Sackler 101: Investigating the Haverfield Archive / Part III

 

In my previous post, I touched on some great discoveries in the Haverfield Archive. This collection consists of correspondence, coloured prints and drawings illustrating mosaic pavements, site plans and publication extracts – an assortment of archaeological paraphernalia, housed at the Sackler Library. I described the process of recording, illustrating and publishing the mosaics. This post considers the people who undertook these processes and how they approached Roman history.

Generally, the people who took an extraordinary interest in the classical past during the 18th and 19th centuries were called antiquarians. Antiquarians tended to be male, middle class or of the aristocracy, and well educated. Indeed, the discipline of archaeology in Britain started out as more or less the past-time of elite gentlemen who sought to build upon their collections of antiquities. For example, the 1st Marquess of Lansdowne (1737-1805) was an avid collector of works of art, including paintings and classical sculptures. Lansdowne employed the Adam Brothers, renowned architects, to redesign the principal rooms at Bowood House (a Grade I Georgian country house in Wiltshire), including a large drawing room. The Haverfield Archive holds two preparatory illustrations, by the architect Joseph Bonomi (1739-1808), of a carpet design for this room, dated 1785 (Inventory n. 1.1 and Inventory n. 1.2). In 1767, Bonomi was invited by the Adam Brothers to work as a draughtsman for them in their London Office. Bonomi left the Brothers’ employ in 1781 and established himself as an independent architect. He began to receive commissions from some of his patrons including Heneage Finch, fourth earl of Aylesford. Presumably, Bonomi was also commissioned to decorate the interior of Bowood House.

Joseph Bonomi. Carpet design for Bowood House (Inventory n. 1.1)

 

The design of the carpet is intriguing as it seems to be heavily influenced by Roman mosaic pavements. Bonomi was revered as a leader in the revival of Grecian architecture. The ‘Orpheus’ mosaic pavement found at Littlecote Park, Wiltshire (Inventory n. 1.5 A) is similar to Bonomi’s carpet design as both have a central panel for the eye to gravitate towards. Bonomi’s design features a centaur roundel (also detailed separately in Inventory n. 1.2), while the ‘Orpheus’ mosaic features its namesake with his lyre.

‘Orpheus’ mosaic discovered at Littlecote Park (Inventory n. 1.5 A)

 

Whilst Bonomi’s design certainly borrows stylistic aspects from Roman mosaics, it is ultimately neoclassical in approach and is simpler regarding its colour palette and detail. The design was undertaken with a rich connoisseur in mind such as the Marquess of Lansdowne. I have so far been unable to find a mention of this particular carpet in the literature, so it is unclear whether the design was ever realised. Eventually, the Marquess’s lavish spending on his properties caught up with him. With his estate declared bankrupt, it is possible that the carpet never physically existed.

Carpet derived from the Stonesfuled mosaic. Early 18thC (Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock)

Sometimes, reproductions of mosaic floors were created in textile format. It is unclear what the motivations were behind this. It may have been that some antiquarians wanted to decorate their properties with a reproduction of the mosaic that was found on their land. Upon the discovery of the ‘Orpheus’ mosaic, William George, steward to the owner of Littlecote House and Park, made coloured drawings of it. George died not long afterwards and from the drawings he made, his widow made a complete needlework reproduction in full colour, and the tapestry was hung in Littlecote House. The ‘Bacchus’ mosaic discovered at Stonesfield in 1712 (discussed in my previous post) was also recreated in textile form — as a large (3m, approx.) early 18th century needlework carpet, as described by Herefordshire antiquary, scholar and linguist William Brome (1664-1745) (see Draper, J, Freshwater, T, Henig, M, and Hinds, S. 2000). This carpet exerted a considerable influence on contemporary tastes. Due to the popular fascination for collecting antiquities, neoclassical styles were fashionable and in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, mosaic-style carpets were the height of interior design fashion. A by-product of this fashion was that embroidered tapestry and carpet reconstructions of mosaic pavements often became the only surviving records after the destruction of the mosaics themselves.

The problem with relying on reproductions is that they can reveal little about the actual state, as discovered, of the original mosaics. Most prints in the Haverfield Archive depict fully intact mosaics with bright, vivid colours. The reality of finding such an example in this condition is very unlikely. Pigments fade and mosaics were/are often discovered in fragments. Some publications like Henry Ecroyd Smith’s Reliquiae Isurianae (1852) described the mosaics’ state of preservation when originally excavated. Two of the plates listed in this volume and showing the state of the originals, as found, are not of mosaics but of painted wall plaster (Inventory n. 1.7 and Inventory n. 1.17 B). Smith describes these as ‘fragments’ of plaster, with ‘some found still adhering’ to a building’s original structure. Some damage was inflicted due to ‘atmospheric influences, crumbled away after the lapse of a couple of winters’. 

 

 

Presumably, the patron, Aldborough patron, Andrew Lawson, acted swiftly to preserve the existing fragments as they were brought into the museum established in the grounds of Aldborough Manor in 1863. Given the rich history underpinning Aldborough’s ‘Orpheus’ mosaic, questions have arisen regarding the accuracy of illustrations that were made. Original drawings of the mosaic have now been lost, while engravings made by George Vertue are thought to be somewhat inaccurate. A lack of a consistent discovery and preservation methodology at many sites – for example, Stonesfield – meant that records were not kept in a systematic order. As a result, errors in illustrations were inevitable. Although sites such Aldborough promoted a ‘drive’ among antiquarians to produce more detailed, archaeological records, prints of Roman mosaics were not intended to be scientifically accurate. Instead, they appeared to function as aesthetically pleasing ‘reproductions’ of Roman art.

Despite this, Sarah Scott (2013) has pointed out how the antiquarian and engraver Samuel Lysons (1763-1819) did not ‘repair’ flaws in his engravings of mosaics, clearly showing the state of the original. One example of Lysons’ work is the floor plan of an excavation site at Weldon, Northamptonshire (Inventory n. 1.3), and illustrates how Lysons decided to depict the mosaics in their fragmentary form.

Samuel Lysons. Excavation site plan, Weldon (Inventory 1.3)

 

This work was quite unusual for the time, as mosaics were typically drawn as complete, pristine works, the inferences made from partial remains. Amongst antiquarians there was a view that the accuracy of archaeological illustrations reflected the overall quality of the excavation. For example in 1916, J. Charles Cox compared the engravings of a mosaic found at Roxby, Lincolnshire. The earliest engraving was completed in 1799 by William Fowler (Inventory n. 2.15), followed much later by Cary Elwes in 1873. Focusing more on the archaeological properties of the engravings, Cox held that Elwes’s version was ‘more accurately engraved and coloured’ than Fowler’s. From a 21st century perspective, it can be safely said that the prints are definitely not scientific reconstructions. Yet it must be recognised that there were at least some efforts made by antiquarians to produce ‘accurate’ records.

William Fowler. Pavement mosaic, Roxby (Inventory n. 2.15)

Many of the excavations which took place in the 18th and 19th centuries can be viewed as methodologically crude by modern standards. Since that time, archaeological practices have changed in order to reduce the damage done when excavating. However, records which include prints of mosaics are vital as they are often all that remain from an antiquarian excavation. Rich discoveries stimulated further interest and subsequent research, thus helping to shape archaeology as the discipline we know today. The main reason for the growing interest in British archaeology was the Industrial Revolution, as infrastructural expansion revealed more archaeological discoveries. This helped fuel a desire to live up to European collecting and connoisseurship practices against the backdrop of a shared Classical heritage and growing nationalism. Excavations across Europe were busy, churning out discoveries at sites like Herculaneum and Pompeii, further intensifying national rivalries. At the foreground of the period was the European conflict, with the Napoleonic Wars resulting in restrictions on travel. In order to stay current and fashionable, the average Georgian gentleman had little choice but to focus his attention on British antiquities.

Members of the Society of Antiquaries had an interest in all things Roman Britain. They perceived Roman remains as a tangible link between the British and Roman Empires. In my previous post, I discussed how the Society was very much interested in mosaics, and at Cotterstock they commissioned George Vertue to produce an engraving based on William Bogdani’s drawing of it. This active interest demonstrated an acute attention to British archaeological discoveries when, in 1739, the Society made a decision to compile a list of all Roman mosaics discovered in Britain. Despite this enthusiasm, a collective approach to the study of archaeology was not yet fully realised. Britain did not pass any heritage protection legislation until the 1882 Ancient Monuments Protection Act. There was not even a gallery of national antiquities in the British Museum until the 1850s. Instead, antiquarians acted individually, developing the significance of their own sites, linking them to the glory of imperial Rome.

Antiquarians such as Andrew Lawson at Aldborough funded excavations and publications. In the Haverfield Archive, Lawson is cited as the patron on several prints of mosaics from Aldborough. Henry Ecroyd Smith’s Reliquiae Isurianae was dedicated to Lawson and he was credited with procuring most of the illustrations and keeping accurate records of recent discoveries. In an article in the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ (Nichols 1853), Lawson was considered to be in ‘high estimation among antiquaries’. It was reported by the magazine that when the Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland held their annual meeting at York in 1846, they were ‘entertained by Mr Lawson’ at Aldborough. Lawson was not alone in such activities. In 1807, Colonel Leigh of Combe Hay ordered a Roman mosaic to be uncovered at Wellow, in Somerset, purely for the amusement of his friends and those interested in antiquities. What made Lawson different from Colonel Leigh, however, was that his motivation for uncovering the mosaics at Aldborough was to preserve them and to provide systematic documentation.

Whilst there were rich, well-meaning antiquarians such as Lawson, there were also enterprising engravers like William Fowler (1761-1832). The print of Roxby’s pavement mosaic (Inventory n. 2.15) mentions one ‘Jas. Barber’ as its creator; in fact, it was engraved by Fowler, who, in 1799, published his print for sale at half a guinea. He was very much a business man in terms of producing plates, quickly realising that if he was to make any money out of publishing, he had to sell prints at a high price. As a result of Fowler’s entrepreneurship, he acquired supporters who subscribed to standing orders for every print he published, including the libraries of two Oxford colleges. Because prints were produced individually and were not published as part of a single large volume, Fowler announced his new prints by means of printed prospectuses. The Haverfield Archive includes a few excerpts from a similar prospectus by Henry Ecroyd Smith. The page details illustrations one could order from H. Ecroyd Smith’s Lithographs of Romano-British Tessellated Pavements (Inventory n. 2.9). Acquiring prints from such publication lists appealed to antiquarians who wished to showcase their interests to their like-minded, erudite friends.

Volumes discussing excavations with detailed illustrations of archaeological discoveries were produced, but they were costly undertakings, affordable only to the elite. Indeed, one of the subscribers to Ecroyd Smith’s Reliquiae Isurianae was listed as ‘HRH Prince Albert’, indicating that excavations at Aldborough were dependant on subscribers and patronage. Support from those who could afford it was highly valued as the cost of producing lavishly illustrated volumes was high. Due to the huge expense involved in production, publishers were also highly selective as to the volumes that they chose to support. Subscribers were willing to pay up to several guineas for a publication whose textual content they were not necessarily interested in reading so long as it was well illustrated with engravings. Mosaic pavements were attractive to Georgian and Victorian gentlemen because they served as a link to a Roman era of wealth and grandeur. Despite this (and doubtless due to their cost), such publications were not necessarily widely circulated. Thomas Hearne recorded that his volume on the Stonesfield mosaic consisted of only 120 copies, with successive editions issued in similarly small numbers. As a result, information about and images of the mosaic were only accessible to a privileged few.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, archaeology was still in its infancy as a discipline. Whilst there were keen antiquarians who were motivated to provide what they viewed as systematic and accurate records of archaeological sites, methodologies were still being developed. Some antiquarians were influenced purely by the fashion for collecting antiquities and lavishly decorating their properties with them, less so by historical-archaeological documentation. Efforts regarding the preservation of archaeological discoveries were undertaken by individuals, not groups. Publications were not widely circulated and appeared to be available only to rich, erudite individuals. It is clear, however, that many of the prints preserved in the Haverfield Archive provided the only surviving documentation of original mosaics. Following their discovery, many mosaic pavements were readily destroyed or reburied, with their exact sites lost from social memory. Although the illustrations are often inaccurate or have been exaggerated it is important that they be preserved for future study and research.

Next time, in the final post of this series, I will be looking at the man responsible for the archive, Francis Haverfield himself. I will examine why he and his associates decided to collect prints of Roman mosaics, and consider his motivations and the future projects he may have had in mind.

Chloe Bolsover, Graduate Trainee, Taylor Institution Library

References

Alexander, David. 2003. Antiquity at half a guinea. Country Life Archive Vol 197 (11) https://ezproxy-prd.bodleian.ox.ac.uk:2186/docview/1513164349?rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo&imgSeq=1

Challands, A, Hall, J, Jackson, R, Peacock, D, Upex, S and Wild, FC. 2011. The Praetorium of Edmund Artis: A Summary of Excavations and Surveys of the Palatial Roman Structure at Castor, Cambridgeshire 1828-2010. Britannia, Vol 42, 23-112.

Cox, CJ. 1916. Lincolnshire. London: Methuen

Draper, J, Freshwater, T, Henig, M, and Hinds, S. 2000. From Stone to Textile: The Bacchus Mosaic at Stonesfield, Oxon, and the Stonesfield Embroidery. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. 153:1, 1-29.

Fielden, K. 2016. Bowood Revisited. Chippenham: CPI Antony Rowe

Hingley, Richard. The recovery of Roman Britain 1586-1906: a colony so fertile. 2008. Oxford. Oxford University Press

Hoare, R. 1821. IV. An Account of a Stone Barrow, in the Parish of Wellow, at Stoney Littleton in the County of Somerset, which was opened and investigated in the Month of May 1816. Archaeologia: or Miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity, 1770-1992. Society of Antiquarians of London. Vol 19, 43-55

Meadows, P. 2004. Bonomi Joseph [formerly Giuseppe] (1739-1808). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press 

Millett, M. 2015. Roman Britain since Haverfield. In M. Millett, L. Revell and A. Moore (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Roman Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Mitford, J. 1846. Antiquarian Researches. Chatto & Windus

Nichols, J. 1853. Andrew Lawson Esq. The Gentleman’s Magazine: and historical review, July 1856-May 1868, Jun 1853. 657-658

Scott, S. 2014. Britain in the classical world: Samuel Lysons the art of Roman Britain 1780-1820. Classical Receptions Journal. Vol 6, No 2, 294-337

Scott, S. 2013. Samuel Lysons and His Circle: Art, Science and the Remains of Roman Britain. Bulletin of the History of Archaeology, 23 (2)

Smith, Henry Ecroyd. 1852. Reliquiae Isurianae: the remains of the Roman Isurium (now Aldboroug, near Boroughbridge, Yorkshire). London. Sold by Russell I Smith. Printed by William Hilton, 3, Upper Wellington Street, Strand.

Sweet, R. 2001. Antiquaries and Antiquities in Eighteenth-Century England. Eighteenth Century Studies. Vol 34, No 2, 181-206

Toynbee, JMC. 1981. Apollo, Beasts and Seasons: Some Thoughts on the Littlecote Mosaic. Britannia. Vol. 12 1-5

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and/or Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Sackler 101: Investigating the Haverfield Archive / Part II

Part 1 of this series of blog posts introduced the Haverfield Archive, held at the Sackler Library. This collection consists of correspondence, coloured prints and drawings illustrating mosaic pavements, site plans and publication extracts – an assortment of archaeological paraphernalia associated with Francis Haverfield (1860-1919), Camden Professor of Ancient History at Oxford and seen as the chief expert on Roman Britain at the start of the 20th century. The image collection comprises largely prints and a few hand-drawn sketches of Roman floor mosaics discovered during the 18th and 19th centuries. I decided to take on the task of creating the first index to this material so that its research potential would become clear. In November last year, I began indexing material. With each new document came a new discovery. As a former archaeologist, I found working with the archive a cleaner but just as incredible experience as uncovering forgotten objects through excavation. In total, I recorded around 50 images and associated documents, only a small fraction of the collection.

For Part 2 of this series of blog posts, I will focus on three archaeological sites: Aldborough, Cotterstock, and Stonesfield. The reason why I will discuss these sites in particular is because the majority of documents which I have recorded so far depict mosaics discovered there. (Continuation of the cataloguing part of the project was affected by the Covid-19 lockdown, as physical access to materials was no longer possible.)

