Amy F. Ogata will be giving a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Wednesday, February 15 at 12:15 pm. Her talk is entitled “Industry, Aluminum, and Orfèvrerie in Second Empire France.”


Amy F. Ogata is Professor and Chair of the Department of Art History at the University of Southern California. She taught at Bard Graduate Center between 1998 and 2014. She is the author of Designing the Creative Child: Playthings and Places in Midcentury America (2013), Fredun Shapur: Playing with Design (2013), and Art Nouveau and the Social Vision of Modern Living (2001). She co-curated and co-edited Swedish Wooden Toys (2014) with Bard Gradate Center Founding Director Susan Weber. Her current research examines the French Second Empire and the materiality of metal.

In 1858, the French metalworking firm Christofle presented a group of five putti cast in aluminum to Emperor Napoléon III. This surtout de table, or centerpiece, was long believed to be a unique object dedicated to the Emperor in recognition for his personal support of the scientific project that resulted in aluminum, a new discovery of the 1850s. Another, slightly different, copy for the investor Isaac Pereire suggests new ways of understanding how this decorative table adornment might thematize industry, science, and abundance, as well as the traditional manufacture of orfèvrerie and a taste for the Louis XVI. This dynamic interplay between modern materials and artistic traditions has much to tell us about the metallic surface and its role in the making of the French Second Empire.