New Directions in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Art (NDENCA) seminars take place via Zoom and are open to all.


*** Please note, Zoom links are sent out on the day of the seminar ***

Series 6: January – March 2022

1. 31 January 2022, 5pm GMT

Emily Madrigal, Clark Art Institute

Emily Madrigal is an independent researcher and artist. She received her MA degree from the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art at the Clark Art Institute in Massachusetts and her BA from Princeton University. She researches materials and representations of making with a focus in plaster and casting in nineteenth-century France. Having worked for years as a studio assistant for a sculptor and mold-maker, she is interested in looking at the history of a process and material through embodied fabrication knowledge. 

Photography and Plaster-Casting in Édouard Dantan’s Atelier Paintings

This paper looks at the status of mold-making and plaster in nineteenth-century France as it is described within a single artist’s oeuvre. Made between 1880 and 1897, Édouard Dantan’s paintings of mold-makers, castings from life, commercial mold-making ateliers, plaster-based restorations of marble sculptures, and the reduced sculptural editions and fragmented body parts that line a studio wall characterize the complexity of this underrepresented dimension of a sculptor’s practice. The ubiquity of plaster resisted the mythologization of the sculptor’s studio often imagined through paintings. Dantan, unlike other studio portraitists, engaged this ubiquity to portray plaster’s multi-faceted prevalence. Dantan’s works, through illustrations of process and material, signify how plaster objects, are, at once, commercial, artistic, pedagogical, encyclopedic, petrifying, and divine. The subject of these paintings, the ‘mouleur’ (mold-maker), as a physical embodiment of the medium they employed, evoke the role of plaster objects in the period’s perceived separation between artist and fabricator, between thought and labor, and between original and copy. Dantan’s paintings also reflect the binary narrative surrounding plaster casts by resembling photographs, the nineteenth century’s mascot for original vs. copy. The figures in the paintings are absorbed in their work, their backs turned away from the viewer, conjuring a scene that appears stumbled upon or pre-existing rather than composed. Hunched towards their fabrication, the most visible part of the mold-makers’ body is their hands. Coagulated plaster cracks as it dries upon their hands, which tense around tools and pull molds off of skin. The paintings, indexical accounts of materiality, capture the technical, thermal, and physical properties of plaster. Tools intentionally scattered throughout the studio imply past action, and the viewer can read the movements within the painting by tracing the activities of the figures suggested in the placement of the objects that speak to their handling and use. Dantan’s paintings reflect the historical status of plaster casts by stylistically imitating photography, the medium that prompted new interest and scrutiny in such plaster objects. These photographic paintings of plaster casts layer material processes that were already symbiotically bound to one another. Both mediums replicate through the inversion of negatives. The photographic negative reproduces by inverting light sensitive imprint. As a three-dimensional equivalent, the negative mold is a concave material imprint that is inverted to produce its positive cast. Both are mechanical, in the sense that the instant where the image is formed on the light sensitive negative and where a shape is formed in the plaster occurs in the absence of the immediate touch of the artist. The moment that registers the representation occurs in the chemical or thermal interaction between the materials. Dantan’s studio paintings characterize the status of plaster and casts in nineteenth-century France, while also reflecting the complexity of meanings and associations— notably, photography’s association—attached to this material and form. Dantan literally and metaphorically opens up the mold, unshrouds this matrix of information, that sustained both apathy and criticism amongst his contemporaries, and asks them to look again. Many of the paintings depict the removal of the mold, the moment where the concealed membrane in which creation occurs is opened. Inside this opening, the space feels endless, the convexity is expansive, like a portal to another world, because, as photographic paintings of plaster casting, they reflect one another like facing mirrors creating infinity.

2.  7 February 2022, 5pm GMT

Dr Maddie Boden, Ashmolean Museum

Maddie is a research assistant at the Ashmolean Museum, working on the ERC-funded project, Chromotope: the 19th century Chromatic Turn. Her research focuses on British Orientalist visual culture and representations of the Holy Lands in Victorian art.

“[A] kind of miniature monument”: Visualising Anglo-Jewry and the Old Testament in The Montefiore Centrepiece

In February 1843, at a party attended by leading members of London’s Jewish community, Sir Moses Montefiore was presented with a piece of silverware. The silver sculpture, three feet high and weighing nearly forty kilos, was a tribute to Sir Moses for his role in the Damascus Affair of 1840. A stockbroker by trade, he was moved to intercede on behalf of a group of Jewish men from Damascus who had been accused by the Ottoman authorities of blood libel. Montefiore worked out a deal with the Ottomans that spared the lives of the accused and put an end to the sectarian violence that had erupted in the religiously diverse city.

