Gotha Research Centre
Knowledge, Spaces, and Media
Stategies of Collecting an Displaying China in Nineteenth-Century Germany: Gotha's Chinese Cabinet
My research project brings renewed attention to a significant Chinese collection in early-nineteenth-century Germany, the Chinese Cabinet in Gotha, established by Duke Emil August (1772–1822) of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg from 1804 to 1810. Consisting of over 2000 objects, the Cabinet was a great sensation during the first decades of the nineteenth-century and was described as the most important Chinese collection in continental Europe. However, following the establishment of national museums across European metropoles in the late-nineteenth century, smaller, regional collections such as the Chinese Cabinet gradually faded from memory. Despite its former fame, this collection is scarcely heard of today. The project argues that the Chinese Cabinet deserves further scholarly attention and takes a micro-historical approach to investigate the historical, cultural and social processes behind its creation. In doing so, this project offers new conclusions about the history of collections in nineteenth-century Germany, German perceptions and representations of China, and the provenance of Chinese objects during the early-nineteenth century.
Project staff (Gotha Research Centre)