Field of Focus III - Funded ProjectsObjects of Wonder in Place

Collecting and Displaying Chinese Porcelain in European and Persian Cabinets in the Early Modern Period

Project Leader:

Prof. Dr. Sarah E. Fraser


This project will link European Chinoiserie with pre-European or proto-Chinoiserie practices of collecting in the Islamic world, exploring the display of Chinese porcelain as objects of wonder in early modern courts in Europe as well as in Islamic Persia; Chinoiserie objects encoded the patron-collector`s ideological project of global rulership.

The custom of collecting Chinese porcelain in the courtly “cabinet” began in fifteenth-century Central Asia and Iran (chini-khana in Persian), and spread throughout India, Turkey, and finally, Europe in the following centuries. In this sense, an analysis of the interrelationship between European and Islamic “porcelain cabinets” will be put into focus, which deconstructs the institution and architectural settings in which a “global Chinoiserie” phenomenon developed. To be specific, the project explores how Chinese porcelain was defined, collected, displayed, and even institutionalized in the Early Modern world. We examine Chinese porcelain as ‘wonder’ and a display mechanism in European and Persian contexts. Major cases of Persian Chini-khana and European Kunstkammer will be studied in detail, and the results will be transformed into a digital database that facilitates further investigation between a network of junior scholars inHeidelberg, Dresden and local institutions in Uzbekistan and Iran. As an ultimate goal, the grant is designed to strengthen a research network already informally built between institutions in Europe, America, and China, and will be extended to include local CentralAsian academic organizations to expand our research on Chinese porcelain`s reception beyond the border of China.