Family Heirlooms: Three Generations of American Indian Artists in the Northern Plains
• Rémi Labrusse (Université Paris-Nanterre), Hybridité et identité en Algérie à la veille de l’invasion française: le cas du palais du Bey de Constantine

15.20  Coffee break

15.35  Session D
• Julien Volper (Tervuren Museum), Du Bénin à l’Inde en passant par le Congo: Origines, in uences et voyages d’objets africains du XIXe et du XXe siècles
• Jonathan Fine (Ethnologisches Museum, Berlin), Crafting Culture: The Co-Production of ‘Bamum’ Art in the 1920s
• Gaëlle Beaujean (Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac), Sirène, vierge, charmeuse de serpent et Atlantique

17.35  Discussion

2 1  F E B R U A R Y  2 0 1 8

Part 2 | Conference Panels: Art, Agency, and the Making of Identities, 1600–2000
College Art Association, Convention Center, Los Angeles

2.00  Panel I
• Helen Glaister (SOAS, University of London / Victoria & Albert Museum, London), The Picturesque in Peking: European Decoration at the Qing Court
• Dorothy Armstrong (Royal College of Art / Victoria & Albert Museum, London), A Transnational Loop: Pakistan’s Repossession of the Oriental Carpet Imaginary and its Production
• Tingting Xu (University of Chicago), The Rivers Folded: Souvenir Accordion Panoramas in the Late 19th-Century Global Tourism
• Karen Milbourne (Smithsonian National Museum of African Art), Lozi Style: King Lewanika and the Marketing of Barotseland

4.00  Panel II
• Ashley Miller (UC Berkeley), ‘What is Colonial Art and Can It Be Modern?’: Moroccan Modernisms at the Art Deco Exposition in Paris, 1925
• Victoria Rovine (University of North Carolina), A Wider Loom: Textiles and Colonial Politics of Authenticity in the Soudan Français
• Gail Levin (The City University of New York), Frida Kahlo’s Invention of Jewish Identity
• Niko Vicario (Amherst College), From Duco to Comex: The Politics of Synthetic Paint in the Americas

Illustration: French textile design for the West African slave trade market, Nantes, 18th century., “L’album des indiennes de traite de Favre, Petitpierre et Cie” (Henry-René d’Allemagne, La Toile imprimée et les indiennes de traite, Paris, Gründ, 1942, plate 69).
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