Over the course of the eighteenth century, East Asian objects were acquired by European collectors for a variety of reasons: ranging from the aesthetic decoration of their residences, to using objects as a source of knowledge about foreign cultures. The workshop brings together academics and curators to discuss the complex histories of Chinese collections in European contexts. It considers the role of human actors in the creation of these collections, from craftsmen and collectors to caretakers and curators, as well as the social and historical circumstances that shaped the collections.
Central to the workshop is the East Asian collection at Gotha. Around 1800, Duke August of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (1772-1822) founded the Chinese Cabinet, a collection of East Asian objects in Gotha's Friedenstein Palace. The rich and diverse collection consisted of over 2000 objects, such as reverse glass paintings, lacquerware, watercolour albums, clothing, household utensils and musical instruments. Themes that will be explored during the two-day workshop include the global circulation of artwork, China-Mode in eighteenth century Europe, and the practices of collecting and displaying Chinese objects in European collections. The goal of the workshop is to historicize these collections and to explore their interconnections, leading to new directions for research on East Asian collections in Europe.