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Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies URPP Asia and Europe (2006–2017)

A l’Orientale - Collecting, Displaying and Appropriating Islamic Art and Architecture in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries

Conference, May 4–6, 2017


Prof. Dr. Francine Giese (Universität Zürich), Prof. Dr. Mercedes Volait (CNRS/InVisu), Dr. Ariane Varela Braga (Universität Zürich)

Keynote Speakers

Kjeld v. Folsach (David Collection Kopenhagen), Yannick Lintz (Musée du Louvre), Tim Stanley (V&A London), Stefan Weber (Museum für Islamische Kunst Berlin)


Institute of Art History, URPP Asia and Europe, Museum Rietberg Zürich, and Moser Familienmuseum Charlottenfels der Heinrich und Henri Moser Stiftung in Neuhausen bei Schaffhausen


May 4, 2017: Museum Rietberg Zurich, Park-Villa Rieter, Vortragssaal, Seestrasse 110, 8002 Zurich
May 5, 2017: University of Zurich, Aula (RAA-G-01), Rämistrasse 59, 8001 Zurich
May 6, 2017: Charlottenfels Castle, Charlottenweg 2, 8212 Neuhausen am Rheinfall


The Swiss Orient traveler Henri Moser Charlottenfels (1844-1923) is considered one of the pioneering 19th-century amateurs of Islamic Art, because of his activity as collector and exhibitor. His continuously growing collection had made Moser famous from 1876 onwards through much-noticed traveling exhibitions in and outside of Switzerland. His collection was later displayed permanently at the widely known private museum he established in 1906 at the Charlottenfels Castle near Schaffhausen. Through his 1914 donation to the Bern Historical Museum, Moser assured that after his disappearance the Orientalische Sammlung Henri Moser Charlottenfels (Oriental collection Henri Moser Charlottenfels) of over 4000 objects would remain available to the public in an exhibition hall specially built for that purpose.

The conference wants to present Henri Moser and his collection in an international context. Does Moser’s activity of collecting and exhibiting Islamic art reflect a widespread tendency of his period? How have strategies of presentation, re-contextualisation and didactics changed since the 19th century? To what extent have private collections influenced the making of Islamic departments in national museums? And which role did private collectors such as Moser play in transmitting and appropriating Islamic art and architecture in the West during the 19th and early 20th century?

The conference will open on Thursday, 4th May 2017, with a first section on „Displaying Islamic Art“ at the Museum Rietberg, with a roundtable discussion with representatives of the most important European collections of Islamic Art. The second day will take place at the University of Zurich and will be dedicated to the section „Appropriating Islamic Art and Architecture“. Finally, a third section regarding „Collecting Islamic Art“, taking place on Saturday, 6th May 2017, will bring the topic to a close in Charlottenfels Castle.

Weiterführende Informationen