RÊVE: Romantic Europe the Virtual Exhibition

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The following post is by Alice Rhodes (University of York). If you haven’t heard of RÊVE before, then read on to find out more about this exciting project:

RÊVE (Romantic Europe: The Virtual Exhibition) is an interdisciplinary online project which showcases iconic European Romantic objects, places, and texts in a series of original blog posts from researchers and heritage professionals from across the continent. The virtual exhibition aims to assess and reassess Romanticism’s transnational perspectives and to provide an innovative resource for teaching, thinking and writing about Romanticism in new and productive ways. RÊVE is the core project of ERA (European Romanticisms in Association), a group which brings together scholarly associations and heritage organisations, including BARS, from around Europe.

The exhibition currently contains 26 exhibits, and existing and upcoming posts feature a wealth of Romantic objects of all kinds, from furniture, clothing and jewellery, to publications and artworks, and even clouds, caves, trees and mountains. Some of the most recent highlights include:

  • Fragment of a cancelled copper plate from William Blake’s America: Dr Robert Rix (University of Copenhagen) presents a one-of-a-kind fragment from one of the copper plates that Blake used to print his Illuminated Books. The plate is the only surviving fragment to demonstrate Blake’s etching process and provides a unique insight into Blake’s techniques.
  • Shakespeare’s Chair and the Polish Princess: Professor Nicola Watson (Open University) traces the European journey of this unlikely piece of literary memorabilia from a kitchen in Stratford-upon-Avon to the garden of Polish princess, Izabela Dorota Czartoryska and its place in the first Polish museum.
  • Petȍfi’s Wallet: Zsuzsanna Zeke (Petőfi Literary Museum, Budapest) introduces a wallet given to the poet Sándor Petőfiby his wife Júlia Szendrey and explores the keepsake’s place in Petőfi’s transformation into the Hungarian national poet.
  • Every House of the Ant-Hill on the Plain: Richard Horwood’s London:Dr Matthew Sangster (University of Glasgow) explores Romantic London via Richard Horwood’s “NEVER BEFORE ATTEMPTED” plan of the city, engraved in painstaking detail over a period of nine years.

The above blog posts, along with a whole host of other exhibits exploring the material (and sometimes immaterial) objects which define Romantic Europe can be viewed here.

The associated AHRC-funded project Dreaming Romantic Europe (DREAM) led by Professor Nicola J. Watson (Open University) and Professor Catriona Seth (All Souls, Oxford) launched in autumn 2018 and is due to run until June 2020. Its core endeavour is to continue to build RÊVE to 100+ exhibits through running three major workshops and associated satellite events. More generally, it is designed to build an extensive pan-European network of scholars, scholarly associations, and museums. Workshop 1 ‘Consuming Romanticism’ was held November 9-10, 2018, Maison de Chateaubriand, La Vallée-aux-Loups, Paris. The Maison de Chateaubriand was marking the 250th anniversary of Chateaubriand’s birth, staging events and exhibitions including one devoted to Napoleon, ‘L’Empire en Boîte’, so ERA members were delighted to be the guests of the museum as part of these celebrations. 16 participants were asked to address a core question – ‘How did contemporaries construct themselves through objects (broadly conceived) as consumers of Romanticism?’ – through producing an exhibit for RÊVE, consisting of an image plus a micro-essay of no more than 1000 words drawn from original research. They were also asked to reflect upon the experience of rethinking Romanticisms in terms of the microhistories of Romantic objects, addressing questions such as: What has RÊVE so far revealed about previous and potential ways of thinking about Romanticism as a pan-European phenomenon? What has working with the RÊVE format taught us so far? How might we best develop RÊVEas a virtual museum? Workshop 2 is planned for October 2019 in Ravenna at the Museo Byron under the rubric ‘Romantic Authorship’, and Workshop 3 ‘Romantic Media’ is scheduled for June 2020 in association with the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere.

Maison de Chateaubriand

We are also delighted to be bringing DREAM and RÊVE to this year’s BARS conference, where we’ll be presenting two panels: Dreaming Romantic Europe: facts and their fantasies, which will bring together 9 senior scholars of Romanticism to present their own innovative research in the form of RÊVE exhibits and a partnered ECR workshop which will use RÊVE’s approach of object microhistories to investigate a further 5 Romantic objects.

If you’d like to know more, find us at the BARS 16th International Conference, ‘Romantic Facts and Fantasies’, in Nottingham, follow ERA on twitter @euromanticism and view the exhibition here.