Aldborough

The first site is the village of Aldborough (Isurium Brigantum), North Yorkshire. One of the first mosaics to be discovered at the site was the so-called ‘Lion mosaic’ (Inventory n. 2.13). In 1832, the landlord of the Aldborough Arms decided to bury a dead calf at the end of his garden. The rest – as they say – is history. News of the discovery appears to have spread nationwide and in 1849 the Illustrated London News (20 January 1849) published a report. In his 1852 publication, Reliquiae Isurianae, Henry Ecroyd Smith recorded mosaics from Aldborough, including this mosaic. In the below image, damage to the central panel is shown. It is strongly suspected that the culprits were enthusiastic souvenir hunters as the Reliquiae Isurianae describes how the mosaic had become a local attraction. In response, the Duke of Newcastle erected a stucture over the mosaic as an attempt to preserve it. What is most interesting about the print from the Haverfield Archive, is that the mosaic is surrounded by further sketches of the Roman remains.

‘Lion mosaic’ (Inventory n. 213)
‘Star’ mosaic (Inventory n. 2.5)

 

 

Another mosaic, featuring a ‘star’ in the central panel, was discovered in 1846. This mosaic is deeply associated with Aldborough and its design is incorporated into the current Friends of Aldborough logo (have a look). Ecroyd Smith’s Reliquiae Isurianae attests that news of the discovery of the mosaic spread rapidly throughout the community, as volunteer excavators joined the efforts to remove the ‘mass of rubble’. Andrew Lawson, the local landowner, erected a covering structure for the mosaic. Despite this, the mosaic remained exposed to weathering and was damaged by mould growth from the cold and damp conditions. The print is depicted in full colour and in very good condition. The patron behind the print was landowner Lawson. Other funders may have included the amateur archaeologist, Charles Roach Smith (1807-1890) and the antiquarian Albert Way (1805-1874). Ecroyd Smith expresses his gratitude for the support of these three men in his preface to the Reliquiae Isurianae. Lawson himself spent much of his time preserving the remains of Roman Aldborough, as well as making the first systematic collection of local archaeological finds. Funding publications like the Reliquiae Insurianae was well within his range of interests.   

Romulus and Remus mosaic (Inventory n. 1.4)

 

 

 

 

The final Aldborough mosaic that I’ll discuss here is the well-known ‘Romulus and Remus’ mosaic. It was discovered in 1834, and subsequently dug up by a local mason and removed to his cottage garden in Boroughbridge, where it became a central piece to the floor of a summerhouse. Fortunately, the Museum of the Philosophical and Literary Society of Leeds, subsequently incorporated into the Leeds City Museum, purchased the mosaic in 1863 where it remains preserved today. Due to its complicated provenance, there has been some discussion regarding the authenticity of the mosaic and some think that it was subjected to heavy Victorian restoration. Interestingly, the mosaic was not included in Ecroyd Smith’s Reliquiae Isurianae.

Geometric mosaic (Inventory n. 1.6 A 3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Castor

Next, I draw your attention to a range of sites from across Northamptonshire. Several prints of mosaics discovered in the county appear to be from the same publication, The Durobrivae of Antoninus, published in 1828 by artist Edmund Artis (1789-1847). Artis carried out large-scale excavations in the county in the early 1820s. These included an investigation of the alleged Castor Praetorium, a monumental Roman building on the site of Castor’s parish church. Artis coined the term ‘Praetorium’ to suggest that the building not only had an administrative function but also implied a luxurious residence. Artis completed sketches of his finds and one of these is possibly Inventory n. 1.6 A 3, whose accompanying text describes its discovery on the north side of the churchyard.

 

Cotterstock

The Haverfield Archive also highlights similarities between a print (Inventory n. 1.6 A 1) from the Durobrivae of Antoninus and another (Inventory n. 3.1 1) from J. Nichols’s Vetusta Monumenta, a collection of images published under the Society of Antiquaries’ auspices. The two prints appear to be of the same mosaic but differ stylistically through radically different colour palettes and borders. The mosaic itself was discovered in a field in Cotterstock, in 1736, after being partially damaged by a plough. Locals from a nearby residence in Southwick, notably father and son, the George Lynns, as well as the artist William Bogdani (1699-1771), drew the mosaic. In 1737, Bogdani presented his drawing to the Society of Antiquaries. The Society commissioned George Vertue (1684-1756) to make an engraving from the drawing. Vertue was considered one of the best reproductive engravers in the country at that time. He had a strong reputation as an antiquary as well, and was appointed Engraver to the Society of Antiquaries in 1717. Vertue completed his engraving of the mosaic in 1737 and presented it to the Society. Edmund Artis used this print as a basis when he published the mosaic in his Durobrivae.

 

Inventory n. 1.9

 

 

As at Aldborough, preservation tactics such as covering up the Cotterstock mosaic did not deter souvenir hunters. The fourth Earl of Cardigan removed a large chunk of the mosaic and took it back to his residence at Deene Park. The Earl set the fragment into a centrepiece for the floor of a summerhouse. Whilst his intention was to preserve the mosaic, it did not survive.

Another, smaller mosaic was discovered at Cotterstock in 1798. The first engraving of it was made by William Fowler in 1802 (Inventory n. 1.9). In 1828, Edmund Artis also republished the mosaic in his Durobrivae.

 

 

 

 

Stonesfield

Finally, I will focus on prints which appear to depict the same mosaic found at Stonesfield, a village in Oxfordshire. While the mosaic was first discovered in 1711, in one account, by John Pointer in 1713, it is claimed that the mosaic was accidentally uncovered by a tenant farmer in a field called Chesthill Acres. News of the discovery soon reached Oxford, rousing the interest of local antiquarians. The tenant farmer, George Handes, proved himself to be a savvy businessman and began charging both an admission fee to view the mosaic and a further charge for drawing it. As always, souvenir hunters were eager to grab a keepsake. One fragment was given to the diarist and antiquarian Thomas Hearne (1744-1817), who worked in the library of St Edmund Hall and also at the Bodleian. Fragments, alongside images and written records, formed part of the supporting materials for lengthy discussions among groups such as the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Society.

In his A discourse concerning to the Stunsfield tessellated pavement (1712) Thomas Hearne included an illustrated print of the Stonesfield mosaic. Hearne frequently visited the pavement; on his sixth visit he brought along the Dutch illustrator, Michael Burghers (1647-1727) who, from 1676, engraved the plates for the Almanacks of the University and whose objective was to draw the pavement accurately. In 1723, the Society of Antiquaries again commissioned George Vertue to produce an engraving. The finished product was very popular and was still on sale in 1757, 34 years after Vertue’s death. This print is essentially an enlargement of Burgher’s work and remains very faithful to its detail. In the Haverfield Archive, both Hearne and Vertue are credited with reproducing Inventory n. 1.12 and n. 1.16.

Hearne expressed his fears regarding the condition of the Stonesfield mosaic, as it was suffering from exposure to the elements. In 1716, there were rumours that the pavement had been destroyed. The mosaic had suffered badly from damage caused by souvenir hunters and poor preservation management. Over time, George Handes and his landlord increasingly argued over how profits gained from admission fees for viewing the mosaic were to be shared. In one incident, an argument between the pair allegedly ended with the tenant tearing the mosaic to pieces.

In 1779 digging in the area led to the mosaic’s accidental rediscovery. Although the extent of the damage inflicted by George Handes is unclear, the fact that the mosaic was still recognisable suggests that it had somewhat survived. The ensuing excavations received the patronage of the Duke of Marlborough, whose Blenheim estates lay nearby. A report was presented to the Society of Antiquaries in 1784, with a set of engravings of the mosaic by William Lewington. This is particularly interesting as the illustration in the Haverfield Archive is attributed not to Lewington, but to the self-taught engraver William Fowler (1761-1832). Just as George Vertue reproduced Michael Burgher’s earlier version of the mosaic, Fowler based his work directly on Lewington’s own engraving. In 1802, Fowler had the ground opened, finding part of the pavement in good condition. Eventually, however, in 1806, the Stonesfield mosaic was divided among three landowners, with the removal and destruction of the in situ mosaic recorded a year later.

My next post in this series will discuss the people who made these prints: The antiquarians. These rich, erudite and privileged individuals helped shape archaeology as the discipline that it is today.

Chloe Bolsover, Graduate Trainee, Taylor Institution Library

References

Alexander, David. 2003. Antiquity at half a guinea. Country Life Archive Vol 197 (11) https://ezproxy-prd.bodleian.ox.ac.uk:2186/docview/1513164349?rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo&imgSeq=1 (accessed June 2020)

Artis, E.T. 1828. The Durobrivae of Antoninus : identified and illustrated in a series of plates, exhibiting the excavated remains of that Roman station, in the vicinity of Castor, Northamptonshire : including the mosaic pavements, inscriptions, paintings in fresco, baths, iron and glass furnaces, potters’ kilns, implements for coining, and the manufacture of earthen vessels, war and other instruments in brass, iron, ivory, &c. London

Bignamini, I. 1996. Vertue, George. Grove Art Online https://ezproxy-prd.bodleian.ox.ac.uk:2995/groveart/view/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.001.0001/oao-9781884446054-e-7000089087 (accessed March 2020)

Castor Praetorium. Peterborough Archaeology https://peterborougharchaeology.org/peterborough-archaeological-sites/castor-praetorium/ (accessed March 2020)

Challands, A, Hall, J, Jackson, R, Peacock, D, Upex, S and Wild, FC. 2011. The Praetorium of Edmund Artis: A Summary of Excavations and Surveys of the  Palatial Roman Structure at Castor, Cambridgeshire 1828-2010. Britannia, Vol 42, 23-112.

Draper, J, Freshwater, T, Henig, M, and Hinds, S. 2000. From Stone to Textile: The Bacchus Mosaic at Stonesfield, Oxon, and the Stonesfield Embroidery. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. 153:1, 1-29.

Friends of Roman Aldborough http://romanaldborough.co.uk/ (accessed March 2020)

Hearne, T. A discourse concerning to the Stunsfield tessellated pavement. With some new observations about the Roman inscription that relates to the Bath Fabrica, and an account of the custom of the mannor of Woodstock. July 11. 1712.

Hingley, Richard. The recovery of Roman Britain 1586-1906: a colony so fertile. 2008. Oxford. Oxford University Press

Hornbeck, EJ. Plate 1.48: Roman Pavement Found at Cotterstock. Vetusta Monumenta: Ancient Monuments, A Digital Edition https://scalar.missouri.edu/vm/vol1plate48-roman-pavement-cotterstock (accessed March 2020)  

Levine, J. 1978. The Stonesfield Pavement: Archaeology in Augustan England. Eighteenth Century Studies, Vol 11, No. 3. 340-361

Nichols, J. 1747. Vetusta monumenta: quae ad rerum Britannicarum memoriam conservandam Societas Antiquariorum Londini sumptu suo edenda curavit. Volumen primum. [-septimum]. London: Society of Antiquaries

Pointer, J. 1713. An account of a Roman pavement, lately found at Stunsfield in Oxfordshire, prov’d to be 1400 years old. Leonard Lichfield: Oxford Sculpture in Yew and other letters. Country Life Archive, 1959 Vol 126 720 https://ezproxy-prd.bodleian.ox.ac.uk:2186/docview/1521510620?rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo (accessed June 2020)

Smith, Henry Ecroyd. 1859. On a Romano-British Mosaic Pavement, representing Romulus and Remus, discovered at Aldborough (Isurium of the Romans). Proceedings of the Geological and Polytechnic Society of the West Riding of Yorkshire, 4, 593-604

Smith, Henry Ecroyd. 1852. Reliquiae Isurianae: the remains of the Roman Isurium (now Aldborough, near Boroughbridge, Yorkshire). London. Sold by Russell I Smith. Printed by William Hilton, 3, Upper Wellington Street, Strand

Upex, SG. 2001. The Roman Villa at Cotterstock, Northamptonshire. Britannia. Vol 32 57-91

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and/or Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Like@Sac! International Women’s Day – A Virtual Book Display – Women at Oxford 1920-2020

 

 

International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women and challenging stereotypes, has been observed on 8 March every year since its inception in 1911.  The organisers of International Women’s Day describe it as “a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women, who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.”[1]  The fight for women’s equality continues in the UK and around the world, and events like International Women’s Day show how important it is that women and girls are able to reach their full potential and contribute to all areas of our society. Each year, the organisers of International Women’s Day choose a theme as a banner under which everyone’s efforts can be channelled and unified. This year, the theme is I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights This theme aligns with UN Women’s new multigenerational campaign, Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights for an Equal Future, which marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most progressive roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls, everywhere.[2]

 

Image Credit: Katherine Hanlon, Unsplash
Image Credit: Katherine Hanlon, Unsplash

 

International Women’s Day 2020 also marks the start of the social media campaign #EachforEqual:

“An equal world is an enabled world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day.  We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world. Let’s all be #EachforEqual.”[3]

Image Credit: Logan Isbell, Unsplash

2020 also marks the 100th anniversary of a historic victory for women at the University of Oxford: in 1920 Mary-Anne Henley was the first to collect her degree in the Sheldonian Theatre.  To mark this centenary and celebrate the contribution of women to Oxford, the University is launching Women Making History: 100 Years of Oxford degrees for women:

“The centenary provides an opportunity to take stock of our progress in promoting women’s education and advancing gender equality and diversity.”

As the website also notes:

“Women Making History will shine a spotlight on the diverse women who have contributed to the University of Oxford, as well as the women who are shaping its future today. In the coming months, we will explore stories of Oxford women as scholars, students, researchers, academics, clinicians, technicians, librarians, archivists, activists, artists and much more.  If you have a story about an Oxford woman that you think should be told, please join the conversation by using the hashtag #womenatoxford.”[4]

To celebrate International Women’s Day — and to mark the 100th anniversary of Oxford degrees for Women — members of the Sackler Reader Services team compiled a Virtual Book Display. (Sadly, visibility of the physical book display was curtailed by the Covid-19 lockdown.)  At the end of this blog post, you will find a list of links to various e-publications, available via SOLO, which focus on women’s accomplishments as they relate to Archaeology, Art, Architecture, Classics and Egyptology – some of the areas of collecting focus at the Sackler Library.

It is wrong to assume that amongst the most celebrated figures in Classics, hardly any women feature.  Of course, there is the Greek poet Sappho.  We have chosen to display Nancy Rabinowitz and Lisa Auanger’s Among Women, which focuses on Sappho’s poetic creativity and erotic themes.  We can never discuss key female figures in Classics without mentioning Hypatia of Alexandria, as discussed by Dora Russell.  The poems of Sulpicia are a rarity.  In comparison with works by other Roman women, Sulpicia’s work has survived intact, rather than existing in fragments.  Her six poems appear in the Augustan poet Tibullus’ corpus of poetry, a translation of which appears in our display.  For those interested in reception theory, James Donaldson’s Woman considers the position of women in Classical and Early Christian societies through the lens of a male academic in Edwardian Britain.

 

Pieere Olivier Joseph Coomans, Sappho at Mitylene, 1876 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

 

“We can also see the contributions of women in Ancient Egypt where, as many may be aware, it was not unknown for women to hold positions of power.  Mary Hamer’s Signs of Cleopatra and Dorothea Arnold’s Royal Women of Amarna discuss two of perhaps the most well-known female figureheads of Egypt: Cleopatra and Nefertiti.  However, another noteworthy addition is the fifth Pharaoh to rule Egypt during the Eighteenth Dynasty, as discussed in Catherine Roehrig et al.’s Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharoah.  Hatshepsut brought about religious infrastructure and trade reform during her 21-year reign, but all records relating to her activities were systematically destroyed by her successor, Thutmose III.

