Submission deadline:

March 20, 2023

Celebrations at Court: Ephemeral Objects, Materials, and Machineries in the Early Modern Period

November 2-3, 2023

2 – 3 November 2023 at the University of Copenhagen and at Kronborg Castle in Elsinore, Denmark.

Confirmed Keynotes:
Professor Pamela Smith, Columbia University.
Professor Mara Wade, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Professor Simon Werrett, University College London.

Enhancing the cultural prestige and power of the princely dynasties, early modern European courts invested vast amounts of resources and effort into various art forms at their festivities, including ephemeral objects. With this international conference the organizers wish to explore the appearances and functions of ephemeral objects, materials, and machineries used at court festivities, and their relations to spectacles and performances in general. The focus will be on the 16th and 17th centuries, potentially drawing lines to the periods before and after.

The organizers seek contributions that discuss how various technologies were utilized in staging festivities at court, and encourage presentations that reflect on the notions of art and nature as well as preconditions related to import, production, and handling of the materials used in the celebrations. The organizers hope to attract interdisciplinary attention to a field crossing over different aspects of the visual, material, and technical culture of the time and welcome both empirically and more theoretically founded analyses.

Contributions in the form of papers (15-20 min.) or posters (accompanied with short orals, 3
min.) might shed light on some of the following questions (but are not limited to these):
Ephemeral objects, materials, and technology
 What types of technology and machinery were used and how were they integrated in
 What were the concepts of materials and resources underlying the productions?
 How did artists’ mobility, cultural exchange, and trade in materials influence the transferring
of knowledge related to the making of spectacles?
Iconography and affect
 How were the multisensory spectacles and fireworks received/perceived by the audiences?
 How was allegory and symbolic content integrated in the festivals and for what purposes?
 How were firework spectacles designed and staged?
 What were the relations between the designing and production of fireworks and that of
artillery/equipment for military purposes?
Architectural framings
 What role did royal sites (castles, town squares, parks etc.) as well as the overall urban
fabric play as frameworks for the spectacles?
Theory and methodology
 Which concepts of art and nature were embedded in the spectacles and the equipment,
machineries, and other objects integrated into them?
 How did books and prints influence presentations and circulations of theory and practice of
materials and techniques related to the spectacles?
 How do we analyze fleeting performances, experiences, and ephemeral objects of the past,
and what are the potentials of reenactments today?

Please submit proposals with:
 Your full name, current affiliation, and email address.
 Paper title (15-word maximum).
 Paper abstract (200-word maximum).
 CV (1-page maximum).
 Date of PhD completion (past or expected) or other relevant degree.
Submissions will be accepted until 20 March 2023. Please send submission materials to Maria Fabricius Hansen (

The conference is organized by Professor in Art History Maria Fabricius Hansen (University of Copenhagen, Denmark), Painting Conservator Anne Haack Christensen (SMK, National Gallery of Art, Denmark, and PhD fellow Casper Thorhauge Mønsted (University of Copenhagen, Denmark).
The conference is generously supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation.

Further information about the conference and how to register will be posted later this spring here.

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