Rienzi Symposium

Established in 2014, the biennial Rienzi symposium focuses on topics inspired by the decorative arts, with papers presented by emerging scholars. The next symposium is planned for the fall of 2023.

The symposium “Hidden Hands: Untold Stories of the Object” was presented on November 6, 2021, in conjuction with Rienzi’s fall exhibition, Hidden Hands: Invisible Workers in Industrial England.

Questions? Contact rienzi@mfah.org

Hidden Hands: Untold Stories of the Object

Geographic exploration and colonial expansion led to the introduction of new materials and technological innovation in the early modern period. These developments increased demand for goods made of ceramics, glass, exotic woods, textiles, and metals. The refining of raw materials and the production of these goods relied on a diverse labor force of men, women, and children from across the globe. Despite the integral roles these workers played, their names and contributions are often lost to history. Who were they? How did they interact and engage with the new materials? What social, political, and economic forces contributed to excluding their narratives? The symposium invited scholars to reconsider established ideas of craftsmanship and artistic authorship through telling these “hidden” stories.

Hidden Hands: Invisible Workers in Industrial England
September 1, 2021–January 9, 2022

Selected Papers | Program Schedule
10 a.m. Session 1: Industry and Craft
• “Hidden Hands: Invisible Workers in Industrial England” | Misty Flores, Assistant Curator, Rienzi 
• “All the Names: Recovering the Ignored Authorship of Metal-Casting Patterns” | Javier Fernández Vázquez, PhD Candidate, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM)
• “Hidden Hands for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel in Tokyo” | Daichi Shigemoto, PhD Student, The University of Texas at Austin
• Q&A
• Break (30 minutes)

11:40 a.m. Session 2: Cultural Exchanges in the Americas
• “Lightweight Sculpting: About Admiration and Exclusion” | Alfredo A. Ortega-Ordaz, Conservator, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
• “The Yucatan Hammock as a Product of Mayan Women: Tradition, Adaptation, and Resistance” | Marco Díaz-Güemez, PhD, Research Professor, Escuela Superior de Artes de Yucatán
• “A Toilette in Their Fashion: Indigenizing the Dressing Table in the French Atlantic World” | Philippe Halbert, PhD Candidate, Yale University
• Q&A
• Break (10 minutes)

1:05 p.m. Session 3: Movement of People and Ideas
• “Mustafa di Ramadano: Slavery Hidden in the Hardstones of the Cappella dei Principi” | Lindsay Alberts, PhD, Professor, SCAD
• “The Caribbean Origins of European Craftsmanship: A Case Study in Rum” | Jordan Smith, PhD, Assistant Professor, Widener University
• “Unraveling Cook’s Voyage: Repopulating the Colonial Exotic” | Bindy Barclay, Freelance Writer and Researcher
• Q&A

Contact rienzi@mfah.org

Education programs at Rienzi receive generous funding from the Sterling-Turner Foundation; Alkek and Williams Foundation; Carroll Sterling and Harris Masterson III Endowment; and the Caroline Wiess Law Endowment for Rienzi.