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Beheading Holofernes, by Artemisia Gentileschi (Naples, Museo di Capodimonte), 1612-13 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

It is a pleasure when the female story is celebrated and represented well, as many in the art world have been striving for since gender inequality became part of their consciousness, and since feminist art historians such as Linda Nochlin (“Why there have been no great women artists”, 1971) and Griselda Pollock drew attention to the issue.  Art movements and artists have put visions into visuals, alongside providing the artwork to promote diversity and alternate views to the much discussed male gaze.  Fortunately, for art, there have been many female artists such as Artemisia Gentileschi (as discussed in Keith Christiansen’s Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi or at the now-postponed National Gallery exhibition, Artemisia, in London), who were as successful as their male counterparts during their lifetimes.  This allows us to witness alternative art histories and celebrate historical women artists who worked side-by-side with male artists.  We can also fight for them to be recognised in the archives and great libraries, worldwide, so that we are aware of women who came before us as well as those who are alive today, contributing to the modern art world as we know it — for example, Jenny Saville, whose first solo show in a UK public institution was held at Modern Art Oxford.  For those interested in further exploring the work of women artists during lockdown, Modern Art Oxford’s online exhibition archive is showcasing exhibitions by three artists: Invisible Strategies by Lubaina Himid, Wanderer by Kiki Smith, and Tools For Life by Johanna Unzueta.

The discussion of women’s contribution to the field of architecture is a more is a more complicated one.  Compared with the strides taken in the art world, architecture is much further behind in its recognition of its female figures.  There are few female architects within the pages of the architectural history books that are celebrated in the same way as their male counterparts, which begs the question: what historical examples do we have, if any, of women in the architectural world? Women’s presence in architecture was often suppressed, as was the case with Annie Albers, who was unable to study architecture at the Bauhaus (whose proponents considered that architecture was a men-only professions) and so turned to weaving instead. Her work is noted for its architectural qualities and the innovation she brought to weaving techniques, showing how her interest in architecture and space could not be erased.  (See, for example, her 2018-2019 exhibition at Tate Modern.)

Due to the past elusiveness of female figures in architecture, it is therefore difficult to celebrate qualities of architectural practice which are acknowledged as “feminine”.  Even though a variety of books have been written on the intersection between feminism and architecture, including key works which form much of the basis of gendered architectural theory such as Beatriz Colomina’s Sexuality and Space, women still struggle to identify feminist architecture, what it is, and how it should be practised. Women have often struggled to gain recognition in architecture, leading to the controversial problem of their preferring not to identify as “female architects” or “women architects”.  This is particularly true of high achieving female architects: they do not want their title of architect to be gendered.  This is discussed in Francesca Hughes’ The Architect: Reconstructing Her Practice, one of the few monographs which celebrates the work of women architects.  It is to be understood that women architects believed that if they left out any reference to their gender, then they would be seen and treated as equals.  However, as well meaning as this appears, this provides leverage for the erasure of the narrative of women and the dismissal of the problems and experiences women may have experienced due to gender discrimination within the profession.

Book cover: Maggie Toy, ed. The Architect: Women in Contemporary Architecture (2001)

This can also lead to questions of privilege held by the contributors for them to not have experienced any discrimination; and to the belief that other narratives do not exist or that gender is not a problem. The publication The Architect: Women in Contemporary Architecture, edited by Maggie Toy, is a key source on women in architecture, but the women in question objected to such potential titles for the book as “The Female Architect”.  The best they could do to give a nod towards the representation of women was the subtle adaptation of the Venus sign in the title on the book’s cover.

Venus symbol (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Despite the issues raised, it is important to recognise the accomplishments of the feminist movement in the fields collected by the Sackler Library.  We hope that the reading list at the end of this post will provide a small insight into what has already been achieved.

If you would like to learn more about women’s history and gender studies in February and March 2020 the Bodleian Libraries provided trial access to a wide range of related informational databases, arranged as part of Changing the Narrative: Championing Inclusive Collection Development, a project led by Helen Worrell, Bodleian Libraries’ Anthropology & Archaeology Subject Librarian. The following databases were available during the trials and, for one of them, we have temporary extended access.  A decision on whether to purchase any of these databases (based on reader feedback) is in the works.

We hope you will enjoy browsing this small selection of our collections, and we hope you will spend some time remembering Women at Oxford 1920-2020.

 

Chloe Bolsover, Graduate Library Trainee
Katherine Day, Library Assistant
Erin McNulty, Graduate Library Trainee
Caroline Walsh, Library Assistant

References

[1][3]https://www.internationalwomensday.com/2020Theme

[2]https://www.un.org/en/observances/womens-day

[4] www.ox.ac.uk/about/oxford-people/women-at-oxford 

Database trials

Women and Social Movements, International

Through the writings of women activists, their personal letters and diaries, and the proceedings of conferences at which pivotal decisions were made, this collection lets you see how women’s social movements shaped much of the events and attitudes that have defined modern life.  This digital archive includes 150,000 pages of conference proceedings, reports of international women’s organizations, publications and web pages of women’s non-governmental organizations, and letters, diaries, and memoirs of women active internationally since the mid-nineteenth century.  It also includes photographs and videos of major events and activists in the history of women’s international social movements.

Women’s Magazine Archive 1 & 2 TEMPORARY ACCESS EXTENDED

Women’s Magazine Archive 1 provides access to the complete archives of the foremost titles of this type, including Good Housekeeping and Ladies’ Home Journal, which serve as canonical records of evolving assumptions about gender roles and cultural mores. Other titles here focus on narrower topics but deliver valuable source content for specific research areas. Parents, for example, is of particular relevance for research in the fields of children’s education, psychology, and health, as well as reflecting broader social historical trends.  Women’s Magazine Archive 2 features several of the most prominent, high-circulating, and long-running publications in this area, such as Woman’s Day and Town & Country. Collection 2 also, however, complements the first collection by including some titles focusing on more specific audiences and themes. Cosmopolitan and Seventeen, for example, are oriented towards a younger readership, while black women’s interests are represented by Essence. Women’s International Network News differs in being a more political, activist title, with an international dimension.  Topics covered these collections include family life, home economics, health, careers, fashion, culture, and many more; this material serves multiple research areas, from gender studies, social history, and the arts, through to education, politics, and marketing/media history.

Women’s Studies Archive

The Women’s Studies Archive: Issues and Identities will focus on the social, political, and professional achievements of women throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century. Along with providing a closer look at some of the pioneers of women’s movements, this collection offers scholars a deep dive into the issues that have affected women and the many contributions they have made to society.

International Women’s Day – Virtual Book Display: a selection of e-books at Oxford

Aceves Sepúlveda, G., 2019. Women made visible: feminist art and media in post-1968 Mexico City.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/kb750l/oxfaleph021790974

Anderson, J. & Huneault, K., 2012. Rethinking professionalism: women and art in Canada, 1850-1970.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000924860

Arnold, D., Allen, J.P. & Green, L., 1996. The royal women of Amarna: images of beauty from ancient Egypt.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph020320492

Ashton, S.-A., 2008. Cleopatra and Egypt.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000517287

Battista, K., 2019. New York new wave: the legacy of feminist art in emerging practice.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph001128694

Battista, K., 2019. Renegotiating the body: feminist art in 1970s London.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph001129729

Betterton, R., 2019. Unframed: practices and politics of women’s contemporary painting.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph001129730

Broude, N. & Garrard, M.D., 2018. The expanding discourse: feminism and art history.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph021680728

Butler, J. 1999. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph021627491

Christiansen, K. et al., 2001. Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph020320310

Dabakis, M., 2014. A sisterhood of sculptors: American artists in nineteenth-century Rome.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/kb750l/oxfaleph020970150

Deffebach, N., 2015. María Izquierdo and Frida Kahlo: challenging visions in modern Mexican art.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/kb750l/oxfaleph000852915

Dekel, T. 2013. Gendered: Art and Feminist Theory.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000814205

Dirgantoro, W., 2017. Feminisms and contemporary art in Indonesia: defining experiences.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/kb750l/oxfaleph001110690

Dodson, A., 2009. Amarna sunset: Nefertiti, Tutankhamun, Ay, Horemheb, and the Egyptian counter-reformation.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000530537

Donaldson, J., 1907. Woman; her position and influence in ancient Greece and Rome and among the early Christians.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph020705571

Fanghanel, A., 2019. Disrupting rape culture: public space, sexuality and revolt.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph021733551

Grainger, J. Sulpicia & Tibullus, 1992. A poetical translation of the elegies of Tibullus; and of the poems of Sulpicia.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/kb750l/oxfaleph020741566

Greene, E., 1996. Reading Sappho: contemporary approaches.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph021293990

Hamer, M., 2014. Signs of Cleopatra: reading an icon historically.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph020148152

Heynen, H. & Baydar, G., 2005. Negotiating domesticity: spatial productions of gender in modern architecture.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000914883

Horne, V. & Perry, L., 2019. Feminism and art history now: radical critiques of theory and practice.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph001127609

Iōannou, Kyriakidou & Christiansen, 2014. Female beauty in art: history, feminism, women artists.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000867093

Isaak, J.A., 1996. Feminism and contemporary art: the revolutionary power of women’s laughter.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000575626

Kelley, L., 2019. Bioart kitchen: art, feminism and technoscience.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph001127602

Kleiner, D.E.E., 2005. Cleopatra and Rome.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000519061

Kokoli, A.M., 2016. The feminist uncanny in theory and art practice.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph001127848

Liss, A., 2009. Feminist art and the maternal.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/kb750l/oxfaleph000515481

Martin, B. & Sparke, P., 2003. Women’s places: architecture and design 1860-1960.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000913452

Meskimmon, M., 2003. Women making art: history, subjectivity, aesthetics.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000917653

Miles, M.M., 2011. Cleopatra: a sphinx revisited.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000546249

Murray, E. & Varnedoe, K., 1995. Elizabeth Murray, modern women: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, June 20-August 22, 1995.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/kb750l/oxfaleph021140275

Nochlin, L., 2018. Women, art, and power: and other essays.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph021284529

Pollock, G., 1999. Differencing the canon: feminist desire and the writing of art’s histories.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph021274805

Pollock, G., 2003. Vision and difference: feminism, femininity and the histories of art.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph019861020

Rabinowitz, N.S. & Auanger, L., 2002. Among women: from the homosocial to the homoerotic in the ancient world.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph016911858

Rendell, J., Penner, B. & Borden, I., 2000. Gender space architecture: an interdisciplinary introduction.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000481765

Reynolds, L., 2019. Women artists, feminism and the moving image: contexts and practices.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph001128859

Richlin, A. 2014. Arguments with Silence: Writing the History of Roman Women.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/kb750l/oxfaleph000768250

Robinson, H. & Buszek, M.E., 2019. A companion to feminist art.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph021790990

Roehrig, C. H., Dreyfus, R., and Keller, C. A. 2006. Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph020320021

Roller, D.W., 2010. Cleopatra: a biography.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000579312

Russell, D., 1976. Hypatia: or, Woman and knowledge.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/kb750l/oxfaleph020705536

Sappho, Rayor, Diane J. & Lardinois, A. P. M. H., 2014. Sappho: a new translation of the complete works.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph020611304

Shonfield, K., 2000. Walls have feelings: architecture, film, and the city.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph000484227

Skelly, J., 2020. Radical decadence: excess in contemporary feminist textiles and craft.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph001130353

Solomon-Godeau, A. & Parsons, S., 2017. Photography after photography: gender, genre, and history.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph021157235

Souter, G., 2015. Frida Kahlo: beneath the mirror.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph001003107

Walsh, M. & Throp, M., 2019. Twenty years of MAKE magazine: back to the future of women’s art.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/10tg26t/oxfaleph001125669

Wark, J., 2006. Radical gestures: feminism and performance art in North America.

http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/kb750l/oxfaleph000584817

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Like @ Sac! Book Display: Celebrating LBGT+ History Month at the Sackler Library

 

February marks LGBT+ History Month in the UK, which aims to educate people about and increase visibility of the accomplishments of LGBT+ identifying people, and the contributions they have made and continue to make to society. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and asexual people, as well as people of other gender, sexual and romantic minority groups, have been present in the arts, the sciences and daily life from ancient times to the modern day. The Sackler Library has chosen to celebrate the rich history and diversity of the LGBT+ community by means of a book display highlighting the contribution of LGBT+ people to the areas of study within the remit of the Sackler Library.

 

The display in place on the Ground Floor of the Sackler Library Image. Credit: Erin McNulty

 

In terms of Classical literature, our display highlights the work of Sappho, e.g. in Rayor and Lardinois’ Sappho: a new translation of the complete works (2014). Sappho was a prolific lyric poet from the Archaic Greek era[1]. Her poetry was well-known and greatly admired through much of antiquity, and she was among the canon of nine lyric poets most highly esteemed by scholars of Hellenistic Alexandria. She is also the subject of some scholarly debate, but it is generally thought amongst modern scholars that her work portrays evidence of love and desire between women[2]. Indeed, the modern use of the word ‘lesbian’ is derived from the name of her home island of Lesbos.

We can also see the contributions of LGBT+ people in the field of Egyptology, namely through Amelia Edwards’ A Thousand Miles up the Nile, a best-selling travelogue published in 1877. Edwards, born in 1831, was an English novelist, journal-writer, and traveller, and contributed greatly to Egyptological Studies, co-founding the Egypt Exploration Fund in 1882[4]. She was also the founder of the Edwards Chair of Egyptology at University College London. Edwards died in 1892 from influenza, and was buried alongside her partner, Ellen Drew Braysher. In 2016, her grave  in Bristol was designated as Grade II listed by Historic England, and is celebrated as a landmark of English LGBT+ history[5].

 

The cover, an illustration, and author’s signature from an 1877 edition of Edwards’ A Thousand Miles up the Nile (Sackler Library, Special Collections)
To view Special Collections materials, please enquire at the Sackler Issue Desk
Image(s) Credit: Erin McNulty

 

We have also highlighted the relevance of LGBT+ studies to the study of architecture by including Betsky’s Queer space: architecture and same-sex desire (1997). This work discusses how same-sex desire is creating an entirely new design process. Vincent’s LGBT people and the UK cultural sector: the response of libraries, museums, archives and heritage since 1950 (2014) also deals with LGBT+ influences in the library and heritage sector specifically.

Image Credit: Erin McNulty

Works on art also form a substantial part of the Sackler’s collections. Both of these disciplines benefit greatly from the contributions of the LGBT+ community. Davis’ Gay and lesbian studies in art history (1994) gives an overview of this. We have also chosen to showcase art books dealing with LGBTQ+ themes from earlier periods, such as Mills’ Seeing sodomy in the Middle Ages (2015), to the more modern, e.g. David Wojnarowicz: history keeps me awake at night and Robert Mapplethorpe: the Archive.

A library’s collections can tell the story of a community, such as the LGBT+ community, and it changes as new works are acquired. How the Sackler, as well as many other libraries across the Bodleian, tells these stories will be reviewed by the upcoming project Changing the Narrative: Championing Inclusive Collection Development. This project, led by Helen Worrell, “will champion diversifying our collection development across the Social Sciences and Humanities Libraries, with the aim of enhancing collections in areas such as LGBTIQ+ Studies, Disability Studies, Indigenous Studies, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Studies and the intersections between these identities. This will enable us to think critically about the collections we currently hold so that we are aware of the gaps and the narrative these collections tell.”[5] Keep an eye out on the Sackler blog for upcoming posts regarding this project, or head to the LibGuide for more information.

Our book display also ties in to the theme of 2020’s LGBT+ History Month, launched at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford: Poetry, Prose and Plays. We showcase works by all four featured authors: Dawn Langley Simmons’ Man into woman: a transsexual autobiography (1970), E. M. Forster’s Collected short stories (1947), Lorraine Hansberry’s A raisin in the sun (2011), and William Shakespeare’s Sonnets (1945 edition). We have also featured the work of ancient authors, such as Plutarch, Virgil, and Petronius, who are now thought by some scholars to have been LGBT+[6]. You can visit the LBGT+ History Month website for more information and resources.

An image of the display, showing Shakespeare’s Sonnet 20, which is thought to have been written about a man. Image Credit: Erin McNulty

We hope you enjoy browsing the books we have on offer on our display. However, these are only a small sample of the resources the Sackler, and the University of Oxford as a whole, has to offer for anyone interested in LGBT+ studies. For example, TORCH’s Queer Studies Network meets weekly for lectures, reading groups, seminars, workshops and events. The Bodleian Libraries are also currently trialling several informational databases, accessible through SOLO, e.g.:

Archives of Sexuality and Gender (Gale Cengage)

This resource spans the sixteenth to twentieth centuries and is the largest digital collection of historical primary source publications relating to the history and study of sex, sexuality, and gender research and gender studies research. Documentation covering disciplines such as social, political, health, and legal issues impacting LGBT communities around the world is included, as well as rare and unique books on sex and sexuality.

