This weekend, Dr. Ying-chen Peng will present a talk, titled “Alternative Gaze: Fin/de-Siécle Western Women’s Visual Documentation of Their Chinese Counterparts” at the annual conference of AAS (Association of Asian Studies). Here, she describes her talk:
“Images of women were a popular motif in Western publications and chinoiserie artworks since the seventeenth century. Lacking individuality, these images were types or icons feeding Western fantasies of a mysterious and exotic China. The romanticized, imagined beauty, however, was replaced by realistic anatomical photographs such as the bound feet of Han Chinese gentry women in fin-de-siècle documentation. These grotesque depictions also became convenient visual evidence supporting biased impressions of a backward, premodern China. It was also during this time that women missionaries and family members of business and diplomatic personnel first traveled to China in significant numbers. Unlike men, who were largely excluded from domestic spaces, some Western women were able to closely observe their Chinese counterparts’ daily lives. How did this female gaze differ from that of their male counterparts? How did the visual and textual representations of women in these Western documentation relate? Did they help increase Western understanding of Chinese society? This paper aims to answer these questions by focusing on the photographs and illustrations in Sarah Conger’s memoir, Letters from China (1909), and Katharine Carl’s With the Empress Dowager (1905), both popular reads at the time. As I will show, while the exoticizing tendencies prevailed, a greater sense of sympathy and appreciation can be clearly identified. These images therefore provided a gendered alternative to conventionally exotic, erotic, and awkwardly staged images of China.”
Best of luck at the conference, Dr. Peng!
illustration from Katharine Carl’s With the Empress Dowager (1905)
This Saturday, March 24th, Art History graduate students will present their research presentations at the 28th Annual Robyn Rafferty Mathias Student Research Conference. The names of the presenters and the titles of their talks are:
- Amanda Chadbourne, MA Candidate, “Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Allegory of Good Government frescoes and the Influence of Lucretius’ De rerum natura”
- Olivia Rettstatt, MA Candidate, “An Honest Truth: Broncia Koller’s ‘Marietta’ as ‘Nuda Veritas’ revisited”
- Laura Ryan, MA Candidate, “Exemplars of Separation: Confinement Room Scenes on Renaissance Birth Trays in Opposition to Madonna Lactans”
- Hannah Fitch, MA Candidate, “An American in Greenland: Turn-of-the-Century Arctic Visions by Frank Wilbert Stokes”
- Paul Blakeslee, MA Candidate, “Binocular Disparity: Framing Parisian Tourism Through Monet’s and Seurat’s Normandy Landscapes”
- Xiaoyu Fang, MA Candidate, “The Father of Chinese Modern Painting”
The event will be held in the Katzen Arts Center, and is free and open to the public; the first session begins at 9am and the last session ends at 5pm. Good luck to all the presenters!
Drs. Andrea Pearson and Kim Butler Wingfield will present at the 64th Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America in New Orleans from March 22nd-24th. Dr. Butler will present a talk titled, “A Question of Lineage: The Dualism of Michelangelo’s Jewish Ancestors,” about the Sistine Chapel.
(Detail of Sistine Chapel ceiling)
Dr. Butler describes her research as such: “Christian exegetes had long grappled with questions of patriarchal and maternal lineage raised by the conflicting accounts of Christ’s ancestry in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In 1490, Ennius of Viterbo endeavored to reconcile these accounts by asserting that the former account privileged Christ’s royal, legal lineage through Joseph, the latter Christ’s corporeal lineage through Mary. This paper proposes that the intellectual advisor for the Sistine Ceiling program, likely Ennius’s compatriot, the budding Hebraist Giles of Viterbo, was familiar with this debate and that he, and Michelangelo, framed it critically in the dualistic representation of the Sistine Ceiling Ancestors. The issue of maternal lineage, in particular, complicates recent scholarship arguing the foregrounded ‘Jewishness’ of Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling Ancestors informed their primary function as emblems of vice—foils to the heroic bodies in the central narratives—while concurring that ultimately the images’ Christian theological premise insisted upon their ‘otherized’ bodies.”
Good luck at the conference, Drs. Pearson and Butler!
Dr. Andrea Pearson presented her research at an international conference called “Holy Children, Liminal Bodies” that was held in Munich in December. Her paper explored an illustrated book on the Christ Child that was printed in Antwerp at the end of the fifteenth century. Comprising a complex array of narrative texts, poetic verses, and woodcut illustrations, the volume, she argued, cross-referenced a range of sacred and profane traditions to intone Christocentric sensuality. Among these traditions were the secular hunt, the vitae of saints, and the Song of Songs of the Hebrew bible. These tonalities eroticized the Christ Child to ultimately craft him as an exemplar and agent of sexual morality for the volume’s consumers. This objective was achieved in part by deploying in the book’s texts and images a fundamental symbol for the Virgin Mary’s purity inspired by the Song of Songs—namely, the enclosed garden. Indeed, rarely accounted for in modern analyses of depicted Netherlandish gardens of the kind is that the infant Jesus often appears inside their boundaries with Mary. Dr. Pearson suggested that for some readers/viewers, the two figures formed a dynamic duo of sexual virtue aimed to inspire archetypal behavior.
(A page from the Antwerp illustrated book about the Christ Child.)
Dr. Pearson has been chosen as a plenary speaker for the upcoming summer conference at the Newberry Library in Chicago, “Attending to Early Modern Women,” where she will present additional conclusions about this understudied volume.
Thank you again to our alumni panelists Jennifer Wu, Eliza Mullen, Catherine Southwick, and Catherine Leonard for coming to Art History Careers Night and answering questions about their respective careers! And a huge thanks to the AU Career Center for helping organize the event.
To follow the discussion from last night, check out our Twitter live-feed from the event or search for #AUArtHistCareer.
Together with American University’s Alumni Office, the Art History Department will host an Art History Careers Night on Wednesday, February 28th.
The evening will feature a formal Q&A session with four recent Art History graduates who now work in museums and academia, followed by a more informal networking session. The alumni will discuss the strategies they used to gain their positions, how much they use their art-historical training on the job, and advice on what students can do to achieve their own career goals.
The alumni that will be speaking at the event are: Catherine Leonard, Adjunct Professor at Northern Virginia Community College; Catherine Southwick, Curatorial Assistant, National Gallery of Art; Eliza Mullen, Institutional Giving Coordinator, Walters Art Museum; Jennifer Wu, Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Fellow and Ph.D. student at University of North Carolina.
The event is free and open to the public. It will run from 6pm-8pm in Katzen 210, with food and a reception to follow. We hope to see you there!
Dr. Juliet Bellow will give a talk during the College Art Association’s Annual Conference, titled “Medium of Exchange: Auguste Rodin and Loïe Fuller’s Photographic Dialogue,” as a part of a session on “Inter-Arts Exchange as Modernist Method, Circa 1900.”
The talk, which is drawn from Dr. Bellow’s current book project, Rodin’s Dancers: Moving Toward the Limits of Sculpture, will take place on Saturday, February 24th, at 8:30am. Other panelists include Drs. Emmelyn Butterfield-Rosen and Katherine Brion. We wish you the best of luck, Dr. Bellow!
(Loïe Fuller, c. 1901)