Seminar Programme

The Institute of Historical Research at the School of Advanced Studies of the University of London hosts our seminar on Collecting & Display. The monthly seminars take place at the Institute, Senate House, Malet St, London WC1E 7HU. Seminars begin at 6.00 and last approximately one hour. 

Please see the Conferences page for recent updates.

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Our seminars in Spring 2022 will take place on Zoom.

Monday, 10th January, 2022 6 p.m.

Luís U. Afonso will speak on:

Before the Dutch:  16th century Portuguese porcelain imports

This talk discusses the reception and consumption of Chinese porcelain in Renaissance Iberia following the establishment of the Cape Route in 1497–9. It will show that by the mid-sixteenth century Chinese porcelain was already an inexpensive luxury to the upper and middle-upper segments of the urban population, who used these wares on a daily basis. This conclusion is largely based on Portuguese archival sources and data taken from archaeological excavations conducted in Portugal and former Portuguese Morocco. However, higher availability and affordability did not imply homogeneous consumption behaviour regarding Chinese porcelain. In fact, five major complementary consumption patterns can be differentiated in sixteenth-century Iberia: 1) porcelains as prized collectibles due to their expensive silver mounts; 2) porcelains as diplomatic gifts and pious offerings; 3) early chine de commande; 4) glass and porcelain chambers containing hundreds of porcelains; and 5) porcelains as lavish tableware used on a daily basis.

This talk offers an innovative view of a topic that has been chiefly analysed from an Anglo-Dutch historiographic perspective, too heavily dependent on the VOC’s archives and on an Anglo–Dutch bias against the Iberian Catholic empires. It also contributes to enriching the debate about globalisation and consumption of overseas cultural goods in Europe during the early modern era, emphasizing the asynchrony and diversity of local responses. Finally, it offers new data on the formation of the first porcelain cabinets in Europe, which begun to be developed during the second half of the sixteenth-century by female members of Iberian royalty and high aristocracy.

Luís U. Afonso is professor of art history at the Faculdade de Letras (School of Arts) of the University of Lisbon. He holds a BA (1995), an MA (1999), a PhD (2006) and an Agregação title (2017) in Art History. His research is mainly focused on Portuguese art (c.1350-c.1550), hybridization processes in Portuguese overseas art (c.1450-c.1600), and art markets. His publications include the volume Sephardic Book Art of the 15th century (Brepols, 2019) and several research papers published in history and art history journals (e.g., African Arts, Archivo Español de Arte, Artibus et Historiae, Burlington Magazine, International Journal of Arts Management, Journal of World History, Mande Studies, Mediterranean Studies, Mitteilungen der Carl Justi Vereinigung, Perspective, The Medieval History Journal, Viator and Wartburg-Jahrbuch).

Monday, 7th February 2022 at 6 p.m.

Amy Lim will speak on:

The 5th Earl and Countess of Exeter as late-seventeenth-century collectors of contemporary Italian art

Between 1678 and 1700, John Cecil, the ‘Travelling Earl’ of Exeter, and his countess Anne, undertook three extended journeys to Europe in order to buy furnishings and artworks for their newly refurbished country seat, Burghley House.  While most Grand Tourists focussed their attention on Old Masters, the Exeters collected works by contemporary artists on a scale unmatched by their peers, acquiring several hundred paintings by over sixty different artists from across Italy.  Their funerary monument, commissioned in Rome from Pierre-Etienne Monnot and based on papal tombs, presented them as sophisticated patrons of the arts. 

This paper will consider the acquisition strategies and methods that shaped the Exeters’ collection.  It will argue that the model for their collecting was found not in England, but among the great European art patrons whom they met on their travels, above all, Cosimo III de’ Medici.

Amy Lim is researching ‘Art and Aristocracy in late Stuart England’, in an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership with the University of Oxford and Tate.  She has published articles on British art from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries in Furniture History, The Georgian Group Journal, First World War Studies, and Art & The Country House.  Amy worked on the exhibition ‘British Baroque: Power and Illusion’ (Tate Britain, Feb-Mar 2020), and recently curated ‘Mind & Mortality: Stanley Spencer’s Final Portraits’, at the Stanley Spencer Gallery, Cookham, until 27 March 2022.

We look forward to “seeing” you on Zoom then.