LGBT Magazine Archive (Proquest LLC)

Includes the archives of 26 leading but previously hard-to-find magazines, including many of the longest-running, most influential publications of this genre.  For example, the complete backfile of the US publication, The Advocate, one of the very few LGBT titles to pre-date the 1969 Stonewall riots, is made available digitally for the first time.  Other titles include the UK’s Gay News and its successor publication Gay Times.

LGBT Life Full Text (EBSCO)

Provides scholarly and popular LGBT+ publications in full text, plus historically important primary sources, including monographs, magazines and newspapers. It also includes a specialised LGBT+ thesaurus containing thousands of terms, 140+ full-text journals, approaching 160 full-text books and reference materials, 260+ abstracted and indexed journals and more than 350+ abstracted and indexed books and reference works.

Also, don’t miss other LGBT+ projects at the University of Oxford! For example, the Pitt Rivers Museum’s project, Beyond the Binary, due to launch this month, will work with local, national and international partners to explore the global diversity of sexual and gender identities. The project will challenge historical interpretations of the museum’s collections so that all visitors can understand humanity better. It will also include a community-focused acquisition programme for LGBT+ cultural and historical artefacts. Objects will be collected from British communities and across the globe that highlight traditions of gender non-conformity, bringing British LGBT+ heritage into conversation with global LGBT+ material culture.

We hope that you will join us in celebration of LGBT+ History Month, and that you have a fantastic February!

Erin McNulty,
Graduate Library Trainee

 

References

[1] Campbell, D. A. (ed.) (1982). Greek Lyric 1: Sappho and Alcaeus (Loeb Classical Library No. 142). Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass

[2] Rayor, Diane; Lardinois, André (2014). Sappho: A New Translation of the Complete Works. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[3] Rees, Joan (1998). Amelia Edwards: Traveller, Novelist and Egyptologist. London: Rubicon Press.

[4] Queer history’ landmarks celebrated by Historic England”. BBC News. 23 September 2016. Retrieved 24 September 2016.

[5] https://libguides.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/changingthenarrative

[6] Claude J. Summers, ed., The Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage: A Reader’s Companion to the Writers and Their Works, from Antiquity to the Present (New York: Henry Holt, 1995)

 

Book Display Bibliography

Benson, M., 1901. The soul of a cat, and other stories. London.

Betsky, A., 1997. Queer space: architecture and same-sex desire, New York.

Boehringer, S., 2007. L’homosexualité féminine dans l’antiquité grecque et romaine, Paris.

Breslin, D., Kiehl, D., & Wojnarowicz, D. (2018). David Wojnarowicz : History Keeps Me Awake at Night.

Cook, M. & Oram, A., 2017. Prejudice & pride: celebrating LGBTQ heritage, Warrington.

Davidson, J. N., 2007. The Greeks and Greek love: a radical reappraisal of homosexuality in ancient Greece, London

Davis, W., 1994. Gay and lesbian studies in art history, New York.

Dedichen, H. & Butin, H., 2013. Warhol’s queens. Ostfildern.

Dover, K. J., 1978. Greek homosexuality, London.

DuBois, P., 2015. Sappho. London; New York.

Edwards, A.B., 1982. A thousand miles up the Nile. London.

Forster, E.M., 1947. Collected short stories of E.M. Forster. London.

Hansberry, L., 2011. A raisin in the sun. London.

Horace & Bennett, Charles E, 1960. The Odes and Epodes. London.

Mapplethorpe, R., Martineau, P., & Salvesen, B., 2016. Robert Mapplethorpe: the photographs, Los Angeles.

Mapplethorpe, R., Terpak, F., Brunnick, M., Smith, P., & Weinberg, J., 2016. Robert Mapplethorpe: the archive, Los Angeles.

Meyer, R., 2003. Outlaw representation: censorship & homosexuality in twentieth-century American art, Boston.

Mills, R., 2015. Seeing sodomy in the Middle Ages, Chicago.

Parkinson, R. B., 2013. A little gay history: desire and diversity across the world, London.

Petronius Arbiter & Brown, Andrew, 2009. Satyricon. Richmond.

Plutarch, Romm, James S & Mensch, Pamela, 2012. Plutarch: lives that made Greek history. Indianapolis.

Sappho, Rayor, Diane J. & Lardinois, A. P. M. H., 2014. Sappho: a new translation of the complete works. Cambridge.

Rorato, L., 2014. Caravaggio in film and literature: popular culture’s appropriation of a baroque genius, London.

Rothbauer, P. Locating the library as place among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer patrons, in eds. Buschman, J., & Leckie, G. J., 2007. The library as place: history, community, and culture, Westport; London.

Shakespeare, W. & Bullen, A.H., 1945. The sonnets of William Shakespeare. Oxford.

Simmons, D.L., 1970. Man into woman: a transsexual autobiography. London.

Spike, J. T., Brown, D. A., Joannides, P., De Groft, A. H., Rogers, M., & Bisogniero, C., 2015. Leonardo da Vinci and the idea of beauty, Williamsburg, Virginia.

Vicinus, M., 2004. Intimate friends: women who loved women, 1778-1928. Chicago.

Vincent, J., 2014. LGBT people and the UK cultural sector: the response of libraries, museums, archives and heritage since 1950. Farnham.

Virgil, Dryden, John & Keener, Frederick M., 1997. Virgil’s Aeneid. London.

Warhol, A., Feldman, F., & Defendi, C., 2003. Andy Warhol prints: a catalogue raisonné: 1962-1987, New York.

Wasserman, N., 2016. Akkadian love literature of the third and second millennium BCE. Weisbaden.

Weinberg, J., 1993. Speaking for vice: homosexuality in the art of Charles Demuth, Marsden Hartley, and the first American avant-garde, New Haven; London.

Weinberg, J., 2004. Male desire: the homoerotic in American art, New York.

Williams, C. A., 1999. Roman homosexuality: ideologies of masculinity in classical antiquity, New York; Oxford.

Williamson, M., 1995. Sappho’s immortal daughters. Cambridge, Mass.; London

Wojnarowicz, D., 2018. The waterfront journals. London

 

 

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Like @ Sac! Season’s Readings! A Festive Book Display at the Sackler Library

 

The Sackler staff are getting into the holiday spirit, so we decided to put up a book display in honour of the festivities. We drew on books from various areas in our collection to illustrate links between our ancient past and how we celebrate Christmas and other winter holidays today.

 

Pictured: The book display installed in the Sackler Library. Image Credit: Erin McNulty

 

Midwinter festivals have been celebrated in Western Europe and beyond since at least the Neolithic period. Archaeological sites in Britain and Ireland may show evidence of such festivities taking place, one of the most famous of these being Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, constructed from around 3000 BCE to 2000 BCE. Find out more about Stonehenge by reading Chippindale’s Stonehenge Complete (1983; 4th ed., 2012). There are many theories about why Stonehenge was constructed, but recent evidence hints that it was a gathering place for a festival held around the winter solstice (21st December). This is because the stones are aligned in such a way that the sun at dawn on the winter solstice is aligned with the central aisle, indicating that the site may have functioned partly as a timekeeping device for our ancient ancestors.

The same is true of other Neolithic sites, such as Maeshowe on Orkney, and Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange) in Ireland. The latter site is constructed so that the dawn sun on the first few minutes of the winter solstice illuminates a carved spiral on the very back wall of the chamber, the meaning of which remains a mystery. Prendergast’s Houses of the Gods (2017) explains more about the role of such sites in terms of archaeoastronomy.

 

Pictured: Dawn sun illuminating the passage tomb at Brú na Bóinne, Co. Meath on the Winter Solstice. Image Credit: Seán Doran

 

It seems that this time of year has been important to people for a long time. No wonder, then, that, after the Christianisation of the Roman Empire, many local traditions were incorporated into Christmas festivities, such as the British/Irish midwinter feast, or the German hanging decorations on the branches of a tree, traditions which we still celebrate to this day. Evans’ Christmas is Coming (2009) explores the origins of some of our wintertime festive traditions.

Although it incorporates ancient festivities, the midwinter celebration as an explicitly Christian festival, which would become known as Christmas, is a much newer tradition. People who follow a Christian faith believe that Jesus Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago, with event celebrated on 25th December in many countries. Hence Bethlehem has been regarded as an important religious site since the founding of Christianity. However, it is also an important archaeological and historical site, with evidence of human habitation from as early as 2200 BCE. Studying such sites can give us clues as to how people in the Near and Middle East lived thousands of years ago. For more information about Bethlehem in ancient history, see Harvey’s The Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem (1910) and Kihlman’s The Star of Bethlehem and Babylonian Astrology (2017).

The subject of Christmas has been, and remains, a theme often covered in art. The traditional Christmas story has many iconic moments from which Western artists have drawn inspiration. According to the story, angels acted as messengers announcing the birth of the baby Jesus. Selby et al.’s The Angel Tree (2011) and Ward and Steed’s Angels: a Glorious Celebration of Angels in Art (2005) showcase representations of angels in art from ancient times to the modern day. Similarly, the arrival of the ‘Three Kings’ with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh has been reinterpreted by many artists, as detailed in Beer’s The Magi: Legend, Art and Cult (2014).

 

Pictured: Cover of Selby et al.’s The Angel Tree (2011). Image Credit: Erin McNulty

 

The theme of the Nativity is also often a subject in East European art. The Eastern Orthodox Church operates in some East European countries, Russia, and Greece, among others. People who follow Eastern Orthodox Christianity celebrate Christmas on 7th January, as their liturgical year follows the Julian calendar rather than the Western, Gregorian calendar. The Sackler has many books on art reflecting Eastern Orthodox traditions, some of which exemplify Christmas scenes. We have chosen to showcase books on the art of Byzantium and Greece, such as Bratziōtē et al.’s Icons Itinerant (1994), which shows art from Corfu, and Petsopoulos’ East Christian Art (1987).

Of course, Christmas is not the only religious festival to take place in December. In ancient Rome, Saturnalia was celebrated. As the name suggests, this festival honoured the Roman god Saturn, and took place on 17th – 23rd December. It involved gift-giving, partying, a public banquet, as well as a celebratory sacrifice. Saturnalia was also a time for the inversion of societal roles and social norms, with slaves being waited on by their masters over the festival period. Macrobius’ Saturnalia describes the festivities that took place at this time of year during the Roman era.

People of Jewish faith celebrate Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, around late November to late December. This festival commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire, during the reign of Antiochus in 175 BCE. According to the story, what little remaining oil there was in the sacked Temple miraculously kept the candles burning for eight days while the Temple was being restored. Viewed as a celebration of religious freedom, Jewish people mark this miracle by the gradual lighting of the Menorah. These religious artefacts can also have immense artistic value. Braunstein’s Luminous Art (2004) shows the collection of Menorahs in the Jewish Museum in New York.

 

Pictured: Cover of Braunstein’s Luminous Art (2004). Image Credit: Erin McNulty

 

More recently, Yuletide festivities have also included more secular forms of celebration, with the rise in popularity of figures such as Father Christmas, or the American Santa Claus, who is said to bring children gifts on the night before Christmas. Christmas celebrations around the world often include such a figure, such as the French Père Noël or the Dutch Sinterklaas. The name ‘Santa Claus’ is believed to have its origins in ‘St. Nicholas’, one of the figures who evolved over time into the jolly character we know today. St Nicholas was a 4th century bishop, and during the Middle Ages, children would receive gifts in his honour on the evening of 5th December, which may have contributed to our modern gift-giving traditions. Sinterklaas travels to the Netherlands each year from Spain via steam boat with his helpers, an event that is broadcast on national television. On the evening of 5th December, a sack of presents is delivered to well behaved children, and children are told that badly behaved children will be taken back to Spain in a sack. English’s The saint who would be Santa Claus (2012) discusses the contribution of stories about St. Nicholas to the origins of the modern Santa Claus figure.

Whatever you choose to celebrate, if anything, this December, we hope that you have a joyful and restful vacation, and return in the New Year with renewed vigour. Have fun browsing the book display, and Season’s Greetings from everyone here at the Sackler Library!

Erin McNulty
Graduate Library Trainee

 

References:

“Stonehenge”. Science. 133 (3460): 1216–22.

“Stonehenge druids ‘mark wrong solstice'”. The Daily Telegraph.

Jazombek, M. A Global History of Architecture. Cambridge, Mass., MIT. Online Lecture Series. Last consulted 28/11/19.

“Sí an Bhrú /Newgrange”. logainm.ie.

O’Kelly, M. J. (1982). Newgrange: Archaeology, Art and Legend. London: Thames and Hudson.

“Ancient Burial Ground with 100 Tombs Found Near Biblical Bethlehem”. LiveScience.

Miller, J. F. (2010). Roman Festivals. In “The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome”. Oxford: OUP.

“Santa Claus: The real man behind the myth”. NBC News.

 

Further reading:

Asmussen, H. (1955). Weihnachten; farbige Buchmalerei aus der Zeit der Ottonen. Hamburg: F. Wittig.

Bacci, M. (2017). The mystic cave: a history of the Nativity church at Bethlehem. Brno: Masaryk University; Roma: Viella

Beckwith, J. (1966). The adoration of the Magi in whalebone. London: H.M.Stationery Off.

Beckwith, J. (1970). Early Christian and Byzantine Art. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Beer, M. (2014). The Magi: legend, art and cult. Cologne: Museum Schnütgen.

Boucher, B. et al. (2012). Bartolo di Fredi: the Adoration of the Magi, a masterpiece reconstructed. Charlottesville, Va.: University of Virginia Art Museum.

Bratziōtē, P. et al. (1994). Icons Itinerant: Corfu, 14th-18th century: June-September 1994, Church of Saint George in the Old Fortress, Corfu. Athens: Ministry of Culture, Directorate of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Antiquities.

Braunstein, S.L. (2004). Luminous art: Hanukkah menorahs of the Jewish Museum. New York: Jewish Museum; New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

Braunstein, S. L. (2005). Five centuries of Hanukkah lamps from the Jewish Museum: a catalogue raisonné. New Haven, Conn.; London: Yale University Press.

Chippindale, C. (1983). Stonehenge Complete. London: Thames and Hudson.

Demus, O. (1970). Byzantine Art and the West. London: Weidenfield and Nicolson.

Ebon, M. (1975). Saint Nicholas: Life and Legend. New York: Harper & Row.

English, A. C. (2012). The saint who would be Santa Claus: the true life and trials of Nicholas of Myra. Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press.

Evans, A. J. Christmas and ancestor worship in the Black Mountain.

Evans, M. (2009). Christmas is coming: the origins of our Christmas traditions and some of the stories and legends which surround them. Brighton: Pen Press.

Hamilton, R. W. (1939). A guide to Bethlehem. Jerusalem: Azriel Press.

Harvey, W. et al. (1910). The Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem. London: published on behalf of the Fund by B. T. Batsford.

Hodne, L. (2012). The virginity of the Virgin: a study in Marian iconography. Roma: Scienze e Lettere.

Kaster, R. A. (2011). Macrobius: Saturnalia. Cambridge, Mass.; London: Harvard University Press.

Kihlman, D. (2017). The star of Bethlehem and Babylonian Astrology: astronomy and revelation 12 reveal what the magi saw. Trollhättan, Sweden: Kihlman.

Lawson-Jones, M. (2011). Why was the partridge in the pear tree?: The history of Christmas carols. Stroud: History.

Johnson, A. (2008). Solving Stonehenge: the new key to an ancient enigma. London: Thames & Hudson.

Matthews, J. (1998). The winter solstice: the sacred traditions of Christmas. London: Thorsons.

Miles, C. A. (1912). Christmas in Ritual and Tradition: Christian and Pagan. London; Leipzig: T. Fisher Unwin.

Northrup, M. (1966). The Christmas story from the Gospels of Matthew & Luke. Greenwich, Conn.: Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Petsopoulos, Y. (1987). East Christian Art. London: Axia.

Prendergast, K. (2017). Houses of the gods: neolithic monuments and astronomy at the Brú na Bóinne in Ireland and beyond. Saarbrücken: LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing.

Rice, D. T. (1959). The Art of Byzantium. London: Thames and Hudson.

Rockland, M. S. (1976). The Hanukkah Book. New York: Schocken Books.

Selby, L. H. et al. (2011). The angel tree: celebrating Christmas at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: the Loretta Hines Howard collection of eighteenth-century Neapolitan crèche figures. New York, NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art: Abrams.

