A Passion for Things: the Bible and Antiquity on the Victorian Mantelpiece

7 June 2016, 14:00 - 15:00

Fitzwilliam Museum

Booking is essential. tel: 01223 332904 or email: education@fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk

Victorian middle-class homes were cluttered places. Photographs reveal rooms brimming with furniture, textiles, lavish patterns and clashing colours, every surface groaning with bric-a-brac. This talk imagines what might have been on the mantelpiece. Delving into the superb collections of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Kate Nichols and Gareth Atkins will discuss a range of decorative objects that vividly bring to life the Victorian obsession with the Bible and Antiquity as it impacted everyday life. They will show how celebrity, mass-production and performance combined with biblical literacy and piety to shape consumer tastes. In telling the story of these objects, they seek to pose questions about what they meant to their original owners. What do they tell us about interactions between ‘pagan’ and Christian culture in the Victorian home? What might they reveal about gender, nudity, respectability? How comfortable were the Victorians with the idea that material things carried spiritual significance?

An afternoon talk open to the public, by the ERC project Bible and Antiquity in 19th-century Culture.


  • Gareth Atkins (Cambridge)
  • Kate Nichols (Birmingham)

Other events in this series

This event is supported by funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ ERC grant agreement no 295463.