Dr. Daphna Oren-Magidor and Dr. Verena Krebs- "Curious Cases: Doing History through Unusual Objects: Two Case Studies"

Dr. Daphna Oren-Magidor and Dr. Verena Krebs- "Curious Cases: Doing History through Unusual Objects: Two Case Studies"
Activity Date: 
Monday, Jun 1, 2015

This joint colloquium talk looked at the methodology and practice of doing history through material culture. The first talk, by Daphna Oren-Magidor, looked at anatomical dolls of pregnant women in 17th century Europe, asking what these dolls were intended for. The talk highlighted some of the problems with existing explanations for these dolls, and discussed the methodologies that can be used in order to unpack the meaning of such anatomical dolls and place them within a broader historical context relating to the histories of anatomy, collecting, and women's bodies. The second talk, by Verena Krebs, looked at 15th and early 16th century religious art from Western Europe that was imported and sometimes even commissioned by royal elites in Ethiopia. In tracing the sources of this artwork, the talk demonstrated that this art was deliberately purchased by the Ethiopians from European sources. Contrary to previous interpretations of this art, this did not imply a lack of artistic sophistication in Ethiopia, but rather a conscious and deliberate effort to use the buying power of Ethiopian gold in order to purchase icons and other works of art that suited the tastes and interests of the Ethopian royal court. These imported items were subsequently adapted for local use, and their presence in Ethiopia is to be understood as a testament to wider Ethiopian interests in Latin Christian culture at the close of the Middle Ages.
Both talks discussed the use of supplementary textual sources in order to contextualize material culture, while still focusing on its materiality: where the items were made, how they were made, who commissioned them, how they were transmitted, and what new insights they allowed for the wider history of the epoch in which they originated or were used.