Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series

Histories in Transition

Orientalism and "Islamophilia"

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

17.30 - 18.30, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre

tile with golden multi-pronged star
Léon Parvillée, Tile with a starred pattern, undated (ca. 1883), earthenware under a transparent green glaze, 20 x 20 x 1 cm, Paris, Conservatoire national des Arts et métiers, inv. 09962-0001

Speaker(s): Rémi Labrusse (Professor, Université de Paris Ouest - Nanterre)

Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission

Organised by: Dr Ayla Lepine

It will be suggested that Islamic artefacts were not only considered as objects of knowledge or fancy in 19th-century Europe, but that they also provided an aesthetic message fitted to contemporary European culture, particularly in the field of ornaments and decorative arts. An 'Orientalist' trend, haunted by the shadows of an imagined past, was opposed to what can be identified as a rationalist and decidedly progressive 'islamophilia', even if nothing specifically religious was involved in this cultural debate. This has to be linked to the unexpected survival, in the second half of the 19th century, of the old Romantic idea of an 'Oriental Renaissance': what the Greeks and the Romans had done for 15th-century Europe, Islam should do for late 19th-century visual culture. Many ambiguities and contradictions followed, which will be discussed during the lecture.

One of Rémi Labrusse’s main interests is the reception and creative reworking of Non-European visual sources by Europeans of the 19th and early 20th century. Among his recent publications is Islamophilies. L’Europe moderne et les arts de l’Islam, a book based on an exhibition he curated at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyon (2011).

The 2012 Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series explores intersections between modernity and historicism worldwide. It extends and enriches the Research Forum project Revival: Utopia, Identity, Memory and interacts with the provocative Research Forum theme, ‘The Quick and the Dead’. Spanning art, architecture and design across America, Europe and Asia from the nineteenth century to the present, each lecture demonstrates the allure and the value of the past in forming challenging responses to new circumstances. Interrogating the nature of revival, historicism and transnationalism, the series engages with nature and artifice, ritual and memory, and the flexible meanings of materials, images and structures that simultaneously inhabit traditional and innovative territory.

Sponsored by the FM Kirby Foundation and The Prince's Foundation

Traditionally sponsored by the F M Kirby Foundation, this year the Frank Davis Memorial Lecture Series is also sponsored by The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community; Transforming Lives through Engaging, Educating and Empowering People.

“The Prince's Foundation believes that sustainably planned, built and maintained communities improve the quality of life of everyone who’s part of them. They help us both live better at a local level and start dealing with the broader global challenges of urbanisation and climate change. Our goal is a future where all of us can take part in making our communities more sustainable. We're working with everyone from local residents groups to governments to make it happen.” See

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