This paper closely reads the Centrepiece, an understudied object in both Victorian Judaica and sculpture studies, to understand the ways in which Montefiore was seen as an assimilated imperial hero but nevertheless an outsider to ‘true’ British masculine identity by virtue of his faith. Designed by the Principal Painter in Ordinary to the Queen Sir George Hayter and sculpted by Royal Academician, Edward Hodges Bailey, the Centrepiece mixes and conflates Orientalist, Biblical and contemporary imperial symbolism. I argue that this is reflective of how Jewish people were thought of in Victorian Britain: both ancient and modern, Oriental and Occidental, English and foreign. I also highlight the inclusion of Biblical heroes including David, Moses and Ezra as a means to explore Jewish masculinity as an alternative model to muscular Christianity which has dominated critical readings of religious art of the period. Unique in its style as well as subject matter, the Centrepiece, now held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, sits at the intersection between monument and craft and therefore, is an object that challenges and hybridises art historical categorisation. This paper, for the first time, offers a comprehensive critical reading of the Centrepiece and establishes its significance as a Victorian Jewish decorative object.

3.  21 February 2022, 5pm GMT

Lieske Huits, PhD candidate, University of Cambridge and Victoria & Albert Museum

Lieske Huits (she/her) is a PhD candidate in the History of Art at the University of Cambridge in an AHRC-funded collaborative partnership with the Victoria and Albert Museum. Her research project, “A New Visual Narrative of Nineteenth-Century Historicism” reconsiders the concept of historicism in the decorative arts, focusing primarily on the reception of revival styles in nineteenth-century illustrated print media. She previously obtained her BA (cum laude) in the History of Art and Architecture from the Free University of Amsterdam, and her ResMA (cum laude) in Arts and Culture from Leiden University. Her research interests include the reception of the past in the arts of the long nineteenth century, historicism and revival styles in the decorative arts and architecture, nineteenth-century international exhibitions and the dissemination of taste, and the collecting and display of historicist artifacts in museums of decorative arts.

“Permanently useful” and “practically beneficial”: Art Journal’s Illustrated Catalogues as records of taste and stylistic debate, 1851 – 1900

In the preface to The Art-Journal’s Illustrated Catalogue to the Great Exhibition of 1851, the editors describe the catalogue as a “record of the great gathering of Works of Art and Industry”, suggesting it could present a permanent manifestation of the Exhibition in print long after the building has been taken down and its contents dispersed. Over the course of the next five decades, The Art-Journal published illustrated catalogues for many of the major international exhibitions, which now represent one of the largest and most cohesive archives of the British reception of the international exhibitions of the second half of the nineteenth century and one of the major sources through which the various exhibitions are studied. However, as this paper will show, these catalogues were far from encyclopedic publications detailing the exhibitions’ displays and contents. Stated as having the aim of rendering the exhibitions “permanently useful” as well as “practically beneficial” to the education of manufacturers and artisans of all classes and all countries, they pushed a narrative centering around the improvement of and eventual supremacy of British manufacturing, in line with The Art-Journal’s agenda of more closely connecting British manufacturing to the arts.

This project therefore proposes to look more closely at these catalogues themselves, considering them not as simple records of the exhibitions, but as highly selective presentations of the wares on display. Despite their significant role as a historical source in scholarship, little has been published on these catalogues as creations in their own right, and it is therefore necessary to first consider how they were conceived and what their aims were, before examining their contents more closely. Next, I want to examine how these catalogues represent the wares on display at the exhibitions, looking in particular at their use of language on the one hand, and their visual representation of artefacts on the other. Through this examination, this project aims to shed light on the way these catalogues facilitated a debate where the role of style was central to issues in manufacturing, a debate that on the one hand straddled the world of manufacturing and sales, and on the other, the world of art criticism and art education.

4.  7 March 2022, 5pm GMT

Apolline Malevez, PhD Candidate, Queen’s University Belfast

Apolline Malevez is currently a final year Marie Sklodowska-Curie PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast (UK). Her research project (‘Interior Spaces in Belgian Art and Architecture (1880–1914): Domesticity, Materiality and Intimacy’) investigates the concepts of domesticity, materiality and intimacy, with a particular emphasis on men’s involvement with the domestic sphere, the material culture of artists’ homes and the meanings of threshold spaces in the representation of interiors. During her PhD, she completed a placement at the Horta Museum (BE), where she worked on the inventories of furniture and plans owned by the museum. She recently co-edited a special issue of Dix-Neuf on intimacy in nineteenth-century painting, literature and architecture in France and Belgium. Her work has appeared in Dix-Neuf and Textyles.