Scarre, C. (2007). The Megalithic Monuments of Britain and Ireland. London: Thames and Hudson.

Snyder, P. V. (1977). The Christmas tree book: the history of the Christmas tree and antique Christmas tree ornaments. Harmondsworth; New York: Penguin Books.

Tolkien, J. R. R. (2004). Letters from Father Christmas. London: HarperCollins.

Tyndale, W. (1996). A medieval Christmas. London: Frances Lincoln in association with the British Library.

Vasilakē, M. et al. (2000). Mother of God: representations of the Virgin in Byzantine art. Milano: Skira; New York: Distributed in North America and Latin America by Abbeville.

Verdon, T. and Ross, F. (2005). Mary in Western art. New York: in association with Hudson Mills Press.

Ward, L. and Steeds, W. (2005). Angels: a glorious celebration of angels in art. London: Carlton.

Vikan, G. (2003). Sacred Images and Sacred Power in Byzantium. Aldershot: Ashgate Variorum.

Ziadé, R. (2017). Chrétiens d’Orient: 2000 ans d’histoire. Paris: Gallimard.

 

 

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Like @ Sac! Disability History Month 2019

Sackler Library Book Display

The theme for the 2019 Disability History Month festivities in the United Kingdom is ‘Disability: Leadership, Resistance and Culture‘. To explore some important questions opened up by this focus, this reflection proposes three encouragements to further teaching and student research in disability history: displays of books held by the Bodleian Libraries at both the Sackler Library and the Continuing Education Library throughout Disability History Month (22 November to 22 December 2019); a presentation for the Disability History Workshop (Friday 22 November 2019, 9:00-13:00 in the History Faculty — all members of the University are welcome to attend the workshop and join us for lunch [please sign up here]); and an Oxford Reading Lists Online (‘ORLO’) site collating digital links to scholarship and media about how disability history is evidenced through design, visual cultures and historic environments.

Book Display, Sackler Library. Until 22 December 2019. (Image: Erin McNulty)

 

As a historian of nineteenth- to twenty-first century design, it would be hubristic to extend my suggestions for prospective researchers in disability history much beyond in this period. That said, it is important to celebrate, as the 2013 BBC podcast series ‘Disability: A New History’ by Peter White advised by Professor David Turner of Swansea University eloquently did, the burgeoning field of historians assessing the documentation of medieval and early modern charitable institutions through the lens of disability history. Isabel Holowaty, Bodleian History Librarian, is collaborating with History Faculty colleagues in these earlier periods to develop a Disability History research guide (‘LibGuide’) addressing a wider chronological scope. 

Enabling Histories of Design for Disability

Culture operates as both leadership and resistance. This discussion delves first into advocacy by disability activists witnessed in oral histories and archives. A brief stroll through some of the wealth of historical scholarship about designed objects and environments for disability ensues which hopes to facilitate new research.

Primary Sources: Advocacy

J. Robert Atkinson, founder of Universal Braille Press, holding two Braille books in Los Angeles, Calif., 1929. Los Angeles Times Photograph Collection, Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA

Three eighteenth- and nineteenth-century voices helped to identify the core thematics of this meditation: William Hay MP (1695-1755), Thérèse-Adèle Husson (1803-31) and Hyppolite van Landeghem (fl.1860s). Parliamentarian for Glyndebourne and Christ Church man, William Hay contested problematic Enlightenment equations of moral virtue with physical health and beauty in his 1754 essay ‘On Deformity’. Despite his use of the uncomfortable contemporary terminology of ‘deformity’, referencing an earlier essay by Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Hay embraced his own bodily difference as an ‘advantage’, as he perceived it, because his spinal condition and stature activated his aptitude for education and sensibility. Author of numerous children’s novels, Thérèse-Adèle Husson underlined the importance of attending to and capturing the perspectives of creative self-advocates. The hand-written manuscript of Husson’s extraordinary autobiography, Reflections: The Life and Writings of a Young Blind Woman in Post-Revolutionary France, was sent to the Director of the Quinze-Vingts Hospital for the Blind, Paris in 1825, remaining neglected until recuperated by Professor Zina Weygand of the Conservatoire Nationale des Arts et Métiers Paris in 2004 (Une jeune aveugle dans la France du XIXe siècle). Husson’s testimony of living with disability amidst a climate of social turmoil and resistance was translated by Weygand and Catherine Kudlick of San Francisco State University and is available as an e-book here. The polemical Victorian rhetoric of Hyppolite van Landeghem’s 1864 treatise on ‘Exile Schools’ has perhaps led to the neglect of the text’s evocation of the tensions between disempowering charity, isolation and community in designed environments for disability, a theme writ large in its ungainly title: Charity Mis-applied. When Restored to Society, after Having Been Immured for Several Years in Exile Schools, the Blind and the Deaf and Dumb Are Found to Be Incapable of Self-support. Why? The Question Considered and Answered.

These themes of advocacy, practice and representation also resonate in the archival traces of twentieth-century civil rights activists who played a vital role in securing the legislative requirements and commercial incentives that underpin design for disability. The commitment of Edward V Roberts (1939-95) to secure equity of intellectual and physical access to education and work was achieved through both civil disobedience and municipal council motions that implemented disabled-student university accommodation, ‘curb cuts’ throughout the road network and the formation of the first Center for Independent Living (Berkeley, California), all documented in the archives of the University of California at Berkeley. In the United Kingdom, Paddy Masefield OBE (1943-2012) is just one of many advocates documented in the National Disability Arts Collection and Archive (NDACA) at Buckinghamshire New University. His energy in advising government and cultural institutions generated ground-breaking apprenticeship and employment initiatives, as well as the foundation of influential and remunerative annual prizes to promote creativity for disability. The Masefield Award promotes ‘outstanding communication through art by a disabled person’.

Recent Scholarship: Histories of Design for Disability

‘Accessible Icon’ re-designed with self-advocates by Tim Fergusson Sauder, Brian Glenney and Sara Hendren 2009-11 http://accessibleicon.org/

Famous designers and powerful cultural institutions have engaged with design for disability in multiple ways. A vodcast of the keynote lecture for the Annual Design History Conference convened at the Department for Continuing Education in 2014, ‘How Disabled Design Changed the History of Modernismby Professor David Serlin of the University of San Diego, captures perspectives and case studies from disability history which remain rarely considered within most University curricula. How often does Kenneth and Phyllis Laurent’s 1948 commission for an accessible Usonian-hemicycle house from Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) figure in modern architectural histories?

Objects and Exhibitions

Displays of collections of work by disabled practitioners have promoted both empowerment and stigma. Art produced by mental health patients collected by the art historian and psychiatrist Hans Prinzhorn (1886-1933) at the University of Heidelberg was both admired in Surrealist circles and denigrated in the 1938 Nazi Degenerate Art exhibition. In her Learning from madness: Brazilian modernism and global contemporary art, Kaira M. Cabañas of the University of Florida has revealed how in this interwar period the psychiatrists Osório César (1895-1979) and Nise da Silveira (1905-99) and the art critic Mário Pedrosa (1900-81) also championed the generative relationships between their disciplines collaborating and exhibiting the artwork of mental health patients in Brazil. The exhibition ‘Design for Independent Living’ at the Museum of Modern Art in 1988 brought innovative design for disability emerging in Scandinavia, the United States and the United Kingdom to a wider audience. The MoMA 2012 exhibition ‘Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900-2000’ celebrated pedagogic toys at the heart of the special education systems devised by Friedrich Fröebel (1782-1952) and Maria Montessori (1870-1952). As the researchers and Royal College of Art student participants interviewed by Chris Ledgard for his 2015 BBC podcast ‘The Art of Walking Into Doors’ suggested, the complex relationships between dyslexia, dyspraxia and acuity in three-dimensional design are only just revealing themselves. In 2018, ‘Access + Ability’ organized by Cara McCarty and Rochelle Steiner and then ‘The Senses: Design Beyond Vision’ organized by Ellen Lupton and Andrea Lipps at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York demonstrated these innovative design strategies and debates have now entered the digital age.

The Sackler Library book display also includes exhibition catalogues which show the vibrant presence of makers and museum audiences with disabilitity across the globe. The braille-embossed cover of the bi-lingual catalogue for the 1969 Sculpture for the Blind exhibition held at the South African National Gallery, Cape Town and the 1983 Please touch: animal sculpture exhibition at the British Museum exemplify how curatorial and museum interpretation teams have been engaging with under-represented communities for many years. The affirmation of the word ‘Unlimited’ used in the title of exhibitions both at the Edinburgh City Art Centre in 1981 and at the Southbank Centre in 2012 signals institutional activism. Richard Sandell’s, Jocelyn Dodd’s and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s thoughtful 2010 anthology, Re-presenting disability: activism and agency in the museum, considers strategies for enhancing such cultural leadership through museum interpretation strategies and collections. The quiet activism of the 2018 ‘Museum Benches’ project devised by the designer Shannon Finnegan critiques the limited accessibility actually afforded in cultural institutions, reminding us much still remains to be done. Digital app projects such as ‘LOLA’, conceived by Seth Truman and the non-profit technology firm Tech Kids Unlimited, engage with and for autistic children. In the ‘House of Memories, National Museums Liverpool are raising awareness and creating collaborative networks between people living with dementia, care professionals and museums, demonstrating the direct social impact of culture so easily under-recognized and under-funded in the ongoing age of austerity.

As a canon of histories of design for disability emerges, scholarly research has constellated around the themes of symbolic representation, universal design and sensorial history. In her Designing disability: symbols, space and society, Elizabeth Guffey of Purchase College, State University of New York has examined the graphic design and historical agency of the ‘International Symbol of Access’. Aimi Hamraie of Vanderbilt University in Nashville assessed the theoretical and practical complexities of attempting to build according to ‘Universal Design’ principles (Building access: Universal Design and the politics of disability). Graham Pullin of the University of Dundee (Design meets disability) explored a set of design case studies for sensoriality, mobility and communication. In their Culture – theory – disability, Anne Waldschmidt, Hanjo Berressem and Moritz Ingwersen of the University of Cologne brought together the methodological challenge of calibrating social and cultural models of disability across the senses. Bess Williamson of the Art Institute of Chicago focused on how innovation in everyday industrial design was spurred on by accessibility activism in post-war America (Accessible America: a history of disability and design). Further book chapters and journal articles linked into my ORLO list afford thought-provoking case studies of design typologies from invalid and wheel chairs, hearing aids, ‘talking book’ shellac record discs, ‘disabled’ GI Joe and Barbie dolls and therapeutic amateur craft.

Visual Culture and Representation

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-90). Garden, St Paul Hospital, December 1889. Oil on canvas: 71.5 x 90.5 cm. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

A vast spectrum of representational positions from empathetic portraiture to horror film stereotyping or graphic-novel fantasy can be investigated through visual culture. Art History has delved deep into the analysis of the portraits of court ‘jesters’ by Diego Rodriguez de Silva Velazquez (1599-1660) and mental health by Théodore Géricault (1791-1824). The pathetic fallacy expressed by Vincent Van Gogh (1853-90) in his nature studies undertaken whilst a patient at the St Paul Asylum in Saint Rémy have become part of our cultural mythology. The perceived porous boundary between creativity and physical-cognitive diversity has dominated the choice of subjects for biographical films about artists, from iconic subjects such as Van Gogh, Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Camille Claudel (1865-1943) and Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1864-1901) to the ‘discovery’ of Séraphine Louis of Senlis (1864-1942) and Christy Brown (1932-81). The intersectionality of design and film histories has enhanced the analysis of the 1932 film ‘Freaks’ directed by Tod Browning (1880-1962). Banned by the British Board of Film Certification ‘because it exploited for commercial reasons the [sic] deformed people that it claimed to dignify’ the film, as been argued by Angela Smith, can be read as enacting resistant counter-narratives within the interwar eugenicist context of its production.

Spaces: Isolation/Community  

Disability history inhabits a plethora of historic environments. In her Medicine by design: the architect and the modern hospital Annemarie Adams of McGill University argued for the agency of hospitals’ architectural design in shaping modern medical treatments, sociability and technologies. Clare Hickman (Therapeutic landscapes) of the University of Chester established landscape design as a historical therapeutic practice within medical institutions. Leslie Topp of Birkbeck College University of London demonstrated the foundational place of Viennese sanatoria in histories of design for cognitive diversity (Freedom and the cage: modern architecture and psychiatry in Central Europe, 1890-1914). Robin Jackson’s Discovering Camphill focussed on how the special needs educational environments of the transnational Camphill Movement originated in Aberdeen in the 1930s. Claire Edington (Beyond the asylum) of UC San Diego opened up colonial and global perspectives in her analysis of mental illness in French Colonial Vietnam. Design cultures of place impacts upon well-being, often subjugating and isolating, at times creating a sense of belonging and community.  

Disabled soldiers making toys at General Hospital Number 3, Colonia, New Jersey in 1917-8. US National Archives and Records Administration 45498513

 

Postgraduate research: MSt in the History of Design Dissertations and Conference Papers

Sustaining the leitmotif of design for disability across the syllabus for the MSt in the History of Design has facilitated exciting postgraduate research. Student essays have uncovered business histories of glass-eye manufacture in Germany (Liz Dotzauer MSt HoD 2013) and prosthetics in Britain (Richard Hefford-Hobbs MSt HoD 2019) during the First World War as well as the identity politics of visual cultures around running blades and Paralympians in the twenty-first century (Bry Leighton MSt HoD 2017). The Design History Society awarded Karen Price (MSt HoD 2017) a student grant to research her dissertation, which investigated archives and collections in the Orkney and Shetland Islands to assess the mental health amidst conflict evidenced through exhibitions of Second World War Servicemen’s toy craft [https://www.designhistorysociety.org/blog/view/report-dhs-student-travel-award-by-karen-price]. This project (and all MSt in the History of Design dissertations) are available in the Continuing Education Bodleian Library. Karen presented this research at an academic conference at University of Edinburgh in 2017. Whither next?….

 Our abilities, physical and cognitive, are infinitely diverse and variable across our lifetimes. In attending to how the design of the material world and its cultural representation activates or hinders the expression of these abilities, these meditations have hoped to engage more scholars in continuing to forge the history of design for disability.

My thanks to Bodleian Libraries colleagues, Angela Carritt, Grace Brown, Clare Hills-Nova, Erin McNulty and Chantal van den Berg for their help in orchestrating both physical and virtual resources and to Jeannie Scott in the History Faculty for inviting me to join the Disability History Work Group.

Claire O’Mahony, PhD
Associate Professor in the History of Art and Design
Course Director of the MSt in the History of Design
Chair of the Design History Society

Further resources (textual, visual, audio)

History of Disability, Oxford Reading Lists Online (Please note: E-texts referenced in this blog and in the 'ORLO' reading list may be accessed by members of the University only. Hard copy versions of texts may also be found by searching SOLO.)

Extended Reading List

Introductions to Disability History and Modern Visual/Material/Spatial Cultures

Boys, J., (ed.) (2017). Disability, Space, Architecture: A Reader. London: Routledge.

Boys, J., (2014). Doing Disability Differently: An alternative handbook on architecture, disability and designing for everyday life. London: Routledge.

Fraser, B., 2018. Cognitive disability aesthetics : visual culture, disability representations, and the (in)visibility of cognitive difference.

Guffey, E., (2017). Designing disability: Symbols, space and society. London: Bloomsbury.

Hamraie, A. (2017). Building Access: Universal Design and the Politics of Disability. University of Minnesota Press.

Humphries, S.; Gordon, P., (eds.) (1992). Out of Sight: The Experience of Disability 1900-1950. Northcote House.

Kitchin, R., (2000). Disability, space and society, Sheffield: Geographical Association.

Kuppers, P., (2019). Disability Arts and Culture : methods and approaches. Bristol: Intellect.

Kuppers, P., (2014). Studying disability arts and culture : an introduction. Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan.

Masefield, P., 2006. Strength : broadsides from disability on the arts, Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books.

Pullin, G., (2011). Design meets Disability. MIT Press.

Siebers, T., 2010. Disability aesthetics. Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press.

Waldschmidt, A., Berressem, H. & Ingwersen, M., 2017. Culture - theory - disability : encounters between disability studies and cultural studies, Bielefeld.

