One Thousand and One Ways to Sell — Marketing Decorated Books and Album Paintings from Arab, Middle Eastern and South Asian Lands in Europe and America c. 1850-1950

One Thousand and One Ways to Sell — Marketing Decorated Books and Album Paintings from Arab, Middle Eastern and South Asian Lands in Europe and America c. 1850-1950
Date
27 October 2020, 4.00pm - 5.30pm
Type
Conference / Symposium
Description

The Quest for Islamic Art — Like a Fairytale from the Arabian Nights

Karen Deslattes Winslow, PhD Student, IES, SAS, University of London

The vast number of Islamic works added to Western public and private collections in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century reflects the cultural fascination the exotic East had for collectors. To entice European and American collectors, dealers highlighted orientalist themes to transport collectors to a strange, other” place. Dealers of Eastern heritage, including Hagop Kevorkian (1872-1962) and Dikran Kelekian (1867-1951), understood Western attitudes toward the East based on clichés and exploited this mindset. Such dealers also frequently used deceit and other unsavoury tactics. Despite misgivings, collectors like Charles Lange Freer (1854-1919) and Calouste Gulbenkian (1869-1955) used these dealers in the pursuit of fantastic objects. Interactions with unscrupulous dealers confirmed the collectors’ visions of an imagined Orient populated with shady characters and provided collectors with colourful anecdotes to share with other collectors in addition to their treasures.

This talk presents a series of vignettes illustrating the extraordinary approaches dealers and collectors used to create interest in their objects. The more outrageous the story associated with an item s discovery, the more a collector desired the object. In some instances, collectors assumed a romanticised, exotic aura – hair style, clothes, or home architecture – after acquiring Eastern art. The discussion also highlights attempts by a few well-meaning scholars to counter negative stereotypes, contemptuous depictions of Eastern dealers, and the entire imperial and orientalised spectacle. Their initial efforts were very forward-thinking and met with much resistance. Unfortunately, the narrative scholars desperately tried to squash still rears its ugly head.  

Into the realms of glory’; Islamic Manuscripts in the Bibliotheca Lindesiana

John Hodgson, Associate Director (Curatorial Practices), The John Rylands Library, The University of Manchester

Alexander William Lindsay (1812–80), 25th Earl of Crawford (generally known as Lord Lindsay), assembled one of the most important collections of Oriental manuscripts in Victorian Britain, with a particular emphasis on material from the Islamic world, purchased singly and en bloc. This paper examines Lindsay s motives and methodologies for collecting such material and situates his activities in relation to other nineteenth-century collectors and within the wider cultural and epistemological context.



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