Calls for Papers/Sep 25, 2015

Typical Venice? Venetian Commodities, 13th–16th Centuries

Typical Venice? Venetian Commodities, 13th–16th Centuries lead image

Typical Venice? Venetian Commodities, 13th–16th Centuries, Deutsches Studienzentrum in Venice, Palazzo Barbarigo della Terrazza, March 3–6, 2016

What are “Venetian” commodities? More than any other medieval or early modern city, Venice lived off of the trade of portable goods. In addition to trading foreign imports, the city also engaged in intense local production, manufacturing high quality glass, crystal, cloth, metal, enamel, leather, and ceramic objects, characterized by their exceedingly rich forms and complex production processes. Today, these objects are scattered in collections throughout the world, but little remains in Venice itself. In individual instances, it is often difficult to tell whether the objects in question were actually made in Venice or if they originated in Byzantine, Islamic, or other European contexts.

This conference focuses on the question of how Venice designed and exported its own identity through all kinds of its goods, long before ideas about the city were propagated by, shaped through and crystalized in images (the countless, largely standardized vedute). We especially invite papers that address the following questions:

  • What was the relationship between raw commodities like wood, stone, wool or foodstuffs, which varied in their degrees of value, and specifically artistic products? Where do luxury goods that were processed in Venice, such as medicines, spices, or pigments, fit into the picture? What was the relationship between portable objects that could be acquired and the city’s other, inalienable riches, such as architecture and church treasures?
  • How could Venetian merchants, craftsmen, or artists generate a specific set of expectations with respect to their wares and what kinds of organizational and aesthetic strategies were used to meet these expectations? What role did the Senate play, for instance, by imposing import bans? What did travelers expect from Venice and what did they find? Where and how were commodities from Venice received elsewhere? What was perceived to be and labeled as “Venetian,” from medieval “Orientalism” in the city to the “façon de Venise” in the whole of Europe? Finally, can Venetian “commodity” concepts be reconstructed and to what extent can similarities and differences be identified between Venice and the commodity cultures of other cities in the Mediterranean and in Europe?

Expected contributions could address “Venetian” commodity categories and object groups individually or in relation to each other or in relation to larger, overarching issues. Papers written from the perspectives of the history of art, economy, law, literature or other historical sciences are welcome. Travel and accommodation costs will be defrayed. Speakers will be invited to participate in an anthology on the same subject following the conference. The working languages are mainly English and Italian, but papers in German and French will also be considered.

Dr. Philippe Cordez (ENB-Nachwuchsforschergruppe “Premodern Objects”, Department Kunstwissenschaften, LMU Munich)
PD Dr. Romedio Schmitz-Esser (Deutsches Studienzentrum in Venice)