Monday Conversation, 30 November 2020, with Lauren Working and Lucy Powell.
Still life paintings from the seventeenth century present sumptuous arrangements of fruit, flowers, vegetables, silverware, and often animals or birds as well. They may be ‘still’, displayed for our visual enjoyment, but the subjects have been gathered from around the world. These pictures tell stories of travel, colonialism, displacement, power, and desire.
Our two speakers took us on an imaginative transcultural journey, bringing questions of locality, placelessness, and globalism to bear on scenes of feasting and beauty.
“We get tulips with pumpkins, maize with English strawberries, peonies with chillies…”
Lauren Working (Postdoctoral Fellow on the TIDE project, University of Oxford) gave a dazzling visual tour of the genre’s excesses and extremes, pausing in the queasy hinterlands between plenty and too much. Bringing an historian’s expertise to paintings by Dutch and English artists, she explored the tastes, networks, and trade routes, the invisible maps and webs of connection, that lie behind the shining objects assembled before us.
Lucy Powell (Leverhulme Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Oxford) looked closely at paintings of exotic birds by Jakob Bogdani, showing how closely they relate to still life and how much they have to tell us about cultures of collecting and displaying species brought to Britain from across the globe.
Our short clips will give you a taste, and a recording of the whole session is available below.