New Book | Material Cultures of the Global Eighteenth Century

Posted in books by Editor on January 23, 2023

From Bloomsbury:

Wendy Bellion and Kristel Smentek, eds., Material Cultures of the Global Eighteenth Century: Art, Mobility, and Change (London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2023), 288 pages, ISBN: 978-1350259034, $115. Also available as an ebook.

Things change. Broken and restored, reused and remade, objects transcend their earliest functions, locations, and appearances. While every era witnesses change, the eighteenth century experienced artistic, economic, and demographic transformations that exerted unique pressures on material cultures around the world. Locating material objects at the heart of such phenomena, Material Cultures of the Global Eighteenth Century expands beyond Eurocentric perspectives to discover the mobile, transcultural nature of eighteenth-century art worlds. From porcelain to betel leaves, Chumash hats to natural history cabinets, this book examines how objects embody imperialism, knowledge, and resistance in various ways.

By embracing things both elite and everyday, this volume investigates physical and technological manipulations of objects while attending to the human agents who shaped them in an era of accelerating global contact and conquest. Featuring ten essays, the volume foregrounds diverse scholarly approaches to chart new directions for art history and cultural history. Ranging from California to China, Bengal to Britain, Material Cultures of the Global Eighteenth Century illuminates the transformations within and between artistic media, follows natural and human-made things as they migrate across territories, and reveals how objects catalyzed change in the transoceanic worlds of the early modern period.

Material Cultures of the Global Eighteenth Century is part of the Material Culture of Art and Design series, edited by Michael Yonan.

Wendy Bellion is Sewell C. Biggs Chair in American Art History and Associate Dean for the Humanities at the University of Delaware. Her research focuses on North American art and the Atlantic World in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She is the author of Citizen Spectator: Art, Illusion, and Visual Perception in Early National America (2011) and Iconoclasm in New York: Revolution to Reenactment (2019).

Kristel Smentek is Associate Professor of Art History in the Department of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her research engages eighteenth-century European graphic and decorative arts in their transcultural contexts. She is the author of Mariette and the Science of the Connoisseur in Eighteenth-Century Europe (2014), co-editor of Dare to Know: Prints and Drawings in the Age of Enlightenment (2022), and co-curator of the accompanying exhibition at the Harvard Art Museums.


List of Illustrations
Notes on Contributors

Introduction, ‘Things Change’ — Wendy Bellion, University of Delaware and Kristel Smentek, MIT
1  ‘A Sort of Picture or Image of my Self’: Amoy Chinqua’s Almost Ancestral Portrait of Joseph Collet — Winnie Wong, University of California, Berkeley
2  Shooting for Freedom: Examining the Material World of Self-Emancipated Persons — Tiffany Momon, Sewanee: The University of the South
3  Something Old, Something New: Repurposing and the Production of Ephemeral Festival Architecture in Eighteenth-Century Paris — Matthew Gin, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
4  Botanical Fantasy in Silk: Transformations of a Rococo Floral Design from England to China — Mei Mei Rado, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5  Making Marble Edible: Madame de Pompadour, Friendship, and the Multiple Lives of Porcelain — Susan M. Wager, University of New Hampshire, Durham
6  The Sovereign Betel in Eighteenth-Century Bengal and Bihar — Zirwat Chowdhury, University of California, Los Angeles
7  Isaiah Thomas’s Stamp Acts at the Halifax Gazette: Printers and Tacit Protest in Revolutionary America — Jennifer Y. Chuong, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
8  Between Art and Nature: The Dauphin’s Treasure at the Royal Cabinet of Natural History in Madrid — Tara Zanardi, Hunter College, CUNY
9  California Indian Basket Weavers, Spanish Imperialism, and Eighteenth-Century Global Networks — Yve Chavez, University of California, Santa Cruz
10  British Prints between Caricature and Ethnography — Douglas Fordham, University of Virginia


At Christie’s | Interracial Double Portrait Purchased by Philip Mould

Posted in Art Market by Editor on January 23, 2023

Press release via Art Daily (22 January 2023) . . .

Double portrait of a Black girl wearing a blue dress and a younger white girl wearing a white dress; both wear red beaded necklaces. The older girl holds a pink flower while the younger holds a copy of Cinderella.

American School, A Portrait of Two Girls, ca. 1820, oil on canvas, 24 × 20 inches (Philip Mould & Co). Estimated to sell for $50–100K, the portrait sold at auction for nearly $1million.

An extraordinarily rare image of two children—one
White, one African American—was purchased by London art dealers Philip Mould & Company this evening (Friday, 20 January 2023) at Christie’s in New York for just under one million dollars.

Painted by an unknown artist in America in about 1820, and estimated at $50–100k, the double portrait attracted heated competition from collectors and museums on both sides of the Atlantic, eventually making ten times its top estimate with premium included.

Mould, who is also known as the art expert on BBC1’s Fake or Fortune, believes it to be unprecedented for this date in American portrait painting. “We are very excited to have bought it. I know of no painting of this date or earlier quite like it. The unselfconscious depiction of two racially distinct girls, who were clearly deeply attached, is extraordinarily rare for this period, as well as very affecting. The constraints and social protocol in painted portraiture of the period make such palpable depiction of interracial attachment almost without precedent.”

In their description of the painting Christie’s acknowledged its rarity, stating: “This double portrait presents its subjects as equals at a time of pervasive racial inequality. If anything, the pose and props cast the African American girl as the superior figure.” [Sale 21026, Lot 460]

The only painting that Mould knows which could be described as comparable is the portrait of Dido Belle and her cousin Elizabeth Murray painted around 1770 in England (on display as part of the collection at Scone Palace, Perth, Scotland)—a work that was the focus of an episode of Fake or Fortune in 2018. Dido was the daughter of a Black slave and White father. Mould identified the artist, after considerable research, as the Scottish portraitist, David Martin. “This however goes considerably further. Although, as yet, we don’t know the artist, nor the identity of the subjects, the relationship of equality is emphatically expressed” says Mould “The normal objectifications in the depiction of racial distinction have been set aside.”

A most unusual and revealing aspect of the painting is the book of the story of Cinderella held by the younger child. As the Christie’s cataloguer pointed out: “The inclusion of a reference to a well-known story with stepsister characters raises the possibility that in the absence of blood ties, the artist was nonetheless deliberately conveying sisterhood.” Mould muses “Or perhaps the reference to Cinderella is more obvious. As a female heroine who overcame the prejudices of her oppressors, Cinderella may well turn out to have more in common with the eldest child than initially thought.”

Future plans for the painting involve a period of research, after which Mould will be looking to place the work in a museum where its qualities and significance can be appreciated within a fuller context, and it can be enjoyed by the public.

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The painting was included in the Important Americana sale at Christie’s New York on 20 January 2023, Sale 21026, Lot 460. Also relevant is this early nineteenth-century miniature portrait of two girls with arms around each other.

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