Art History: Fashion beyond clothing: the visual culture of Eurasian porcelain, glass and painted mirrors, 1500-1800
Fashion beyond clothing: the visual culture of Eurasian porcelain, glass and painted mirrors, 1500-1800
Presenter: Peter McNeil
This paper stems from a commission by Cambridge University Press as well as work with Hamilton Art Gallery (Victoria) to explore the visual culture of fashion, 1500-1800. It is here proposed as not simply the domain of two-dimensional prints, drawings, manuscript illustrations and paintings and three-dimensional sculpture, all of which are commonly used to ‘illustrate’ fashion histories, but a much wider realm of material culture, design and the decorative arts. These include textiles, ceramics, glass, mirrors and enamels. As well as considering the primacy of textiles, the chapter ranges across a series of very different artefacts that were fashions themselves: from Chinese export ceramics depicting dress, to printed instructions for designing a Japanese kimono, and to a print-like silhouette portrait ‘dressed’ with textiles in the early American Republic. In the case of porcelain, images of fashionable people sometimes provided the very form of the object. Although not always yielding up their certain meanings or intentions, for Europeans they often inferred the novelty and excitement of new fashion products and encounters. The exchange was not always positive: for Japanese or Chinese Imperial viewers, images of foreigners in western dress might indicate the latter’s supplication or derision. I argue for a distinctive visual economy of fashion 1500-1800 which embraced cloth and clothing but supercharged and surpassed it with cognate practices, materials and accoutrements. The paper argues for the inclusion of the decorative arts within wider accounts of fashion culture as well as cross-cultural, comparative studies, which are rare for the topic of sartorial fashions.
Peter McNeil FAHA is Distinguished Professor of Design History at UTS. He has supervised more than 20 Graduate students whose work re-interprets and recalibrates local, regional, colonial/post-colonial, global and metropolitan design cultures. McNeil was awarded a UTS Human Rights Award in 2018 for his work with LGBTQI communities.
This event will be held online via Zoom.
Art History Seminar Programme going forward:
11 November – Bruce Isaacs, “Literary and Cinematic Archi-Textualities: Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue”
Image credits: ‘John Pike and his wife’, reverse-painted Chinese mirror, c. 1741. Swedish National Maritime and Transport Museums, Stockholm, S3562