Kristel Smentek will be coming to deliver a Françoise and Georges Selz Lecture on 18th- and 19th-Century French Decorative Arts and Culture on Tuesday, February 28, 2012. Her talk is entitled “Encountering Asia in Eighteenth-Century France.”

Kristel Smentek is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture at MIT, where she has been teaching since 2008. She received her in B.A. in Art History from McGill University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Delaware. Her dissertation, “Art, Commerce, and Scholarship in the Age of Enlightenment: Pierre-Jean Mariette and the Making of Art History,” was the winner of the Council of Graduate Schools/UMI Distinguished Dissertation Award in the Humanities and Fine Arts in 2009. Dr. Smentek has lectured and published on eighteenth-century painting, porcelain, and the graphic arts, including the forthcoming article, “Paradoxes of Print: Originality, Authenticity, and the Graphic Arts in Eighteenth-Century Europe.” Additionally, she has curated several exhibitions, including “Rococo Exotic: French Mounted Porcelains and the Allure of the East,” which was held at the Frick Collection in 2007.

Eighteenth-century European encounters with Asia were largely mediated by things, and among the most highly prized of these was porcelain, a material whose technological secrets had eluded Europeans for centuries. Focusing on the French practice of mounting Asian ceramics in gilt bronze settings, this paper will explore how these hybrid luxury objects served as sites of sensuous engagement with Chinese and Japanese artistic forms. Mounts not only attracted the eye to the foreign object, but also activated the desire to touch, handle, and even to smell it. The generation of a specialized terminology to describe this encounter and of an ornamental mode to enhance it suggests porcelains were not alien forms domesticated by the addition of French ormolu, but alluring objects appreciated for their different, but no less admirable, aesthetic qualities.

Light refreshments will be served at 5:45 pm. The presentation will begin at 6:00 pm.

RSVP is required. Please click on the registration link at the bottom of this page or contact [email protected]

PLEASE NOTE that our Lecture Hall can only accommodate a limited number of people, so please come early if you would like to have a seat in the main room. We also have overflow seating available; all registrants who arrive late will be seated in the overflow area.