Sensory-specific histories

Kleege, G., (2018). More than meets the eye : what blindness brings to art. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lindgren, K.A.; DeLuca, D.; Napoli, D.J., (2008). Signs and voices : deaf culture, identity, language, and arts. Washington, D.C. : Gallaudet University Press.

Mirzoeff, N., (1995). Silent poetry: deafness, sign, and visual culture in modern France. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press.

Shaw, C.L., (2017). Deaf in the USSR : marginality, community, and Soviet identity, 1917-1991, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Designed Environments for Disability

Adams, A., (2008). Medicine by design : the architect and the modern hospital, 1893-1943, Minneapolis ; London: University of Minnesota Press.

Barlett, P.; Weight, D., (eds.). Outside the walls of the asylum: The history of care in the community 1750-2000. Athlone Press.

Cook, G.C., (2004). Victorian incurables : a history of the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability, Putney, Spennymoor: Memoir Club.

Dale, P.; Melling, J., (2006). Mental illness and learning disability since 1850 : finding a place for mental disorder in the United Kingdom. London : Routledge.

Edington, C., (2019). Beyond the Asylum: Mental Illness in French Colonial Vietnam. New York: Cornell University Press.

Hickman, C., (2013). Therapeutic landscapes : a history of English hospital gardens since 1800, Manchester ; New York: Manchester University Press.

Jackson, R., (ed.) (2011). Discovering Camphill: new perspectives, research and developments. Floris Books.

Melling, J.; Forsythe, B., (1999). Insanity, institutions, and society, 1800-1914 : a social history of madness in comparative perspective, London: Routledge.

Topp, L.; Moran, J.; Andrews, J., (eds.) (2006). Madness, Architecture and the Built Environment: Psychiatric Spaces in Historical Context. London: Routledge.

Tupling, K. ; De Lange, A., 2018. Worship and disability : a kingdom for all. Cambridge: Grove Books.

Disability and Exhibitions

Anon, 2012. Unlimited : extraordinary new work by deaf and disabled artists, London: Southbank Centre.

Biggs, B. & Williamson, A., (2014). Art of the lived experiment. Liverpool: The Bluecoat.

Bordin, G. ; Polo D'Ambrosio, L. ; Hyams, J., (2010). Medicine in art, Los Angeles: J P Getty Museum.

Borensztein, L. & MacGregor, J.M., (2004). One is Adam, one is Superman : the outsider artists of Creative Growth. Published in conjunction with the exhibition "Leon Borensztein and his friends: portraits of artists with disabilities," organized by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

Brown, C., (1954). My left foot. London: Secker & Warburg.

Coles, P., (1984). Please touch : an evaluation of the 'Please touch' exhibition at the British Museum 31st March to 8th May 1983, Dunfermline: Committee of Inquiry into the Arts and Disabled People.

Crawshaw, G., 2016. Shoddy : disability rights, textiles, recycling, history and fightback, Leeds: Gill Crawshaw.

Delin, A., Wright, S. & Prest, M., 2001. Adorn, equip : a national touring exhibition originated by The City Gallery, Leicester. Leicester: The City Gallery.

Eccles, T. & Jenkins, B., 1991. Attitude : [a project ability exhibition]. Glasgow: Project Ability.

Edinburgh City Art Centre, (1981). Artists unlimited : selected works by disabled artists & craftsmen. Edinburgh: City Art Centre.

Hayward Gallery, (1996). Beyond reason : art and psychosis : works from the Prinzhorn Collection, London: Hayward Gallery.

Jones, S. & Ritchie, E., 2007. The Studio Project : opening art practice. published in conjunction with the Different spaces exhibition, Studio Voltaire, London 22nd June - 8th July 2007 London : Intoart Projects.

McCarty, C., (1988). Designs for independent living : the Museum of Modern Art, New York, April 16-June 7, 1988., New York: The Museum.

Nolan, G., (1997). Designing exhibitions to include people with disabilities : a practical guide, Edinburgh: NMS Publishing.

Pearson, A. & Hughes, K., (1983). Please touch : animal sculpture ; catalogue of an exhibition at the British Museum, 31 March - 8 May 1983, London: British Museum.

Sandell, R., Dodd, J. & Garland-Thomson, R., 2010. Re-presenting disability : activism and agency in the museum, London: Routledge.

Shea, J., (1993). Defiance : art confronting disability, Stoke-on-Trent: City Museum & Art Gallery.

South African National Gallery, (1969). Sculpture for the blind, 1969 = Beeldhoukuns vir Blindes, Cape Town: s.n.

Live Arts

Goodley, D. & Moore, M., (2002). Disability arts against exclusion : people with learning difficulties and their performing arts, Kidderminster: BILD.

Keidan, L., Mitchell, C.J. & Vason, M., 2012. Access all areas : live art and disability. London: Live Art Development Agency.

Kuppers, P., (2003). Disability and contemporary performance : bodies on edge, New York ; London: Routledge.

Kuppers, P., (2013). Disability culture and community performance : find a strange and twisted shape. Basingstoke, Hampshire : Palgrave Macmillan.

Graphic Cultures

Alaniz, J. & Halverson, P.D., 2014. Death, disability, and the superhero : the silver age and beyond. Jackson, Mississippi : University Press of Mississippi.

Ellis, K., (2015). Disability and popular culture : focusing passion, creating community and expressing defiance, Burlington.

Foss, C.; Gray, J.W.; Whalen, Z., (2016). Disability in comic books and graphic narratives, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire.

Raabe-Webber, T.; Plant, A., (2016). The incorrigibles : perspectives on disability visual arts in the 20th and 21st centuries, Birmingham: mac Birmingham.

Visual Culture and Cognitive/Mental Health

Blackshaw, G. & Topp, L., 2009. Madness and modernity : mental illness and the visual arts in Vienna 1900, Farnham: Lund Humphries.

Cabañas, K.M., (2019). Learning from madness : Brazilian modernism and global contemporary art, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Cross, S., 2010. Mediating madness : mental distress and cultural representation. Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan.

Davies, F. & González, L., (2013). Madness, women and the power of art. Oxford : Inter-Disciplinary Press.

Groom, G.L., 2016. Van Gogh's Bedrooms. Chicago : Art Institute of Chicago.

Lapper, A. & Feldman, G., (2006). My life in my hands, London: Pocket.

MacGregor, J.M., (1989). The discovery of the art of the insane, Princeton ; Guildford: Princeton University Press.

Miller, E., (2008). The girl who spoke with pictures : autism through art, London: Jessica Kingsley.

Mullins, E. & Gogh, V. van, 2015. Van Gogh : the asylum year, London: Unicorn Press.

Nuss, P. et al., 2005. Journey into the heart of bipolarity : an artistic point of view. Montrouge, France : John Libbey Eurotext Publishing.

Prinzhorn, H.; Black, C., (2011). The art of insanity : an analysis of ten schizophrenic artists, Washington, D.C.?: Solar.

Schildkraut, J.J. & Otero, A., 1996. Depression and the spiritual in modern art : homage to Miró. Chichester: John Wiley.

Shoham, S.G., (2002). Art, crime, & madness : Gesualdo, Caravaggio, Genet, Van Gogh, Artaud, Brighton: Sussex Academic Press.

Snell, R., (2017). Portraits of the insane : Théodore Géricault and the subject of psychotherapy, London: Karnac.

Tromans, N., 2011. Richard Dadd : the artist and the asylum, London: Tate Publishing.

Film

Bodammer, E. & Schillmeier, M.W.J., (2010). Disability in German literature, film, and theater, Rochester, NY: Camden House.

Fraser, B., (2016). Cultures of representation: disability in world cinema contexts. E-book

Fraser, B., (2013). Disability Studies and Spanish Culture: Films, Novels, the Comic and the Public Exhibition, Liverpool University Press.

Kaes, A., (2009). Shell shock cinema: Weimar culture and the wounds of war. New York, NY.: Princeton University Press

Siddique, S.; Raphael, R., (2016). Transnational horror cinema : bodies of excess and the global grotesque.

Smith, A.M., (2011). Hideous progeny : disability, eugenics, and classic horror cinema, New York: Columbia University Press.

 Sculpture

Niestorowicz, E.A., (2017). The world in the mind and sculpture of deafblind people, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Disability after Conflict

Alberti, S.J.M.M;, Tonks, H.; Midgley, J., (2014). War, art and surgery: the work of Henry Tonks & Julia Midgley. London : Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Anderson J., (2011). War, disability and rehabilitation in Britain: Soul of a Nation. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Bourke, J., (1996). Dismembering the male: men's bodies, Britain and the Great War. Chicago, IL.: University of Chicago Press.

Hutchinson, R., (2011). The silent weaver : the extraordinary life and work of Angus MacPhee, Edinburgh: Birlinn.

Ott, K., (ed.). (2002). Artificial Parts, Practical Lives: Modern Histories of Prosthetics. London: New York University Press.

Reznick, J., (2004). Healing the nation: soldiers and the culture of caregiving in Britain during the Great War. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Serlin, D., (2004). Replaceable You: Engineering the Body in Postwar America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Scruton, J., (1998). Stoke Mandeville Road to the Paralympics: fifty years of history. Brill: Peterhouse.

Taliaferro, W., (ed.). (1944). Medicine and the war. Chicago, Ill.: The University of Chicago Press.

Wheatcroft, S., (2013). Worth saving : disabled children during the Second World War. Manchester : Manchester University Press.

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and/or Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Like @ Sac! 2019 Black History Month Book Display

 

Studying Black and Visual Culture: An Ever-Evolving Addendum

A Book Display at the Sackler Library

Building on the Sackler’s 2018 Black History Month Book Display, we would like to extend the possibilities of study further, offering additional sources and consideration. (Please see Further reading at the end of this blog post.) As Ben Gable noted, Black History Month in the United Kingdom has its origins in the work of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a renowned African American historian. In 1926, Woodson proposed a week-long concentration on African American contributions to history and culture and established the Journal of Negro History to ensure critical scholarship and awareness of the African Diaspora. With an increasing interest in Black Studies, in 1976 the United States extended the week to a month-long focus, encouraging other countries to consider the opportunity to engage and address the history of the African Diaspora that has shaped global consciousness. At the forefront of the campaigns against institutional racism in the UK and the apartheid regimes in Southern Africa, Ghanaian political refugee Akyaaba Addai-Sebo worked with others to adapt the idea with a special focus on inspiring black youth. Black History month in the UK was established in 1987 with the intention of extending a broader global awareness.

To that end, we would like to offer an addendum to the excellent resources aleady assembled by the Sackler, calling out a wide array of writers and artists who continue to define and challenge our understanding of the African Diaspora. We are especially keen to emphasise the global character of this diaspora even while singling out titles from the literature published for English-speaking audiences. The primary setting of the slave trade, the Atlantic Ocean featured prominently in the creation of a diasporic Black consciousness. Books such as Slave Portraiture in the Atlantic and Characters of Blood: Black Heroism in the Transatlantic Imagination reflect this history, continuing an intellectual tradition that privileges the idea of movement over that of national identity. Moving into the present, Okwui Enwezor and Chika Okeke-Agulu’s Contemporary African Art Since 1980 reflects the growing ascendency of the African continent on the global art market, while Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria offers a case study that decenters the modernist canon beyond its Anglo-European axis. Indeed, the historic lacunae of the western art canon continues to be addressed by recent monographs and exhibition catalogues such as Richard Powell’s Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist and Jeffreen Hayes’s Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman, demonstrating the ways that these influential figures shaped transatlantic modernism.

 

Photo credit: Erin McNulty

 

Similarly, the formation of a Black visual culture in Britain is indebted to centuries of migrations across the British Empire and later the Commonwealth of Nations. Victorian Jamaica and An Eye for the Tropics: Tourism, Photography and Framing the Caribbean Picturesque examine the conflicts as well as the innovations that resulted from British ways of seeing being forcibly imported into the colonial Caribbean. In contrast, Black Britain: A Photographic History documents the lives of those who emigrated to the ‘motherland’ in the aftermath of the Second World War, as British territories across Africa and the Caribbean gained independence. The 1980s and 1990s witnessed the emergence of a new generation of Black British citizens who were born and raised in the UK. Frustrated with persistent racism and emboldened by the ideology of Black Power, they fought back. Artists like Eddie Chambers, author of Black Artists in British Art: A History Since the 1950s to the Present, embraced the separatist tactics championed by the Black Arts Movement in the US. In Britain, however, the term ‘Blackness’ had wider applications than in the United States, often accommodating strategic coalitions between artists of both African and Asian descent. The essays included in Shades of Black: Assembling Black Art in 1980s Britain are testament to a time when the very notion of ‘Blackness’ was dissected as part of the formation of an emerging postcolonial consciousness. Contemporary practitioners engage in a critical race theory as demonstrated by Huey Copeland in Bound to Appear, in which he considers how contemporary practitioners reframe strategies of representation and how blackness might be imagined and felt long after the end of the “peculiar institution” of slavery.

The artists involved in these foundational debates are only now receiving the recognition they deserve. Our display reflects this by including the recently published monograph on the Lubaina Himid CBE, who in 2017 was the first black woman artist to win the Turner Prize. We also include a monograph on Frank Bowling OBE RA, the British Guyanese painter who arrived in London in 1953 and whose tremendous achievements were celebrated last summer with a retrospective at Tate Britain.

We hope that this display will inspire staff and students alike, highlighting both the achievements of individual black artists and the influence of the African diaspora on Western culture more widely.  Furthermore, we hope that it illuminates some of the ways in which race plays a part in the subject areas covered by the Sackler’s collections.  The display will run until the end of the month, but the bibliography will remain accessible on this blog post.

Dr. Amy M. Mooney
Terra Foundation Visiting Professor of American Art
Department of the History of Art
Oxford University
amy.mooney@history.ox.ac.uk 

and

Dr. Giulia Smith
Leverhulme Early Career Fellow
Ruskin School of Art
University of Oxford
giulia.smith@rsa.ox.ac.uk

Further reading

(NB: Please also consult the list compiled for 2018)

Abdul Alkalimat, Romi Crawford and Rebecca Zorach, eds. The Wall of Respect: Public Art and Black Liberation in 1960s. Chicago, 2017.

Baker A., Houston, Manthia Diawara and Ruth H. Lindeborg, eds. Black British Cultural Studies: A Reader. London; Chicago, 1996.

Barringer, Tim and Wayne Modest, eds. Victorian Jamaica. Durham, 2018.

Battle-Baptiste and Britt Rusert, eds. W.E.B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America: The Color Line at the Turn of the Twentieth Century. New York, 2018.

Bernier, Celeste-Marie. Characters of Blood: Black Heroism in the Transatlantic Imagination. Charlottesville; London, 2012.

Bindman, David, ed. The Image of the Black in African and Asian Art. Cambridge, MA, 2017.

Boyce, Sonia and others, eds. Shades of Black: Assembling Black Art in 1980s Britain. Durham, 2005.

Buick, Kirsten P.  Mary Edmonia Lewis and the Problem of Art History’s Black and Indian Subject. Durham, 2010.

Campt, Tina M. Image Matters: Archive, Photography and the African Diaspora in Europe. Durham, 2012.

Chambers, Eddie. Black Artists in British Art: A History Since the 1950s to the Present. London; New York, 2014.

Chang, Andrea, ed. Circles and Circuits: Chinese Caribbean Art. Durham, 2018.

Cleveland, Kimberly L. Black Art in Brazil: Expressions of Identity. Gainesville, FL, 2013.

Copeland, Huey. Bound to Appear: Art, Slavery and the Site of Blackness in Multicultural America. Chicago, 2013.

DuBois Shaw, Gwendolyn. Portraits of a People: Picturing American Americans in the Nineteenth Century, Andover, MA; London, 2006.

Enwezor, Okwui and Chika Okeke-Agulu. Contemporary African Art Since 1980. Bologna, 2010.

Frances, Jacqueline. Making Race: Modernism and “Racial Art” in America. Seattle, 2015.

Fracchia, Carmen. ‘Black but Human’ Slavery and Visual Arts in Hapsburg Spain, 1480-1700. Oxford, 2019.

Finley, Cheryl. Committed to Memory: the Art of the Slave Ship Icon. Princeton, 2018.

Fox-Amato, Matthew. Exposing Slavery: Photograph, Human Bondage, and the Birth of Modern Visual Politics in America. Oxford, 2019.

Gilroy, Paul. Black Britain: A Photographic History. London, 2007.

