CFP: Creatures of Comfort, 1650-1950

Rienzi, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston’s house museum for European decorative arts, celebrates its 15th anniversary as a public collection with the symposium, “Creatures of Comfort: 1650-1950.” By examining the period from 1650 to 1950, how and why did the concept of comfort evolve and become an important part of European and American cultures? What objects, inventions, aesthetic or cultural changes improved ones’ physical or emotional well-being simply by making life more comfortable?

Rienzi houses a significant European collection of paintings, sculpture, furniture, porcelain, and silver from the mid-17th to mid-19th centuries. Built in 1953 as a residence and now a house museum, Rienzi evokes the fine European country houses of the 18th century with formal, yet comfortable, furnishings, entertaining and private spaces, and rooms specifically designed for the enjoyment of family and friends. Rienzi also retains many modern amenities such as central air conditioning, a dishwasher, an elevator and other luxurious essentials that defined the ultimate comforts in America in the 1950s.

The “Creatures of Comfort: 1650-1950” symposium offers academics and emerging scholars an opportunity to explore the ever-changing role of comfort in European and American cultures. The symposium will take place at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, from Friday, September 19, 2014, through Sunday, September 21, 2014.

Call for Papers

We invite masters, doctorial students and emerging scholars to direct all submissions to  Selected participants will be notified by July 1, 2014. Participants will be offered a $600 travel and lodging stipend.  All presentations will be given on Saturday, September 20, and Sunday, September 21, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Deadline for abstracts: May 1, 2014

Abstract length: 400 words outlining a twenty-minute presentation, along with a current CV

Possible themes of investigation may include, but are not limited to:

  • Interiors
  • Design
  • Architecture
  • Dining
  • Privacy

Leisure Activities

  • Etiquette
  • Gender
  • Costume
  • Travel
  • Technology
  • Economics 

The keynote address will be given on Friday, September 19,2014 by Dr. Joan DeJean, Cultural Historian and Trustee Professor of Romance Languages at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research includes the cultural history and the material culture of late 17th- and early 18th-century France.  She is the author of ten books on French literature, history, and material culture, including, The Essence of Style, How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafes, Style, and SophisticationThe Age of Comfort: When Paris Discovered Casual and the Modern Home Began, and her most recent publication, How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City.

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