As art objects circulate over time, they connect various people, places, times, stories, and even historiographies. Although they cannot speak to us directly about their biographies, we can still interrogate them and related evidence in order to learn more about who once possessed them and where and how they were kept. As we do this, we can draw on the concept of circulation to direct scholarly attention toward how not only objects but also knowledge about them moves. Objects, knowledge, and their significance for those involved is continuously circulated and negotiated, yielding new knowledge and meaning in the process. Thus, we might endeavor to elaborate both the spatial and temporal dimensions of provenance research as integral parts of contemporary art history.
In 1908, The Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased from the French art dealer Kleinberger Galleries a sixteenth-century portrait believed to be that of Johann, Duke of Saxony, painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder. The Museum’s paintings curator, Roger Fry, had learned of the availability of this little-known work by the German Renaissance master late in 1907, and through correspondence with Kleinberger confirmed its provenance and attribution, which were attested by the eminent art historians Max Friedländer and Wilhelm von Bode. The picture crossed the Atlantic on the Courraine, arrived at the Met on February 3, and was installed in its galleries soon after. It was the first work by Cranach the Elder in the Metropolitan’s collection.
- Fellowship: Binational Visiting Fellow Tandem Program in the History of Migration at GHI Pacific Regional Office in Berkeley. Application deadline: January 15, 2020. (Why migration on a blog about knowledge? See the Knowledge and Migration page on this site.)
- Reading: Martin Collins and Teasel Muir-Harmony, eds., Making the Pacific: Making Japanese-U.S. Relations: Science and Technology as Historical Agents in the Twentieth Century, special issue, Pacific Historical Review 88, no. 4 (Fall 2019): 509–658.
Today we offer two examples of academic knowledge on the move in tandem with the Migrant Knowledge blog. Anna Corsten looks at the reception of two German-speaking refugee historians in West Germany, and Razak Khan discusses the place of certain travel experiences in Magnus Hirschfeld’s thought.
In Germany today, Hans Rosenberg (1904–1988) and Raul Hilberg (1926–2007) are viewed as important pioneers in the study of National Socialism and the Shoah. Because of their Jewish background, they had been threatened by Nazi persecution and had emigrated to the United States.1 In the postwar era, Rosenberg’s work was initially embraced in the United States and marginalized in West Germany, whereas Hilberg’s was both praised and attacked in the United States, and ignored in West Germany. How and why did these historians move from the margins to the mainstream of German historiography? How did migration figure in their work and its reception?
Magnus Hirschfield (1868–1935) was a world-renowned pioneer in sexology.1 Years of his modern scientific knowledge production on sexology were monumentalized with the establishment of the Institute of Sexual Science in Berlin in 1919. On May 10, 1933, the institute became an early target of violent Nazi attacks with its library ransacked and its books burned publicly.2 During these turbulent times in Germany, Hirschfeld was on a lecture tour in the Unites States, where he was lauded as a celebrity and his knowledge was embraced enthusiastically by many in the American academy, press, and public. Unable to return home because of the Nazi seizure of power, he decided to embark on a world tour to acquire and share the “treasures of serological knowledge.”3 In transit, he acquired new ideas.
- Call for Papers: “Entangled Pasts and Presents: Temporal Interactions and Knowledge Production in the Study of Hellenistic Central Asia.” Fourth Conference of the Hellenistic Central Asia Research Network. Proposal deadline: November 15, 2019. HT @hsozkult.
- Call for Papers: “Indigenous Knowledges,” special issue of KULA: Knowledge Creation, Dissemination, and Preservation Studies. Proposal deadline: November 30, 2019.
- Publication: Peter Mandler, “Good Reading for the Million: The ‘Paperback Revolution’ And the Co-Production of Academic Knowledge in Mid Twentieth-Century Britain and America,” Past and Present 244 (August 2019): 235–69, https://doi.org/10.1093/pastj/gtz005.
- Publication: Simone Lässig and Swen Steinberg, eds., “Knowledge and Young Migrants,” special issue of KNOW: A Journal on the Formation of Knowledge 3, no. 2 (Fall 2019): 191–351.
- Publication: Bert De Munck and Antonella Romano, eds., Knowledge and the Early Modern City: A History of Entanglments (London: Routledge, 2019). HT @UrbanHistoryUA.
- Hashtag: #GHIdh19 for Digital Hermeneutics: From Research to Dissemination at the GHI Washington, October 10–12, 2019.
- Hashtag: #shotmilano for the annual meeting of the Society for the History of Technology, October 24–27, 2019. HT @LauraSkouvig.
- New Book Series: New series: Global Epistemics. HT @berytia.
Where is the object from? Who did it belong to? How did it enter the collection? Nowadays, hardly any curator can avoid dealing with these questions before exhibiting or acquiring works of art or other cultural objects. Provenance has become an essential factor for public acceptance of the legitimacy of holdings in national museum collections worldwide as a consequence of two broad trends. On the one hand, a broad consensus on Nazi-confiscated art was reached in 1998 and expressed in the Washington Principles. On the other hand, there have been numerous heated public debates in recent years about the unlawful or unfair appropriation of cultural assets and the possible restitution of such items.1 Concern about the origins of objects is growing for libraries and archives too. Thus, provenance research has become a globally sought-after discipline.