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Swan, Claudia

Swan, Claudia


Claudia Swan, born in New York, NY, USA, in 1963. Ph.D. from Columbia University. Associate Professor of Art History at Northwestern University.

Theme Group Fellow (Jan, Feb, March 2017)

Performances of the Exotic: Liefhebbers and their Collections

Research Question

How did early modern amateurs and collectors (“liefhebbers”) in the Netherlands acquire exotic goods and according to what principles were exotica exchanged, collected, observed, and represented? How, in the context of collections, was knowledge commodified? What practices among visitors and owners alike contributed to the function of collections as sites of knowledge?

Project Description

One of the prime categories of objects that enlivened Cunstcamer collections in the Netherlands is the exotic, at a time when Holland was the hub of a vast market network in exotica, both in its raw state—shells, plumage, jewels—and in the worked form of mounted nautilus shells and European lacquerware, for example. I intend to study market patterns and affective practices by which liefhebbers of the exotic distinguished themselves. My primary focus will be on Dutch collections of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Images were harnessed to the task of conveying the objects in and the knowledge made possible by these collections, and I will attend in particular to representational strategies for asserting a taste for the exotic and the forms of knowledge it enabled.

Selected Publications

1) “Dutch Diplomacy and Trade in Rariteyten: Episodes in the History of Material Culture of the Dutch Republic,” in Global Gifts: The Material Culture of Diplomacy in Early Modern Eurasia, eds. Zoltán Biedermann, Anne Gerritsen, and Giorgio Riello, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming.

2) “Exotica on the Move: Birds of Paradise in Early Modern Holland,” Art History, vol. 38, nr. 4 (September 2015).

3) “Lost in Translation: Exoticism in Early Modern Holland,” in Art in Iran and Europe in the 17th Century: Exchange and Reception, edited by Axel Langer (Museum Rietberg, Zurich, CH, 2013), 100-116.

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