Emotions form an integral part of everyday lives. They drive cultural, social, political and economic change. Sometimes without us realising it, modern day emotions are intertwined with objects - such as porcelain - that have shaped history.
Professor Susan Broomhall, Deputy Director and Chief Investigator at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (Europe 1100-1800) at The University of Western Australia, will give a Masterclass on the topic at the Art Gallery of WA lecture theatre on Friday 4 November.
Her talk, which begins at 7pm, is associated with the Gallery's current Victoria and Albert Museum Princely Treasures Exhibition.
"As is the case today, cultural and economic forms of power were just as important in the past to dynastic, national and international politics," Professor Broomhall said. "The current Victoria and Albert collection is a wonderful representation of this power through objects."
The collection ranges from King George III's cane to the development of the porcelain industry and the manufacture and exchange of snuffboxes.
According to Professor Broomhall, the Dutch in particular knew how to use the power of porcelain. During the 17th century, Holland was the only European country importing Chinese porcelain, making it an intensely desirable object of power.
"Porcelain not only reflected contact with the exotic East but vases in particular reflected the craze for the equally exotic tulip which had taken the Dutch Republic by storm," Dr Broomhall said.
"These cultural tastes were transferred by women as they married across Europe, taking their tea sets and tulip vases with them. By the eighteenth century though, these objects signalled political power for elite men as well. Kings across Europe commissioned vast rooms and displays of porcelain as a sign of their access to foreign trade and their good taste in art."
Once Europeans had cracked the secret of porcelain-making, manufacturers Meissen - and later Sèvres and Wedgewood - created new forms for European markets. Sèvres porcelain was more fragile because French makers could not obtain a key ingredient for hard-paste porcelain.
Manufacturing techniques of different national porcelain companies created niche consumer markets to cater for social habits such as intimate tea, coffee and chocolate parties hosted by 18th century women in France and large-scale formal dinners using more serviceable, ceremonial collections created by England's Wedgewood.
"The Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition reminds us that these too are all objects of war as well as objects of beauty - political, cultural and economic war," Professor Broomhall said.
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