My research is a comparative study of the evolution of the ‘pietra dura’ or (hard)stone inlay technique in its two main historical capitals : Florence, Italy, and Agra, India. Based on a documentary study as well as an ethnographic survey with the artisans and sellers of this particular kind of mosaic, it focuses on the transition from a prestigious court craftsmanship under the patronage of the Medici and the Moghuls to a commodity in today’s context of massive cultural tourism. I intend to observe and analyse the ways in which the various practices of this craft and the discourses about it both follow and take part in the touristic dynamic of the city, in a reciprocal dialogue that ends up creating and promoting a local, regional or national identity. My study will also highlight the relationships and exchanges between the Italian and Indian production centres, how they have been compared by various writers and historians and how they compete today.
Could you please tell us a bit more about your scholarship/exchange programme?
My 6-month-research stay at Oxford was made possible thanks to a partnership between my school, EHESS (School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences), and the Maison Française d’Oxford.
These months in the UK will enable me to study the local archives and museum collections. Thus, I'll be able to look specifically into the key role of British agents, travellers and collectors in the trade and perhaps patronage of this type of mosaics, especially in the context of the 19th century that saw the most significant evolutions of this technique.
First impressions of Oxford/the University?
I feel very grateful and privileged to join the academic effervescence of this elegant and pleasant city. The MFO provides a stimulating and comfortable environment for studying as well as for having fruitful conversations with international students and scholars of Oxford from different fields and disciplines.