German Historical Institute London

17 Bloomsbury Square
London WC1A 2NJ
United Kingdom

Phone: +44 (0)20 - 7309 2050
Fax: +44 (0)20 - 7309 2055 / 7404 5573


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Urban and Elegant: The Aesthetics of Living in the Modern European City

Public Lecture Series

organised and introduced by Dr Anna Ananieva, Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow at Queen Mary University of London

The Public Lecture Series will provide an overview of the European topography of the so-called 'elegant world', an imaginary community of urban origin which gradually superseded predominant social and gender norms in the 19th Century.

Leading international academics will discuss specific media, spaces, and cultural practices of the European urban elite in detail, focusing on the aesthetics of their lifestyle in the imperial metropolises of London, Paris, and Saint Petersburg, as well as in aspiring Central and Eastern European cities. Lectures will be held at two neighbouring venues on Bloomsbury Square to emphasise the cross-cultural European character of the topic: Pushkin House is hosting the first lecture and the German Historical Institute London will be welcoming the second and third events.

24 April

Olga Vainshtein (Moscow)
Rules of Elegance. Russian and British Dandyism in the 19th Century

Venue: Pushkin House,
5A Bloomsbury Square,
London WC1A 2TA
Music and Function room,
1st Floor
Tickets: £7 / £5

25 May

Joachim Rees (Berlin)
Selling the Metropolis. Friedrich Justin Bertuch’s Journal „London and Paris“ and the Mediations of Elegance around 1800

Venue: German Historical Institute London

The lecture is free but registration is required. Please book your ticket here.

In 1798 Friedrich Justin Bertuch, a Weimar-based entrepreneur and publisher, added another ambitious periodical to his already impressive portfolio: The newly established journal "London und Paris" catered to provincial audiences that were trying to come to terms with the fascinating and disturbing phenomenon of the "metropolis". Such cities were completely absent in the culturally diverse and politically fragmented landscape of German-speaking countries of the time, which contributed to the sense of 'otherness' in the literary portrayals of London and Paris as emerging "world capitals" at the dawn of the 19th century. However, Bertuch's new journal had to strike a balance between a cultural othering of the metropolis and a vivid evocation of its allures, even more so because another highly successful production of his publishing house, the "Journal des Luxus und der Moden", tapped into this notion of an imagined capital as the pinnacle of commodified elegance. The lecture sets out to explore some of the visual and textual strategies by which Bertuch tried to sell the metropolis alternately as an amoral abyss and an epitome of elegance.

Joachim Rees is Professor of Early Modern Art History in a Transcultural Perspective at Free University Berlin. His recent publications include Die verzeichnete Fremde. Formen und Funktionen des Zeichnens im Kontext europäischer Forschungsreisen 1770–1830 (2015), and The Itineraries of Art. Topographies of Artistic Mobility in Europe and Asia (2015).

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6 July

Annegret Pelz (Vienna)
Diary, Scrapbook, Panorama of Social Life. Prince Hermann von Pueckler-Muskau‘s „Pictorial Souvenirs“ from England

Venue: German Historical Institute London

The talk focuses on the most fashionable German nobleman and writer of widely appreciated books on landscape gardening and traveling: Prince Hermann von Pueckler-Muskau. After having travelled through England in 1826-1829, Pueckler-Muskau published his observations on the fashionable world and social life in a four-volume work entitled “Briefe eines Verstorbenen“ (1830–1831). The animated and witty book was very soon translated into English by Sarah Austin and appeared on the book market as “Tour of a German Prince” (1831-1832).

A lesser-known fact is that the Prince kept journals during his travels: four leather-bound folio volumes with notes on prints, portraits and caricatures, which he collected while traveling. Little attention has been paid to these “scrapbooks”, or more precisely, albums, in which he documented and reflected on his travels. This talk considers the relationship between these travel albums and Pueckler’s literary work. It sketches the social and cultural background of Pueckler’s travels and highlights the transition from private journal to public book series, from pictorial souvenirs to literary text.

Annegret Pelz is Professor of German Literature at the University of Vienna and currently Head of the Research Platform “Mobile Cultures and Societies. Interdisciplinary Studies on Transnational Formations.” She is the author of three monographs and editor of seven volumes and has published widely on women's writing, travel writing and travel literature, on portable media and mixed-media collection formats such as the album and the notebook.

The lecture is free but registration is required. Please book your ticket here.

Download flyer (PDF file)


Download flyer (PDF file)