Rosenberg Lecture: Power and Pleasure: Decorative Arts and Cultural Contact Between France and India in the 18th Century

This event has already passed Location: Horchow Auditorium

Dr. Meredith Martin, Associate Professor of Art History at New York University, will explore commercial, cultural, and political exchanges between France and India in the 18th century through the lens of several fascinating art objects in the Rosenberg and DMA collections.

From the 17th century, a consumer craze for Indian textiles and other goods transformed French fashion and material culture and shaped the era’s key economic and social debates. It also brought scores of French traders and officials to India, where they commented not only on advanced techniques of manufacturing but also on a court culture that mirrored and in some cases surpassed France’s own. As France and Britain began vying for power and influence on the Indian subcontinent, local elites used art, architecture, and décor to forge alliances or make claims for cultural and political authority—culminating in a diplomatic embassy that Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore, sent to France in 1788 to ask for military support against the British.

Dr. Martin is Associate Professor of Art History at NYU and the Institute of Fine Arts. She received her PhD from Harvard and her BA from Princeton. A specialist in French art and architecture from the 17th to 19th centuries, she is the author of Dairy Queens: The Politics of Pastoral Architecture from Catherine de’ Medici to Marie-Antoinette (Harvard University Press, 2011), and a co-editor of Objects in Motion in the Early Modern World (special issue of Art History, 2015) and Architectural Space in Eighteenth-Century Europe: Constructing Identities and Interiors (Ashgate, 2010). Along with Dr. Gillian Weiss, Martin has completed a book entitled The Sun King at Sea: Maritime Art and Slavery in Louis XIV’s France, for which she and Dr. Weiss were awarded an ACLS Collaborative Fellowship (2016-2018). She is currently working on several projects, among them an exhibition on the 1720 Mississippi and South Sea bubbles, that will open at the New York Public Library in October 2020, and a study of porcelain rooms from the 17th century to the present. Martin is a founding editor of Journal18.

This talk is part of the Annual Fête.


Image: Mantel clock with figures of France and Mars, Martín à Paris, France, 1771, gilt bronze and white marble, lent by the Michael L. Rosenberg Foundation, 32.2019.20