Overlooked but essential: famous artists’ domestic servants

In this paper, I explore the crucial role played by domestic servants in enabling the artist’s lifestyle, whether through their participation in shaping the persona of the artist (before and after their death), domestic work or creative collaboration. I will focus on three different cases: the butler of the painter Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921), who was in charge of regulating access to the artist’s controversial purpose-built studio and home; the domestic servants that the painter Théo Van Rysselberghe (1862-1926) hired locally when he stayed extensively in Tanger (Marocco) in 1883; and August Van Yper and Ernestine Mollet, who worked for the painter James Ensor (1860-1949), and continued living in his house after the artist’s death. Thanks to archival material, letters and newspaper reports, precious information about the various roles they performed for these artists have survived.

While domestic servants contributed in essential ways to artists’ daily life, and sometimes continued to shape artists’ legacy after their death, they have been overlooked in scholarship on late nineteenth century Belgian art history. The chosen case studies allow me to develop three main themes: the active role domestic servants took in the musealisation of the artist’s home and in shaping the artist’s public identity; the paradox of their constant presence and simultaneous invisibility, which facilitated their erasure from art history; and the power imbalances at the heart of the relationships between artists and domestic servants, exacerbated by racism and exoticism in the case of Van Rysselberghe.

5.  21 March 2022, 5pm GMT

Carla Hermann, Rio de Janeiro Cultural Heritage Institute

Carla Hermann is a researcher at Rio de Janeiro Cultural Heritage Institute in Brazil. In her PhD dissertation (2016), she studied the only panorama of Rio de Janeiro exhibited in London in the first half of the Nineteenth century, and emerged into the panorama phenomenon as a whole. Other degrees: Master in Arts (2010), B.A in Geography (2000). Main research interests: Nineteenth-Century, Modern art, Latin America Art and landscape

Mexico City (1825), Rio de Janeiro (1827), Lima (1836): The Erasure of Indigenous Presence in Robert Burford’s Panoramas of Latin America

The panoramas were the most popular form of entertainment in the Nineteenth-Century and had the purpose of placing spectators inside depicted landscapes. By doing so, they were virtually able to transport people to faraway places, giving them the lively feeling of experiencing distant countries and knowing the wonders of the world. Within the rotunda, a platform emulated the sensation of unveiling the horizon. Pictorial effects meant to cause vertigo and reproduce a world of unknown places and events. The proposal compares the engravings of three panoramas of Latin American cities exhibited in London: Mexico City (1825), Rio de Janeiro (1827) and the Peruvian capital of Lima (1836). The images of the Hispanic colonized cities bring the spectator to the top of their cathedrals, located in their city centers. The Brazilian panorama places the spectator in the middle of the Bay of Guanabara, facing the colonial city of Rio de Janeiro surrounded by Britain´s Royal Navy ships. Besides being different compositions – Mexico and Lima show a lot of firm land while Rio is a seascape, we realize they all relate to nineteenth-century British informal imperialism. The artist responsible for them – panorama painter and rotunda owner Robert Burford – was committed to building the image of enigmatic cities ready to be discovered. I examine the relationship between art, texts, and power, since panoramas used not only painting and architectural effects, but also written texts to construct powerful narratives through the depicted image. For that, I believe that the indigenous presence in these panoramas is central to understanding them. They are not depicted in any of the images but are heavily mentioned in some of the texts. With a deeper eye I explain what motivated Burford’s to show these vistas in a time span of fifteen years and what the mention or not of their indigenous past has to do with it. The presence of the Aztec is mentioned in the texts that accompanied the key to the Mexican panorama, the Mayans are quoted in the Peruvian texts, but nothing is said about the Tupinambás that inhabited the Brazilian coast shore in the 1827 painting and text. Also, why are they not painted at all? Painting Mexicas, Tamoyos or Mayans would make them real and humane. Erasing their presence meant placing them in the past. Regarding the texts, I believe that when opting letting the indigenous out of Rio de Janeiro, but highlighting the Aztec past in Mexico and Lima, Burford was responding to the trend of mining speculators in London and their expectations of finding precious metals in Latin America. The association between the Mayan and Aztec culturally rich materiality worked in Burford´s favor to promote the promise of finding gold in America central and south parts. To explain all this I will present images and texts of the panoramas themselves, and through 1 Carla Hermann is a researcher at Rio de Janeiro Cultural Heritage Institute in Brazil. In her PhD dissertation (2016), she studied the only panorama of Rio de Janeiro exhibited in London in the first half of the Nineteenth century, and emerged into the panorama phenomenon as a whole. Other degrees: Master in Arts (2010), B.A in Geography (2000). Main research interests: Nineteenth-Century, Modern art, Latin America Art and landscape. decolonial approach, I will bring other visual culture registers of the time. I aim to deconstruct the imagery that the British informal influence built of Latin American cities and work towards an indigenization of such panoramas.