Jeffrey Collins to Focus April 13 Goldberg Lecture on Development and Dispersal of Incense Boats

Beginning in the late fifteenth century, the spread of European merchants and missionaries in pursuit of new territory was accompanied by an unprecedented tide of Western material culture, including objects and implements associated with Catholic Christianity. Among the most striking was the silver incense boat or navicula, typically crafted of silver and closely modeled on the oceangoing ships that brought them and their first owners and users to locations across the globe.

Jeffrey Collins, professor of 17th- and 18th-century art and culture, Bard Graduate Center, will address “Ship Shape: Incense Boats across the Early Modern Globe” in the Norman L. and Roselea J. Goldberg Lecture in Art History on Thursday, April 13, at 4:10 pm in 203 Cohen Memorial Hall. A reception will be held afterward in the atrium.

“Encoding movement and exchange in their very form, and housing fragrant resins that were both a tool of evangelization and an international commodity, naviculae embody the spread of commerce and Christianity and suggest important links between the two,” wrote Collins. “My lecture investigates the development and worldwide dispersal of this distinctive ship-shaped form during the heyday of exploration and colonization, including its links to secular table vessels known as nefs. Just as important, more detailed study of specific examples from the Americas, Africa, and Asia suggests how seemingly ubiquitous and globalized objects may nonetheless have carried distinct and specific local meanings for the individuals and communities that made, used, or viewed them.”

Collins is an internationally respected specialist in the art, architecture, and visual culture of the global early modern era with an emphasis on Italian art and museology of the eighteenth century. He is the author of Papacy and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Rome: Pius VI and the Arts (Cambridge University Press, 2004) and the principal contributor to History of Design: Decorative Arts and Material Culture 1400-2000 (Yale University Press, 2013). His Goldberg lecture is part of a larger book project entitled The Global Republic of Sacred Things: The Circulation of Religious Art in the Early Modern World.

He has contributed to a wide array of exhibition catalogues and scholarly anthologies and in addition has published more than forty scholarly articles and book reviews. Collins has presented scores of invited lectures and symposium papers on four continents and has trained an impressive cadre of young scholars, both at Bard and at the University of Washington. Teaching interests include seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France, colonial Latin America, the Grand Tour, and the commemorative monument.

Sponsored by the Department of History of Art, the Goldberg Lecture is free and open to the public. Parking is available in Lot 95 outside Cohen Hall, off 21st Avenue South on the Peabody campus and across from Medical Center East. For more information, call the department at 615.322.2831.

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