24 Oct 2013 1:30pm - 3:30pm CRASSH, Seminar room SG1, Ground floor


Reconstructing Things: From Colourful Clothes to Paintings and Pigments

Professor Ulinka Rublack (Professor of Early Modern European History, Faculty of History, St John's College, University of Cambridge) 

Dr Spike Bucklow (Senior Research Scientist and Teacher of Theory, Hamilton Kerr Institute, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge)

NB This session will be on Thursday at 1.30pm


Prof Rublack: How can historians reconstruct the symbolic as well as sensate world of colour experience? This talk introduces the audience to a unique experiment in reconstruction. It focuses on the political and emotional meanings of yellow and red in a precise moment in time: the Augsburg Imperial Diet in 1530, one of the key political summits of the German Reformation. It uses contemporary evidence to demonstrates in detail why symbolic languages were so crucial and contested at these meetings, but also uses research on the Fugger merchant company to show that their political outcomes were underpinned by very real financial strategies and economic interests. The paper then concentrates on an explanation of why the head-accountant of the company chose to commission a particular outfit to wear during the summit and shows how an actual reconstruction of historical dress can enrich our knowledge of the past and epistemological approaches.

Dr Bucklow: This paper follows Ulinka's focus on colour and reinforces her suggestion that the reconstruction of things can throw light on aspects of culture that might otherwise remain inaccessible. It recognises that things like colour are intimately linked to material substrates that carry them – dyes in cloth, or pigment in paint, for example. It suggests that, up to and including the nineteenth century, some of the cultural significance of colours was linked to the dyes and pigments that provided them. The paper explores the re-enactment of studio practice based on historic artists' recipes, acknowledging the role of tacit knowledge alongside explicit instructions. With reference to a fourteenth-century Missal in the Fitzwilliam Museum, the reconstruction of two blue pigments using contemporary methods shows that there is more to a colour than meets the eye.


Open to all. No registration required

Things: Comparing Material Cultures 1500-1900, main page

Upcoming Events


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk