Object Histories. Early Modern Flotsam

Fricke, Beate (24 October 2019). Object Histories. Early Modern Flotsam (Unpublished). In: Transforming the Past: the concept of object biographies. Universität Bern. 24 Oktober 2019.

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Objects and artifacts without written contexts, whose preceding or immediate history and cultural traditions have been lost in transition or translation between cultural spheres pose a particular series of challenges. These objects can be the sole remains of fragmented cultural context and histories of making, circulation and reception, yet is often difficult to determine whether they were exceptional at the time of their making or part of a larger series, a problem amplified when more than one cultural context is involved.

How do we deal with these testimonies of a scattered past? The absence of written sources related to a specific object forces us to attempt to compensate for lacunae with other lines of historical evidence. But how do we choose which lines to trace and which to ignore or neglect? These sorts of decisions are central to the working practice of art historians (or historians of material culture more broadly), but rarely addressed explicitly. They are often commented upon in footnotes or side remarks, although many of the decisions that scholars make while writing about these kind of works hold significance beyond the specificity of the argument at hand.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Art History > Ancient and Medieval Art History
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Art History

UniBE Contributor:

Fricke, Beate


700 Arts
700 Arts > 730 Sculpture, ceramics & metalwork
900 History
900 History > 940 History of Europe
900 History > 950 History of Asia
900 History > 960 History of Africa


[18] European Research Council ; [UNSPECIFIED] ACLS


[1266] Global Horizons in Premodern Art
[1268] Object histories - Flotsam as early globalism




Beate Fricke

Date Deposited:

19 Dec 2019 14:30

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:34



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