Antique Dealing and Creative Reuse in Cairo and Damascus 1850-1890

Intercultural Engagements with Architecture and Craft in the Age of Travel and Reform


The commodification of Islamic antiques intensified in the late Ottoman Empire, an age of domestic reform and increased European interference following the Tanzimat (reorganisation) of 1839. Mercedes Volait examines the social life of typical objects moving from Cairo and Damascus to Paris, London, and beyond, uncovers the range of agencies and subjectivities involved in the trade of architectural salvage and historic handicraft, and traces impacts on private interiors, through creative reuse and Revival design, in Egypt, Europe and America. By devoting attention to both local and global engagements with Middle Eastern tangible heritage, the present volume invites to look anew at Orientalism in art and interior design, the canon of Islamic architecture and the translocation of historic works of art.
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Mercedes Volait, Ph.D. (1993), Aix-Marseille University, is Research Professor at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris. She has numerous publications on art, architecture and photography in Modern Egypt, as well as Islamic art collecting in Europe.
"With Antique Dealing and Creative Reuse in Cairo and Damascus 1850–1890, Volait has produced a truly ground-breaking study that should be required reading not only for scholars of Islamic art and architecture, but also for those of broader material culture studies. Its findings require us to approach questions of global material entanglement with greater nuance, even if we do not necessarily arrive at the same interpretive conclusions that Volait does. This is a book that will undoubtedly inspire a new generation of students to emulate the author’s rigorous research methodologies and think more critically about cultural appropriation and exchange.." Ellen Kenney, in: Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide 21/3 (2022)
List of Illustrations

Introduction: Connecting Historiographies, Challenging Assumptions
 1 Things, People and Places
 2 Structure of the Book
 3 A Variety of Sources
 4 Data Re-Identification
 5 Revising the Narrative

1 Early Shows and Sales of Islamic Antiques in Paris
 1 Orientalia at the Musée rétrospectif in 1865
 2 Egyptian Architectural Salvage at the Exposition universelle of 1867
 3 The Sale and Display of an Egyptian Collection in 1869
 4 Shifting Trajectories and Contexts

2 Expanding Trades in Late Ottoman Cairo and Damascus
 1 Distinctive Profiles and Iconic Artefacts
 2 The kursī as Global Commodity
 3 Market Adjustments

3 Conflicted Commodification in Cairo
 1 Urban and Domestic Reform
 2 Inducement and Resistance to Commodification
 3 Contrasting Attitudes

4 Fashioning Immersive Displays in Egypt and Beyond
 1 Atmospheric Interiors for Western Connoisseurs
 2 The Living Culture of Reuse in Egypt
 3 The Social Outreach of Revivalism
 4 Islamic Art as Intrinsically Architectural

5 Guise and Disguise Before and During the Tanzimat
 1 Codification and the Intricacies of Cross-Cultural Dressing in Pre-Tanzimat Times
 2 Dressing Native in Nineteenth-Century Egypt and Back Home
 3 Costume for History and Leisure in Painting and Photography
 4 A Gendered Collecting Culture

Epilogue: Diverging Routes
 1 Bygone Ways of Inhabiting the Past and the World
 2 Estrangements
 3 Endurances

 Primary Sources
 Printed Sources

 Index of Personal Names
 Index of Place Names
 General Index
All interested in tangible heritage in Cairo and Damascus, visual Orientalism (including photography), Islamic art collecting, and anyone concerned with commodification and intercultural contact zones.
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