Interdisciplinary seminar series
The Graduate Seminar Programme in the Arts and Humanities is open to all interested DPhil, master’s and other postgraduate students and is intended to provide an opportunity not only to discuss recent research findings and methodological approaches but to meet with other students and academic staff.
Invited speakers present a paper exploring a topic and methodologies relevant to a range of subject disciplines followed by a discussion.
Michaelmas term 2021 seminar
Join us on Wednesday 1 December 2021 for a hybrid seminar with Dr Leah Clark, Associate Professor and Director of Studies in the History of Art. This event will take place at Rewley House, Wellington Square, and will also be livestreamed for those who wish to attend virtually.
Wednesday 1 December 2021, from 6-7pm (UK time). Tea and coffee will be served in the common room before the seminar, from 5.45pm.
1 Wellington Square
> Location details (including parking and accessibility)
Open to all Oxford University students and staff.
To register, please email email@example.com stating how you wish to attend – either in person at Rewley House or online via Microsoft Teams.
Dr Leah Clark joined the Department in 2021 and is an Associate Professor in the History of Art and a Fellow of Kellogg College as well as Director of Studies in History of Art. Previously, she worked at the Open University where her roles included Head of Research and Chair of the MA in Art History. She holds a BA from the University of British Columbia (Vancouver,) an MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art (London) and a PhD from McGill University (Montreal).
The peregrinations of porcelain: Collecting transcultural objects in the Italian Renaissance courts
One of the earliest representations of Chinese porcelain in a European painting appears in a work by Andrea Mantegna, who worked at the court of Mantua, nearby to Ferrara. The porcelain piece might reference an actual porcelain cup in the collections of Isabella d’Este, Marchioness of Mantua or her mother Eleonora d’Aragona, Duchess of Ferrara. What was a Chinese porcelain cup doing in an Italian court at this time, why did the court painter depict it, and how did it get there?
This paper will focus on a little-known collection of porcelain, and yet one of the largest in Italy in its time, and will examine it through the lens of mobility, material engagement, and collecting practices. The Medici of Florence have long been recognised as having the largest collection of Chinese porcelain in the fifteenth century, but Eleonora d’Aragona, Duchess of Ferrara surpassed the Medici collections with over 170 pieces. Taking Eleonora’s collection as a case study, this paper will examine the European reception of porcelain, with particular attention to how contemporaries understood the different material and sensorial qualities of porcelain.
In fifteenth-century Europe, porcelain did not come directly from China, but rather took a circuitous route along the silk roads, and then made its way into Italy through trade and diplomacy with the Mamluk and Ottoman courts. Once in Europe, it was also often gifted again, sometimes set in mounts with dedicatory inscriptions or in etui (customised leather cases). These framing devices, as this paper will argue, were a way to make local a global commodity, arresting porcelain’s mobility temporarily, turning it into a transcultural object.
Eleonora’s collection in Ferrara will also be studied as an example of a pathway of portable goods from China to Naples to Ferrara and reveals how objects exchanged first-hand with the Ottoman and Mamluk courts in Naples might have made their way into smaller courts through familial networks.