Lia Wei, Estelle Bauer (both from National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations, Paris), and Shao-Lan Hertel (Director of the East Asian Art Museum in Cologne) are proposing a panel on East Asian visual and material culture at the next Congrès International d'Histoire de l'Art held in Lyon, June 2024. If you are interested in participating as speaker in this panel, please see the information below. Please noted that the submission deadline is 15 September 2023 (a bit of flexibility might be allowed).

Assemblage of Heterogeneous Materials in the Sinicized Area (17th – 19th Cent.): An Answer to the Transformation of the Literati/Craftsman Perception of Materiality?

Estelle Bauer 1, Lia Wei 2, Shao-Lan Hertel 3
1/2: Inalco - Paris (France), 3: Museum for East Asian Art Cologne (Germany)

Corresponding author(s):
Email: (Lia WEI) (Estelle Bauer) (Shao-Lan Hertel)

The session will be held in English and take the form of a panel of 5 papers of 30 min. each (including 20 min. presentation and 10 min. discussion for each speaker), followed by a roundtable debate of 30 min.

To be considered for participation as speaker in this panel, please submit a proposal including an abstract of no more than 500 words as well as a CV of no more than 250 words by September 15, 2023, to:;;

Further information:

Topic in English

This session explores composite works which bring together two- and three-dimensional objects (calligraphy, painting, prints, ceramics, lacquerware) from the sinicized area (China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam) in the 17th-19th centuries.

During this period of return to the past, scholars, artists and craftsmen questioned inherited hierarchies of value and developed a new sensitivity to materials. These transformations are expressed through a more elaborate and thoughtful use of materials. The literary and theoretical production of the period allows us to understand the classifications or distinctions made between artistic fields and the values attributed to materials.

The cultural, social and political predominance of certain activities in East Asia - literati practices, tea and incense ceremonies, etc. - is embodied in composite works made up of heterogeneous materials and/or resulting from the transfer of one material to another. The variations in materials, which vary according to cultural areas or social groups, reflect the privileged status attributed to certain materials (ink and paper, stone, lacquer, gold, brocade, etc.). Some materials are used as they are, creating a continuity between the real, the artefact and the representation; others are evoked in a metaphorical/allusive way or are excluded from the assemblages. The sensory or aesthetic qualities, the virtues or defects attributed to the materials, but also the meanings associated with them - trace the limits of the eclecticism of the assemblages.

If, in China, the predominance of the arts of the brush determined the aesthetic judgment and the opposition between "spirit" and "form", the Japanese attitude, which values craftmanship, enriches the literati practices. The late imperial period in China witnessed a broadening of literati aesthetics, and served as a laboratory for experimentation in the imperial and private workshops of the Qing dynasty, indicating a new fascination for technical virtuosity and eclectic materials.

In late imperial China, calligraphy and painting took on other media and materials (printed images, ceramics, cloisonné, architectural elements, etc.) and their repertoires were enriched in contact with various sources (regional craft traditions, heterodox forms of writing, etc.). Rubbings, for example, were instrumental in this "sensory revolution": this reproduction technique became a form of aesthetic expression, stressing the texture and volume of stamped objects, beyond their inscriptions. Xylography, which involves collaboration between scholars and craftsmen, is another area where this widening of the artistic repertoire is expressed.

In Japan, a peculiar interest in the materiality is noticeable in objects combining different techniques, such as lacquer inkstone boxes made from gold, mother-of-pearl and metal. Artifacts (fabrics, calligraphy, paintings) are fragmented and recomposed in albums, according to a new hierarchy of value. Kakemonos with painted frames question the limits of representation.

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