S. Burghartz u.a. (Hrsg.): Materialized Identities in Early Modern Culture, 1450–1750

Materialized Identities in Early Modern Culture, 1450–1750. Objects, Affects, Effects

Burghartz, Susanna; Burkart, Lucas; Göttler, Christine; Rublack, Ulinka
Visual and Material Culture, 1300–1700
Anzahl Seiten
419 S.
€ 117,00
Rezensiert für H-Soz-Kult von
Charlotte Smith

This book is a wonderful addition to the growing fields of ‘Material Culture’ and ‘History of Materiality’.1 The project team, drawing scholars from Switzerland and the United Kingdom, was able to meet in a series of workshops held in London, Cambridge, Bern and Basel, through funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation’s “Money Follows Cooperation”. Their workshops paired established and emerging scholars, and featured meetings with curators and field experts, and supply background to the research that produced this monograph. This volume brings together a stunning series of chapters grouped into four sections, focusing in turn on the materials of glass, feathers, gold paint and veils - which all differ in terms of the sensory and value systems to which they are connected. It crosses the disciplines of history and art history and explores materials and techniques from early modern Venice, Northern and Central Europe, and the Ottoman Empire and New World from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries. The authors aim to illustrate how religious, political and cultural identities are constructed through the complex overlay and dynamic interplay of material identities. The result allows the objects and their descriptions to come into focus and to shape our understanding about the social and economic worlds of historical matter, creating thereby a more sensuous and emotionally complex perception of the past.

The first section, focusing on glass, begins with a chapter by Lucas Burkhart, relating to the production, consumption and trade of early modern Venetian glass, such as tableware, beads, in addition to sexualized objects like glass dildos. The second chapter by Rachelle Scuro examines the secrets, both hidden and ‘open’, entailed in the production of Venetian and specifically Muranese glass, including the ways that government and guilds controlled the spread of trade information. Both chapters use textual and visual sources as illustrations, including paintings, printed images, archival sources such as maps and maritime documents, and surviving artefacts such as earthenware, besides and archeological finds.

The second section centers on the appropriation and re-use of feathers as a material in early modern Europe from the traditions of the New World. This section features chapters by Stefan Hanß and Ulinka Rublack. Hanß focuses on influences of feather work from indigenous New World cultures on little-known works by artisans in Antwerp, Brussels, Dresden, Leipzig, London, Madrid, Milan, Nuremberg, Paris, Prague, Stuttgart, Venice and Turin from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. He considers inventories and archival material from feather workshops as well as the clothing, hats and fans that were produced, in addition to modern reproductions of these works from the School of Historical Dress in London. Rublack’s chapter, while also highlighting New World and Ottoman influences, concentrates on feather work and costume from German Courts and Festivals, especially from Württemberg. Printed and painted illustrations from costume books, processions and travel literature augment the argument and text.

The third section features the element of gold paint. Christine Göttler’s chapter considers the use of yellow, vermillion and gold paint within Netherlandish art in Karel van Mander’s Schilder-boek. It focuses on the materials used to create these colours in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, specifically exploring artists working in and around Haarlem.2 In contrast, Michèle Seehafer’s essay examines Joris Hofnaegel’s use of gold leaf in his allegories. The essay further uses two recipes for gold paint re-created with the help of Katharina Harsch, a conservator with initial training as a gilder, as a source and in doing so moves beyond historical documents into physical practices.

The final section of the work focuses on the depictions of veils in Italian costume books in contrast with those from early modern Protestant cities. Katherine Bond’s contribution focuses on veils depicted in costume books, especially in relation to their production, trade and place in society. This includes women at different levels of society, from nobles to peasants and from areas less known to the artists. Susanna Burghartz considers how veils were used in Protestant cities through the case studies of Basel and Zurich, as directly compared to cities such as Nuremberg and Augsburg, focusing on the transparency of veils, their patterns, sources and models. It also considers the place of women in their trade and production.

Through the clever pairing of essays, the reader essentially sees two sides of a material across geographical and visual variations. The archives and images chosen are key to understanding the material objects within a European and global context. In addition, through the focus on the principal objects within the book (glass, feathers, gold paint and veils), the authors highlight specific sensory responses relating to their production, re-imagining and re-making. In doing so, the social implications of the world in which they were created, purchased and displayed, are put into a broader context for the reader. The result is a rich scholarly contribution to the multifaceted handling of a disparate group of materials and sources, turning “decorations” and products of consumption into active players in the material world.

In short, this well-illustrated and well-argued volume is a fine addition to a growing field. It is to be hoped that the open access availability will increase readership, especially among students first being exposed to the materials, techniques and historical dialogue presented in the work. One could conceive of this volume being used as a model to inspire broader studies of historical categories of matter. It is my hope that this book will stimulate a lively conversation on the cultural impact of materials and artworks in the early modern period.

1 For other examples see for instance: Paula Findlen, Early Modern Things, New York 2021; Grażyna Jurkowlaniec/Ika Matyjaszkiewicz/Zuzanna Sarnecka, The Agency of Things in Medieval and Early Modern Art. Materials, Power and Manipulation, New York 2017; Ursula Klein/E. C. Spary, Materials and Expertise in Early Modern Europe. Between Market and Laboratory, Chicago 2010; Martin Schubert, Materialität in der Editionswissenschaft, Berlin 2010; Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter. A Political Ecology of Things, Durham 2010.
2 Karel van Mander, Het Schilder-Boeck waer in Voor eerst de leerlustighe Iueght den grondt der Edel Vr y Schilderconst in Verscheyden deelen Wort Voorghedraghen, Haarlem Paschier van Wesbusch 1604.

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