Colloque « European Courts in a Globalized World 1400-1700 »

In the Early Modern age, Europe’s exposure to and contact with the external, non-European world changed dramatically in scope and degree, and consequently in its very nature. On the one hand, change was brought about by Europe’s own expansion beyond its frontiers into Africa, Asia, and America. On the other, the growth of the Ottoman Empire also put pressure on Europe’s eastern frontiers while at the same time providing opportunities for political and economic alliances to be forged and for cultural and artistic exchange to take place.

European courts were central agents in this process, and they too changed subsequently. In contact with previously unknown (or scarcely known) political realities, European courts were provided with terms of comparison, some as splendid as the Mughal or Chinese imperial courts, some as exotic as the Maya and Aztec empires. New works of art, from African ivories to Japanese folding-screens, from Chinese porcelain to pre-Columbian artifacts, were introduced into the European markets, changing patrons’ tastes, acquisition patterns and dynastic gift practices. Worldwide networks of commercial agents were set up, diplomatic missions were sent and received bearing gifts and information, new collections were assembled, and new architectural spaces to display them were devised. Exotic objects and themes which mirror Europe’s worldwide possessions and a patron’s command of the new knowledge of the world became a mandatory part of courtly artistic discourse through their introduction in palace decoration, including gardens where menageries where set up, and in court ceremonies and festivities. This colloquium is designed to reflect upon the effects of these changes on court life and the spaces in which it took place. It will allow for various European imperial experiences to be brought together and compared, thus setting up the ground for these to be understood in a coherent, all-encompassing narrative, rather than in a nationally-fragmented set of disparate studies.