Godfrey, Mark and Zoé Whitely, eds. Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power.  London, 2017.

Gooding, Mel. Frank Bowling. London, 2015.

Hayes, Jeffreen, ed. Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman. Jackson, Florida; London, 2018.

Jay, Martin and Sumathi Ramaswamy, eds. Empires of Vision. Durham, 2014.

Jones, Kelli. South of Pico: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s. Durham, 2016.

Lungo-Ortiz, Agnes and Angela Rosenthal, eds. Slave Portraiture in the Atlantic. Cambridge, 2013.

Mercer, Kobena. Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies. London, 1994.

Mercer, Kobena, ed. Annotating Art’s Histories: Cross-Cultural Perspectives in the Visual Arts (4 vols.). Cambridge, MA; London, 2005-2008.

Mercer, Kobena.  Travel and See: Black Diaspora Art Practices Since the 1980s. Durham, 2016.

Miller, Monica L. Slaves to Fashion. Durham, 2009.

Murrell, Denise. Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet to Matisse to Today. New Haven, 2018.

Okeke-Agulu, Chika. Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria. Durham, 2015.

Pantin Malin Stahl, Lisa, ed. Lubaina Himid: Workshop Manual. London, 2019.

Patton, Pamela A. Envisioning Others: Race, Color, and the Visual in Iberia and Latin America. Leiden, 2015.

Powell, Richard J., ed. Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist. Durham, 2014.

Thompson, Krista. An Eye for the Tropics: Tourism, Photography and Framing the Caribbean Picturesque, Durham, 2006.

Thompson, Krista.  Shine: The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice. Durham, 2015.

Walker, Hamza, ed. Black Is, Black Ain’t. Chicago, 2013.

Wallace, Maurice O., and Shawn Michelle Smith, eds. Pictures and Progress: Early Photography and the Making of African American Identity. Durham, 2012.

Walmsley, Anne. The Caribbean Artists Movement, 1966–72: A Literary and Cultural History. London, 1992.

Wainwright, Leon. Art and the Transnational Caribbean. Manchester, 2011.

Wainwright, Leon. Phenomenal Difference: A Philosophy of Black British Art. Liverpool, 2019.

Williams, Lyneise. Latin Blackness in Parisian Visual Culture, 1852-1932. London, 2019.

Willis, Deborah. Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers 1840 to the Present. New York; London, 2000.

 

Like @ Sac! William Gell and Early Nineteenth-Century British Responses to the Classical Past

Featured image: 

A view of the past: 1. Landscape around Üvecik, in the larger area of the city of Troy. Fig. 2. Landscape of the Troad. On the left the Castel of Kumkale. On the right the site of the Tomb of Aias, in the ancient city of Rhoiteion (today Intepe). William Gell, from The Topography of Troy, and its Vicinity; Illustrated and explained by Drawings and Descriptions (1804); pl. 38. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

 

One of the most enjoyable things about the Sackler, as a library, is how it brings together different disciplines, and allows an hour’s browsing (or shelving!) to spark correspondences between books which would once have been located in completely separate libraries. I came across William Gell, early nineteenth-century topographer, illustrator, and classical scholar, in a completely non-Sackler-related context, but it soon became clear to me that he was entirely at home in the Sackler – hovering, so to speak, between Classics, Western Art, and Archaeology, with excursions to Egyptology and the Ancient Near East. Indeed, his career does a lot to explain why it still makes sense for an institution like Oxford to unite these seemingly disparate areas of study under a single roof.

 

Thomas Unwins, Sir William Gell pencil, 1830 (Source: National Portrait Gallery; Creative Commons License)

 

Born in 1777, to a genteel but not particularly wealthy Derbyshire family, Gell was very much a transitional figure, working just at the moment when eighteenth-century antiquarianism, shaped by the interests and priorities of aristocratic patrons, was being replaced by more systematic approaches to the study of the classical world. Educated at Cambridge and the Royal Academy of Arts, Gell succeeded in getting himself attached to a diplomatic mission to the Ionian islands in 1803, beginning a lifetime of close engagement with the Mediterranean landscape and its classical past.

Gell wasn’t an archaeologist – the category didn’t quite exist yet for him to occupy – but he wasn’t quite an antiquary, either, to the extent that nowadays antiquarianism suggests a distinctly unsystematic hoarding-up of the past, productive of the kind of physical and intellectual muddle described by Walter Scott (himself very much an antiquarian, if ruefully so), in his 1816 The Antiquary as ‘a wreck of ancient books and utensils’ in which ‘it was no easy matter to find one’s way to a chair, without stumbling over a prostrate folio, or the still more awkward mischance of overturning some piece of Roman or ancient British pottery’[1].

Gell, admittedly, did end up living in something very much akin to this environment – he was described as receiving guests, in the house in Naples where he spent the final years of his life, in ‘one very moderately-sized apartment, with […] a store of rarities, old folios in vellum, modern topography […] caricatures, charts, maps, and drawings’, not to mention ‘well-bred animals of the canine species, who had the entrée of his salon, and the privilege of his best chairs and sofas’ – Gell was evidently very much a dog person.[2] But the ‘modern topography’ is important here. If Gell was anything, he was a topographer – he measured landscapes systematically, travelling extensively (despite the disabling gout which he suffered for most of his adult life) to do so. If he hoarded up anything, it was views.

‘[E]very turn of every mountain and eminence has been inserted from actual drawing and observation on the spot, & not invented as is the common and usual custom in map making in the closet, so that a student reading the account of any battle may be certain that here stood such a height & there ran such a brook’ he wrote, in 1831, describing what was in many ways his topographical masterwork, his map of Rome and the surrounding campagna, eventually published in 1834 as Topography of Rome and its Vicinity. ‘[W]here I have not been, I have left the place blank instead of imagining anything to make the map look prettier – as yet, give me leave to say, an unheard piece of honesty, & what is more I have put a “desideration” on the spot’. This was with the idea of literally filling in the blanks on the copper plate, after further investigation: the printed map was mutable, while the landscape was very much not. This solidity, the idea that places and views were largely unchanging, giving a kind of open access to the landscape of the past, was foundational to Gell’s work: ‘whether schoolboys or others read Roman history’, he continues, ‘they will now be enabled to understand & clearly perceive how much of the early conquests of the Romans, of which so confused an idea existed, are really reducible to the test of locality, and are no longer Romances’[3].

‘No longer Romances’ – this is a concern we see with moderate frequency from Gell, who was very much concerned, if not quite with the here and now, certainly with the here and then. Recalling how he showed the elderly Walter Scott round Naples and Pompeii in 1832, Gell betrays a certain frustration when he notes ‘how quickly [Scott] caught at any romantic circumstance’, turning a local landmark ‘into a feudal residence’ and peopling it, entirely ahistorically, ‘with a Christian host’[4]. Yet, for all this impatience with the urge to dramatise, to overwrite the evidence of the landscape rather than remaining open to the ‘test of locality’, Gell’s own first published work, the 1804 The Topography of Troy, had been an enthusiastic but inaccurate attempt to fix the location of the Homeric Troy – just such an instance, in fact, of overwriting, of privileging romance over reality.

The Topography of Troy was the first of a stream of volumes which the young Gell published to record and fund his travels through the eastern Mediterranean. These were by and large impressive volumes, intended for the luxury market: the Sackler’s copy of Gell’s 1810 Itinerary of Greece, for instance, has a restrained but luxurious neoclassical calf binding by Charles Hering, a German immigrant who was London’s premier bookbinder in the early years of the nineteenth century.[5] It offered its original owner both a privileged view of classical ruins and a suitably classically-inflected object to place on his – or her – shelves:

 

 

The Sackler’s copy of Gell’s 1817 The Unedited Antiquities of Attica, meanwhile, funded by well-heeled subscribers from the Society of Dilettanti and sold for the princely sum of twelve guineas, gives a sense of the extent to which Gell’s books could be edifices in and of themselves, with plenty of room for both Gell’s detailed topographical drawings and for large expanses of handsome marbled endpapers (complete with the bookplate of nineteenth-century local historian Francis Frederick Fox):

 

 

These were books designed to slot elegantly into the most refined of libraries, and Gell’s career saw him entrench himself more and more firmly amongst the ranks of people who might at least aspire to own such volumes. In 1807, Gell was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Member of the Society of Dilettanti – founded in 1733, this latter was a group which grew directly out of the Grand Tour, but which certainly aspired to more than gentlemanly amateurism, and was by the close of the eighteenth century the premier British institution for the study of classical antiquities.

Gell’s grasp on this rarified world, however, was always just a little strained. He wrote and published at speed largely out of financial necessity, describing himself, in one 1832 letter, as ‘writing like a steam-engine for my bread’.[6] Lord Byron, who knew Gell personally, typifies a certain aristocratic unease with Gell’s social climbing and prodigious output. Gell’s appearance in Byron’s 1809 satire English Bards and Scotch Reviewers is – if a little patronising – downright flattering:

Of Dardan tours let dilettanti tell,
I leave topography to classic Gell.[7]

Yet Byron had initially written ‘coxcomb Gell’ in his manuscript, and for the fifth edition, he was to change ‘classic’, to ‘rapid’, with the note ‘RAPID, INDEED!’.[8] Byron’s reassessment was partly the result of his own Grand Tour, undertaken between 1809 and 1811: on his return, he noted that ‘Since seeing the plain of Troy, my opinions are somewhat changed […] Gell’s survey was hasty and superficial’.[9] Was Gell reliably ‘classic’, or was he merely ‘rapid’: a purveyor of a kind of early nineteenth-century precursor to the coffee-table book?

Gell was certainly classic enough to be knighted in 1814, on the back of a successful mission for the Society of Dilettanti (although he had to borrow money from his brother to pay the necessary fees).[10] Now Sir William Gell, he built on his already impressive social connections to become a member of the coterie surrounding Princes Caroline, the estranged wife of the Prince Regent, later George IV. Gell’s companion in this clique was Keppel Craven, the third son of the 6th Baron Craven and a fellow member of the Dilettanti. Gell was ‘almost certainly a gay man with a firm commitment to Craven’[11] – another reason, perhaps, why his place in London society was never quite secure – and Craven was to remain close to him for the rest of his life, living with him in Naples and nursing him through attacks of debilitating gout. Their ‘friendship’, a contemporary account has it, ‘went on increasing in strength to the period of his [Gell’s] death’.[12]

Both Gell and Craven were to accept the princess’s invitation to serve as vice-chamberlains during her travels on the continent in 1814. Even more impressively, they both managed to detach themselves from her court in 1815, before it became irretrievably marred in scandal – indeed, on leaving her service, Caroline granted Gell a pension of £200 a year for the rest of her life, giving him a certain financial security until her death in 1821. At the queen’s trial in 1820, one of her husband’s several attempts to divorce her once and for all on grounds of adultery, both Gell and Craven returned to England to speak in Caroline’s defence.

Gell’s brief membership of Caroline’s official retinue marked the end of his residence in England. He was to spend the rest of his life very much based in Italy, specifically Naples,  where he created what would become his most popular and influential work, Pompeiana, written together with the architect John Peter Gandy (brother of the more famous Joseph Michael Gandy, Soane’s draughtsman and collaborator) and first published in parts in 1817-19. Serious investigation of the remains of Pompei had first begun almost a century before, in 1748, but Pompeiana was to be the first substantial work on Pompeii in English. It was also a much more approachable work in financial terms than Gell’s earlier volumes: the octavo volume of Pompeiana was sold in parts at eight shillings per number, and the complete version was advertised at a cost of five pounds and twelve shillings, still a considerable sum, but not completely out of reach of all but the very richest.[13] The Sackler’s copy, a much less imposing object than its Topography of Troy or Itinerary of Greece, gives a sense of this distinction – it is still a status symbol, but one which exists on a different, rather more domestic, scale.

 

 

Gell and Gandy’s version of Pompeii was, itself, somewhat domestic. The text notes the discovery of ‘kettles, ladles, moulds for jelly or pastry, urns for keeping water hot, upon the principle of the modern tea-urn […]; in short, almost every article of kitchen or other furniture now in use, except forks’[14]. Gell’s illustrations, produced with the help of the camera lucida – patented in 1806, and at the cutting-edge of pre-photographic technology – are sharp and distinct. The accompanying text notes any instances of artistic reconstruction or alteration. While not quite a guidebook, it could certainly have functioned as one. Even the scenes, such as the frontispiece, where Gell allows himself the luxury of thorough-going reconstruction, are founded as closely as possibly on evidence from the site itself and from Pompeian wall-paintings. Where there are curtains, it’s because there were curtain fixtures; where there is a brazier, Gell and Gandy take pains to explain how it might have functioned.

Admittedly, Pompeiana, like much of Gell’s work, is haunted by his awareness of the fragility of classical remains – he talks about the loss of frescos through ‘frequent wettings’ to brighten colours for tourists, ‘[u]ntil few traces remain for future revival’, and is evidently vividly conscious that his records of particularly delicate paintings might – as was indeed the case – become the sole evidence of their existence for future ages.[15]

Ultimately, though, Gell and Gandy’s Pompei was visible, liveable, and decidedly unromantic. They make no bones about the fact that it was a relatively small town, unlikely, say, to reveal the best masterpieces of Roman art. They are concerned with the everyday life of the citizens; about the chestnuts found in the ruins and what this says about the exact date of the eruption of Vesuvius.[16]

And how did the world of the 1820s and 1830s – Gell published a much-expanded version of Pompeiana in 1834 – respond to this admirably sober and detailed evocation of the classical past? Well. This is John Martin, giving the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum the full apocalyptic treatment, as early as 1822:

 

John Martin, The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum, 1822
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

 

Even more notably, and despite Gell’s sniffiness about Walter Scott’s romancing, much of Pompeiana’s most enduring impact was to come through its influence on the 1834 novel The Last Days of Pompeii, the work of Edward Bulwer Lytton – an author now best known for the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest, where participants think up terrible openings for terrible novels, inspired by the immortal first line of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford, ‘it was a dark and stormy night’. Like Walter Scott’s imaginings, Bulwer-Lytton’s potboiler is liberally sprinkled with ahistorical Christians, not to mention tragic blind slave-girls, gladiatorial lions (who refuse to eat said Christians), evil priests of Isis, and hints at ghastly and creative orgies – more than enough to ensure its immediate success, particularly in versions which were heavily and creatively adapted for the stage, with a strong emphasis on lion-taming and suitably volcanic explosions; the novel itself was not to come truly into its own until the end of the 19th century, when it saw a resurgence in popularity which was to feed fairly directly into the swords and sandals epics of early Hollywood.[17]

Bulwer-Lytton, like any English visitor to Naples worth their salt in the 1820s and early 1830s, had been shown around Pompei by Gell, despite the latter’s by now near-immobilising gout. We have an account of such a tour from Gell’s friend and correspondent Lady Blessington, who notes that ‘[g]lad as I was to profit from the savoir of Sir William Gell …, yet I could have wished to ramble alone through the City of the Dead, which appealed so forcibly to my imagination, conjuring up its departed inhabitants instead of listening to erudite details of their dwellings and the use of each article appertaining to them’.[18] Bulwer-Lytton, evidently, felt much the same – or, at any rate, was aware that this desire represented a gap in the market.

His introduction to the novel makes much, like Gell’s own work, of its immediacy and close relationship with the actual place – ‘Nearly the whole of this work was written in Naples last winter (1832-33)’, and he is positively effusive in his dedication of the book to Gell:

In publishing a work, of which Pompeii furnishes the subject, I can think of no one to whom it can so fitly be dedicated as yourself. Your charming volumes upon the Antiquities of that City have indissolubly connected your name with its earlier — (as your residence in the vicinity has identified you with its more recent) — associations.[19]

Gell had become a fixture and an ornament; a stop on the tourist trail and a marker of authenticity.

Yet this is certainly not all his final years – he died in 1836 – amounted to; after all, they also saw the preparation and publication of his 1834 Topography of Rome and its Vicinity, as serious and unromantic a work of classical geography as one could wish for. And of course his legacy was not entirely filtered through Bulwer-Lytton and his legion of imitators – a meeting with Gell in Naples was a formative influence, for example, on the young Egyptologist John Gardner Wilkinson.

