History seminars at the IHR

Collecting & Display (100BC to AD1700)

Convenors: Dr Andrea Galdy, Susan Bracken, Adriana Turpin

Venue: Room SH243, 2nd floor, South block, Senate House

Time: Monday, 6.00pm

If interested persons are not receiving emails from the conveners, they should contact collecting_display@hotmail.com.

Autumn Term 2015
DateSeminar details
19 October For public leisure (with a private benefit). Art on display in the hotel Spitzer in Paris

Dr. Paola Cordera (Professor of History of Art at the Politecnico of Milan)

Her research has evolved from a multidisciplinary background developed through various research projects in the field of museums and cultural heritage.  These have spanned Medieval and Renaissance art, architecture and decorative arts and their revivals and collections in 19th and 20th century.

Frédéric Spitzer and his Parisian museum were the subject of her PhD thesis (Politecnico of Milano and Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne).

The marchand-amateur Frédéric Spitzer (1816-1890) was listed amongst the prominent collectors of Medieval and Renaissance art in nineteenth-century Paris. His outstanding collection – known as the Musée Spitzer – was unanimously considered to be the model of nineteenth-century collecting focused on constructing a residence in which complete stylistic harmony existed between the architectural details, furnishings and the arrangement of the collection. Although Spitzer’s method of collecting and display in period rooms was abandoned at the end of nineteenth century, it profoundly influenced museums in Europe and private collections in the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Spitzer’s hôtel in rue de Villejust (now rue Paul Valéry) exerted an enormous influence as an essential reference for living and collecting decorative arts. Its guest list regularly included aristocrats, politicians, musicians, actors, painters, scholars, dealers and collectors.  Social rites and private life in his salons were extended into the museum itself as a cultural and social venue. Spitzer artfully designed his mansion to provide more than mere access to an art gallery: an evocative arrangement of his collections was also provided. It would have been perfect for a showroom as well, as Spitzer gathered artworks for his own interest and for financial gain.
Spitzer’s museum will be reconsidered within a broader narrative including the promotion of his collections in connection with the Decorative and Industrial Arts Exhibitions and Universal Exhibitions. The overall picture which emerges provides a significant overview of nineteeth century collecting practices and displays and offers an invaluable insight into the taste of the time.

16 November The Princesse de Lamballe

Sophie North (MA)

After a career in the newspaper business, including the Wall Street Journal, and the Financial Times, Sophie completed a Master's degree at the University of Buckingham (in association with the Wallace Collection) in 2014.  Her dissertation presented original archival research on the Princesse de Lamballe and her interiors.  Her areas of current research include Louis XIV's cabinet de curiosités and the Marchands Merciers.

This paper is an attempt to explore the taste in decorative arts of the Princesse de Lamballe in the late 18th century. Her life and tragic death have fascinated generations of historians and biographers, but surprisingly no academic study on her interiors and taste for the decorative arts has ever been carried out.  The paper will seek to demonstrate that the Princesse de Lamballe was a follower of the changing fashions in the decorative arts in her public life and in her private life had much simpler tastes.
The Princesse de Lamballe led three distinct lives that dictated her taste in furniture and porcelain. As the Queen’s Surintendante she had official apartments in Versailles between 1775 and 1792 and at Fontainebleau. In both Palaces she was required to entertain members of the Royal family and the court.
When she was not attending her duties to the Queen, she lived with her father-in-law, the Duc de Penthièvre, at the Hôtel de Toulouse in Paris, which had, since the Régence been seen as a second Versailles within Paris and its interiors reflected that importance.
To escape from her court duties and society the Princess bought a small Hôtel Particulier called the Hôtel d’Eu in Versailles, where she relaxed with her ladies in waiting and played cards. She also bought a country house in Passy, known today as the Hôtel de Lamballe (now the Turkish Embassy).
The Princesse was both in her official and public life a follower of the fashion of times. She frequented the leading marchand merciers. She owned neoclassical furniture from the best menuisiers and frequently bought Sevres porcelain. She adopted Anglomania when it came into vogue.

7 December Title tbc

Stephane Castelluccio

Venue: Room SH246, 2nd floor, South block, Senate House