Jeffrey L. Collins will give a Work-in-Progress talk on Thursday, November 9, at 12:15 pm. His talk is entitled “Ship Shape: Incense Boats across the Early Modern Globe.”

Beginning in the late fifteenth century, the spread of European merchants and missionaries in search of new territory was accompanied by a tide of Western material culture, including objects and implements associated with Catholic Christianity. Among these was the incense boat or navicula, typically crafted of silver and modeled on the very ocean-going ships that brought them and their first owners and users to sites across the globe. Housing resins that were themselves both a tool of evangelization and an international commodity, naviculaeembody the spread of commerce and Christianity and suggest important links between the two. This study investigates the form’s development and dispersal during the heyday of exploration and colonization, when liturgical vessels of strikingly similar conception appeared across vast physical and cultural distances. At the same time, case studies of specific examples from the Americas, Africa, and Asia suggest how seemingly ubiquitous and globalized objects may nonetheless have carried distinct and specific local meanings for the individuals and communities that made, used, or viewed them.

Jeffrey L. Collins is a Professor at Bard Graduate Center. His current research explores the links between archeology, museology, and neoclassicism in eighteenth-century Italy by following the changing forms and fortunes of a group of ancient statuary from its excavation near Tivoli through installation at the new Vatican Museum, seizure under Napoleon, and return to Rome after Waterloo.