Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Global Arts 3: V&A, 16 November 2007 - Readings

16 November 2007, Seminar Room B, Research Department, Victoria and Albert Museum

Court & State Manufactures: Transmission & Transformation, Production and Consumption  

This is the third meeting of the Global Arts Network 


This workshop brings global historians working in University departments together with curators and researchers in museums to investigate creativity and innovation in court and state manufactories. It links to key objects or groups of objects and compares different approaches to craft and luxury-wares production in these manufactories, including labour forces, skill and design dissemination, mobility of artisans and artists between courts, secrecy, and experimentation and issues surrounding their consumption.
This workshop attempts to compare the processes and types of products of some European courts with those of the Ottoman empire, of Mughal India and of Ming and Qing China. We will also discuss how these different court manufactories acquired collections of objects from elsewhere, and used these in processes of imitation and innovation.

Lunch 12.00-12.50 

Introduction: Maxine Berg (Warwick) and Marta Ajmar (V&A) 

1.00-1.20 - Guido Guerzoni (Bocconi University), ‘Manufacturing for the Renaissance Italian Courts’

1.30-1.50 - Tim Stanley (V&A), 'Isnik Wares'

2.00-2.30 - Marta Ajmar (V&A), 'The Global Interior: a series of questions'

Followed by Marta Ajmar and Luca Mola (Warwick), 'A Global Renaissance, some preliminary proposals'. 


2.40 Coffee & Tea 


3.00-3.20 - Anne Gerritsen (Warwick), 'Manufacturing for the Yuan Court'

3.30-3.50 - Emily Richardson (Queen Mary College, London), 'The Sevres Porcelain Manufactory'

4.00-4.20 - Susan Stronge (V&A), 'Manufacture at the Mughal Court' 


4.30-5.30 - Discussion and Summary


Summaries of Papers:

Anne Gerritsen, 'Manufacturing for the Yuan court'

Much of what we know about the manufacture of porcelain in China stems from our understanding of the export market: the tastes and fashions visible now in the superb collections outside China such as the grand collections of the Ardabil Shrine or the Topkapi Palace, or the objects found in domestic interiors throughout Europe and America. But far more Chinese porcelain was produced for the domestic market, and specifically for the imperial court. In this brief paper I will talk about the role of the court in commissioning this porcelain, and place this process in the context of other writings about the role of the Chinese court in middle-period Chinese history. I will focus on the Yuan dynasty (1260-1368), when court management was taken over by Mongols. Looking closely at a brief moment in time brings into focus not only the way in which the manufacture of porcelain was intended to work, but also the socio-political realities that impacted upon the role of the court.

Emily Richardson, 'The Manufactory of Sevres Porcelain'

When Louis XV acquired ownership of the manufactory of Sevres porcelain in 1759 he forged a link between the state and the manufactory that has never once been broken – even today it exists under the auspices of the French Ministry of the Interior. David Cameo, current director of the manufactory, made much of this unique point of continuity in a recent catalogue surveying the manufactory’s long history of production, proudly noting that whereas Sevres’ European competitors ‘have had to turn themselves […] into organisations run on almost entirely commercial lines, [Sevres] is proud to represent an idea which has disappeared elsewhere’ – i.e., of the State-owned, State-run manufactory. This point of continuity in the manufactory’s history is indeed remarkable, especially when one considers the number of violent revolutions and regime changes that took place in France during the last decade of the 18th century and over the course of the nineteenth. Sevres’ survival of these turbulent times could not have been assumed for, if we can easily understand Louis XV’s commitment to the manufactory, and later, the commitment of his heir, it is harder to comprehend why the French revolutionary government that came to power on 10th August 1792, might also have intervened in its favour. Reasons why this radical government extended their patronage to the manufactory of Sevres – even as they were debating the fate of its one-time owner, the less-fortunate Louis XVI – will be considered in this paper. 

Suggested Background Reading:

C.Dean and D. Leibsohn, 'Hybridity and its Discontents: Considering VisualCulture in Colonial Spanish America', Colonial Latin American Review, (2003), pp. 5-35.

R. Finlay, 'The Pilgrim Art: The Culture of Porcelain in World History',Journal of World History, 9, 2 (1998), pp. 141-87