Book Series Collectors and Dealers, vol. 4

Collecting and Empires

An Historical and Global Perspective

Maia W. Gahtan, Eva-Maria Troelenberg (eds)

  • Pages: 404 p.
  • Size:220 x 280 mm
  • Illustrations:115 b/w
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2019

  • ISBN: 978-1-909400-63-4
  • Hardback
  • Available

The comparative historical investigation of imperialism through the lens of collecting practices, museum archetypes and museums proper, helps shape our understanding of contemporary aesthetics and diversity management as well as helps identify what is imperial about our own approaches to material culture.


The creation and dissolution of empires has been a constant feature of human history from ancient times through the present day. Establishing new identities and new power relationships, empires also irrevocably altered social structures and the material culture on which those social structures were partly based. The political activities of empires are materially reflected in the movement of objects from periphery to center (and vice versa) and in the formation and display of collections which represent the potential for the production and the dissemination of knowledge. Imperial collecting practices tell stories that are complementary to and go beyond the classical sources of official history, the statistics of social history and even the narratives of collective or individual oral history. Building on previous work on European and Colonial object histories, this collection of essays—for the first time—approaches the subject of collecting and empires from a global and inclusive comparative perspective by addressing selection of the greatest empires the world has known from Han China to Hellenistic Greece to Aztec Mexico to the Third Reich. 


Collection and Power in the Near Eastern World — Alain Schnapp

The Biopolitics of Collecting: Empires of Mesopotamia — Zainab Bahrani

Princely Treasures and Imperial Expansion in Western Han China (second/first century bc) — Michèle Pirazzoli-t’Serstevens

Collecting like Caesar: The Pornography and Paideia of Amassing Artefacts in and after the Roman Empire — Caroline Vout

From a Culture of the Intimate to a Culture of the Remote. A Latin Epigram Collection between two Universal Powers: Papal Rome and the Holy Roman Empire — Nadia Cannata & Maia Wellington Gahtan

The Mexica Empire: Memory, Identity, and Collectionism — Enrique Florescano

Jahangir’s Hazelnut and Shah Jahan’s Chini Khana: The Collections of the Mughal Emperors — Ebba Koch

Global Aspects of Habsburg Imperial Collecting — Thomas Da Costa Kaufmann

Collecting in the Dutch Colonial Empire, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries — Michael North

The Musée Napoléon as an Imperial Louvre — Dominique Poulot

The Object Flows of Empire: Cross-Cultural Collecting in Early Colonial India — Tapati Guha-Thakurta

The Other Victoria and Albert Museum: Royal Souvenirs, Victorian Science and the Itineraries of Empire at the Swiss Cottage Museum, Osborne House — Ruth B. Phillips

The (Still)Birth of the Ottoman ‘Museum’: A Critical Reassessment — Edhem Eldem

The Ruin and Restoration of the Russian Art Empire — Katia Dianina

Collecting and the ‘Visual Evidence of Events’: Exemplary reflections on Berlin between the Imperial and Post-Imperial Age — Eva Maria Troelenberg

Looted Art, Booty Art, ‘Degenerate Art’: Aspects of Art Collecting in the Third Reich — Christoph Zuschlag

The (De)Colonized Object: Museums and the Other in France since 1960 — Daniel J. Sherman

Signs of Empire: Islamic Art Museums from European Imperialism to the Global Empire of Capital — Wendy Shaw

Afterword. The Imperial Style of Collecting — Krzysztof Pomian