Something of Gell’s continuing legacy, in fact, is suggested by the very attractive – and telling – bookplate of Gilbert Murray in the Sackler’s copy of The Itinerary of Greece. Murray was an Australian classicist who was more or less single-handedly responsible for producing the first widely-available English versions of Greek tragedies – particularly those of Euripides – in the early 20th century. Like Gell, he was a Hellenist and a populariser; like Gell, he saw himself as committed to the facts of the classical past, to making them visible again to a modern audience. And indeed – despite an effective demolition job by T. S. Eliot, which has left a considerable dent in his reputation – his translations were hugely successful, with 400 000 copies published during his lifetime.[20] His bookplate’s view of Oxford and Athens, uneasily utopian though it might seem to modern eyes, is certainly a way of seeing the past – crisply defined; anchored to a particular place; parallel to and yet not impinging on the present – which would not have been entirely foreign to Gell:

 

Bookplate of Gilbert Murray, to inside front board of William Gell’s Itinerary of Greece.
Photo credit: H. David.

 

Harriet David
Former Library Assistant, Sackler Library
Currently Graduate Trainee, History Faculty Library

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

Notes:

[1] Walter Scott, The Antiquary, 3 vols (Edinburgh: James Ballantyne & Co, 1816), i, p. 53.

[2] Richard Robert Madden, The Literary Life and Correspondence of the Countess of Blessington, 2 vols (Lond: 1855), II, p. 8.

[3] William Gell, Sir William Gell in Italy: Letters to the Society of Dilettanti, 1831-1835 (London: Hamilton, 1976), p. 59.

[4] Gell, p. 35, n. 1.

[5] Howard M. Nixon and Mirjam M. Foot, The History of Decorated Bookbinding in England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992) p. 96.

[6] Madden, p. 59.

[7] George Gordon Byron, English Bards, and Scotch Reviewers: A Satire. 2nd edn (London: James Cawthorn, 1809), p. 80.

[8] Gell, Sir William Gell in Italy, p. 3.

[9] Alex Watson, ‘Byron’s Marginalia to English Bards and Scotch Reviewers’, The Byron Journal, 37 (2009), 131-139 (p. 135).

[10] Rosemary Sweet, ‘William Gell and Pompeiana (1817–19 AND 1832)’, Papers of the British School at Rome, 83 (2015), 245–81 (p. 254) <https://doi.org/10.1017/S0068246215000100>.

[11] Jason Thompson, Queen Caroline and Sir William Gell (Cham: Springer, 2018), p. 15.

[12] Madden, pp. 14-15.

[13] Sweet, p. 257.

[14] William Gell and John Peter Gandy, Pompeiana: The Topography, Edifices, and Ornaments of Pompeii. By Sir W. Gell and J.P. Gandy (Lond: Lond., 1817), p. 165.

[15] Gell and Gandy, p. 193.

[16] Gell and Gandy, p. 165, n. 1.

[17] See William St Clair and Annika Bautz, ‘Imperial Decadence: the making of the myths in Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Last Days of Pompeii’, Victorian Literature and Culture, 40.2 (2012), 359–96 <https://doi.org/10.1017/S1060150312000010>.

[18] William Gell, Sir William Gell in Italy: Letters to the Society of Dilettanti, 1831-1835 (London: Hamilton, 1976), p. 30.

[19] Edward Bulwer Lytton, The Last Days of Pompeii, 3 vols (London: Richard Bentley, 1834), i, p. iii.

[20] Robert Ackerman, ‘Euripides and Professor Murray’, The Classical Journal, 81.4 (1986), 329–36 (p. 333).

Like @ Sac! 19th Century Salon Criticism

Skirmish in the Sackler
Francis Haskell and the study of French Art at Oxford

 

In his review of work exhibited at the 1824 Paris Salon, the writer Stendhal explosively declared that the arts were on the eve of a revolution. Citing as adversaries in this upcoming battle the two leading newspapers of the day, the traditional Journal des débats, and the more liberal Le Constitutionnel, he was frustrated that the controversial inclusion by the most successful painter of late eighteenth-century France, Jacques-Louis David, of nude male figures in his 1799 tour-de-force, L’Intervention des Sabines, had spawned the servile inclusion of figures that imitated statues in much of contemporary French academic art. [1]

 

These debates over the state of French art, and the nature and representation of beauty are some of the controversies that lie discreetly tucked away amongst the Haskell Room shelves on the second floor of the Sackler Library. Stacked with pamphlets and small volumes bound mostly in blue green, these documents contain the personal insights and opinions of an elite group of critics, artists and writers on the paintings, prints and works of sculpture exhibited at the Paris Salons in late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century France. The majority of these Salon reviews were published in the form of ‘feuilletons’ or cultural supplements which, being exempt from Napoleon’s strict censorship laws, had flourished after the Revolution.[2] The Haskell Room is one of the most comprehensive and outstanding collections of French art criticism material outside Paris. As such, both the room and its contents provide scholars with an insight into the history of the History of Art at Oxford, as well as the rich and complex reception of late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French Salon art.

The room is named in honour of Professor Francis Haskell, Professor of History of Art from 1967 until his retirement in 1995. Renowned for his work on sixteenth- and seventeenth- century Italian art, Haskell greatly expanded the scholarly resources in the then little explored field of nineteenth-century French academic art on his arrival in Oxford, rapidly developing a small but formidable focus for graduate research.[3] These resources include a set of original Salon catalogues acquired by Haskell, which include several very rare supplements and a run of reviews that are now in the Rare Books room produced by the nineteenth-century artist, critic and publishing entrepreneur, Charles-Paul Landon. These original materials are further buttressed by an extensive collection of photocopies of other, difficult-to-find texts. It is the work of two of Haskell’s former students, Dr Jon Whiteley, the recently retired Senior Assistant Keeper of Western Art at the Ashmolean, and his wife Dr Linda Whiteley from the History of Art Department, that is evident in this room. Not only did they painstakingly copy and collate the important art critical resources that make up the bulk of this collection, but also compiled the four-volume subject index of Salon paintings, which covers approximately 134,000 paintings exhibited between 1673 and 1881, and also resides in the Haskell Room. Perhaps the most fundamental result of this concentration on the history of the Salon was the three volume A bibliography of salon criticism in Paris from the Ancien Régime to the Restoration, 1699-1827, compiled by Neil McWilliam, Vera Schuster, Richard Wrigley, with the assistance of Pascale Méker. One further result of Haskell’s commitment to French academic art, the outstanding character of the collection, and the dynamic atmosphere of the department which Haskell described as ‘a golden age’, was that the late Professor Lee Johnson chose to bequeath his Delacroix archive to the History of Art Department.[4]

 

 

Stendhal’s ‘declaration of war’ was typical of his provocative nature and literary bravura, and each critic brought his or her written style to their epistolary engagement with the art exhibited. The most significant of the photocopies of the Parisian papers represented in the Haskell collection in terms of its circulation and longevity is the Journal des débats, which was briefly renamed the Journal de L’Empire during the Napoleonic period. Other newspapers include the Décade philosophique which changed its name to the Revue philosophique, the Journal des Arts, the Petites affiches, Nouvelles des arts, Le Spectateur, Le courrier français, and Le petit magasin des dames.  Copies of satirical magazines, such as the Arlequin au Muséum and Cassandre et Gilles, which were produced anonymously, are also well represented.

In the 1790s the reviews took a marked turn from the beautifully styled and imaginative musings on art that were characteristic of the work of Diderot and Abbé de la Porte, and instead were structured as descriptive pieces of text often recounting the story line that the painting represented, and then the skill of the artist in executing the work. In the period around 1810-14, the reviews became more discursive, and often focused on one particular artist, or on one particular genre of painting. Some writers approached their analysis by categorising the artworks according to their genre, (for example, history or allegorical painting, battle painting, landscapes, sculpture), or focused on key works and specific artists exhibiting at the Salon.

 

 

Although David had exhibited Les Sabines privately in 1799, his contested handling of the male figures resurfaced again in 1810 when it lost out in the prix décennal to Anne-Louis Girodet’s Le Déluge, and it was still the subject of controversy as late as the 1880s. Other concerns expressed by the critics focused on issues such as the status of French art, and unease over the upsurge in battle paintings and portraits exhibited at the Salons. These are most evident in the works of lesser known artists, and demonstrate more clearly where the demarcation lines for the artistic establishment lay between the different hierarchies and genres of painting, and the particular challenges faced by artists in executing work.

Towards the end of the Napoleonic period, critics engaged with the artworks from a more conceptual perspective, making generalised remarks on the state of French painting, the nature of Art and Beauty, and then using the specific works of art exhibited as examples to illustrate their points. In the early 1820s there was a sharp polarisation of critics into two camps: those who supported ‘David’s school’, such as his pupil Étienne-Jean Delécluze, Pierre-Alexandre Coupin and Fabien Pillet, and later, those such as Adolphe Thiers, François Guizot and Stendhal who with their different written styles, and for different reasons, were highly critical of the use of male ‘académies’ in history painting, and were drawn more to the work of Delacroix and Géricault. Coupin, for example, in his 1819 review of Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa exclaimed, “Monsieur Géricault seems mistaken. The goal of painting is to speak to the soul and the eyes, not to repel.”[5] In a similar tone, Pillet recounted an incident at the 1824 Salon of a visitor on first seeing Delacroix’s Scènes des massacres de Scio, and going red in the face with anger, describing it as  ‘…frightful, … it’s appalling, it’s the abomination of desolation’. [6] His own response was equally colourful.[7] This emotive and polarising language became more characteristic of later art criticism writing, as can be seen in the rhetoric of Stendhal.

 

 

Significant figures consistently represented in the Haskell Salon collection include Baron de Boutard who wrote for the Journal des débats between 1800-1817, and his successor Delécluze who became one of the great chroniclers of the nineteenth-century art world and who is best known for his 1855 biography of David.[8] Other critics include the novelist and poet François Ducray-Duminil who wrote for the Petites Affiches de Paris, Gault de Saint-Germain, who  wrote for Le Spectateur, and François-Xavier Fabre who wrote for the Revue Philosophique. The Comte de Kératry wrote an important 1822 treatise on beauty, and Auguste Jal is also well represented in the collection.

At a time when many of these resources are available online through database services such as Gallica, the integrity, and cohesiveness of the Haskell Room collection is enormously valuable to the researcher overwhelmed by the vast amount of data to work through. The material presence of these Salon reviews reminds us of the challenges that scholars had in accessing this material before digitisation, and of the visual and tangible quality of the art objects they engage with. These resources embody the legacy of Francis Haskell and his former students (of whom I am one), and the continued engagement with eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French art at Oxford University.

Fiona Gatty, Research Fellow (DPhil, History of Art, 2015)

 

Readers are welcome to request to view materials from the Haskell Collection of Salon Criticism, whether housed in the Sackler Library’s Haskell Room or the Rare Book Room.  You can find a list of 19th century Salon Criticism materials collected by Haskell here: List of 19th century Salon Criticism in Haskell Room. All items are on SOLO, the Bodleian Libraries’ online catalogue. A shelfmark plus location (Haskell Room or Rare Book Room) must be supplied for each item requested.  Please apply in person at the Sackler Library’s Help Desk; or by email: sac-enquiries@bodleian.ox.ac.uk

A University/Bodleian Libraries reader ID is necessary before accessing the Sackler Library and materials in this Collection. Please see:  http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/using/getting-a-readers-card.

Requested items are for consultation in the designated area near the Sackler Library’s Help Desk.  Photography of materials for research and study purposes is permitted.

Digital copies of items in the collection can be requested via Imaging Services, Bodleian Libraries. Please note: The Sackler Library is unable to provide scans or photocopies direct.

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.

 

[1] Stendhal, Mélanges D’art: Salon De 1824.152. 11-12.

[2] Siegfried, S. Politicisation of Art Criticism. Orwicz. 9-28. 24.

[3] https://oxfordarthist.wordpress.com/2015/08/

[4] http://www.hoa.ox.ac.uk/lee-johnson-archive, https://oxfordarthist.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/delving-into-delacroix-an-introduction-to-the-lee-johnson-archive/

[5]Pierre Alexandre Coupin, Notice sur l’ exposition des tableaux en 1819. 528

[6]Fabien Pillet, Critique Des Tableaux Et Sculptures De L’Exposition De 1824. 25.

[7]Ibid.25-26.

[8]Louis David: son École et son temps, 1855

Like @ Sac! From Reader to Staff Member

 

I started working at the Sackler Library in April 2019. However, I have been an intensive and daily reader at the Sackler since 2016.  Having used the Sackler as my main work space for more than two years, I had become keen to also contribute to its maintenance and functioning.

I am writing my D.Phil. thesis in the field of Assyriology at the University of Oxford. The Sackler is the main research library for any researcher in the field of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Oxford (at Wolfson College, the Library houses the Jeremy Black Collection in Near Eastern Studies, as well).

 

Excited to find the perfect book for my research!

The Sackler offers many amenities and services to the Assyriological researcher: it is a quiet and peaceful work space, and all the books and periodicals relevant for our field are conveniently accessible on the first floor.  Once you start working at one of the desks there, all the necessary materials you can dream of – as an Assyriologist – are just a few steps, or clicks, away.  The Ancient Near Eastern collection of books is comprehensive, and new accessions can be found in the new books and new journal display on the ground and first floors.  Interdisciplinary research is easily possible in the Sackler – sections covering our neighbouring disciplines — Egyptology, Classics and Archaeology — are also housed at the Sackler Library, and occasionally, you will need to make an “expedition” to the ground floor to find a volume in the Classics section, or a periodical in the Haverfield Room. Thus, one can quickly look up parallels and differences in a differing geographical region or period – and lose oneself in an interesting topic in a neighbouring field.

The Sackler is also very international in its readers.  Many visiting and permanent researchers from all around the world use the Sackler for their research, and you can easily make contact with a researcher from a neighbouring field on a staircase or in the lobby area.  I should mention that the Sackler is conveniently located adjacent the Ashmolean Museum, so that an inspiring break there is easily manageable.

 

 

When you have finished your research for the day, but would like to continue your work with the same books the next day, you can leave a stack of up to ten books at the reservation point (these can be found on every floor of the Library), using an overnight reservation slip. This prevents the books from being re-shelved the following morning and enables you to continue working exactly where you left off the night before.

Helping readers behind the issue desk.

Did I mention the library’s opening times?  The Sackler is open seven days a week: 9 am – 10 pm on weekdays, 11 am – 6 pm on Saturdays, and 12 – 6 pm on Sundays.  This means I have access to the research materials I need —  Assyriological books and periodicals (and new acquisitions) — on a daily basis (unless it is a major holiday).  Depending on your patron status – i.e. if you are a member of the University of Oxford – you can even borrow books which are not confined to the library to work with them after closing time.  If you have to meet impending deadlines, then the long and daily opening times and the option to borrow books can help a great deal.

Once you have finished using a book, you can put it on the respective trolley on each floor.  When I first became a reader at the Sackler I did not realise that there is a sign on each trolley which asks you to put books within a specific shelf mark range on it.  Assyriological books, for example, are mainly classified to what is known as ‘the 200s’ and there is trolley designated for these 200s books permanently located on the first floor.  Since I had not paid attention to the signs on the trolleys, I put my books on different trolleys at first, for example on the trolley for Egyptological books, which are classified to what is known as ‘the 300s’.  Now, that I have started working as a library assistant at the Sackler, and shelve books myself, I realise how much easier it is for the library assistants if readers return their research materials to the correct trolleys: the shelving gets done faster.  As a reader I find it a great luxury that library assistants shelve the books for me, and it ensures that the books are shelved in their proper place.

I have learned new things about the Sackler since I started working as a member of Reader Services staff.  Shelving is obviously a big part of my work, and I enjoy it, especially on the floors where I have not been a reader before, such as the second and third floors, which house the Western and Eastern art and architecture collections.  I am usually fascinated by the titles and artworks shown in these books as they show subject areas which, as a researcher using materials on the first floor, I had not encountered before.

I am very grateful for the introduction to my new job and for the support of my Sackler colleagues.  I have always felt at home as a reader and now also as a library assistant. I can only recommend to researchers that they make full use of the resources available to them in this amazing library.

Lynn-Salammbo Zimmerman
Library Assistant, Reader Services, Sackler Library
and D.Phil. candidate in Assyriology

 

We welcome suggestions for future blog contributions from our readers.
Please contact Clare Hills-Nova (clare.hills-nova@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) and Chantal van den Berg (chantal.vandenberg@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) if you would like propose a topic.