Africa Collecting Europe: Patronage and Power in Ethiopia, 1468–1530

Under contract with the University of Pennsylvania Press

This monographic project expands on the topics first explored in Medieval Ethiopian Kingship by centring long-neglected material culture sources from Christian Ethiopia to tease out an untold story about the assertion of power in a pre-colonial African kingdom. Focussing on a period of alleged political decline (the years between ca. 1470–1530 CE), it mines the object histories of dozens of religious works — ranging from locally painted blonde Madonnas and pseudo-Flemish crucifixion scenes to imported icons and enamels from Crete, Flanders, and France — for their contexts of production, acquisition, modification, and utilisation by the Ethiopian Christian nobility. Placing these objects in their historical context and studying the connection between courtly patronage practices and political actions at a moment of crucial change, Africa Collecting Europe traces a moment of cultural efflorescence in late-medieval kingdom in the Horn of Africa where 'exotic' religious material culture manifested and asserted both piety and power. The book offers a radically new view on a fascinating time in early Solomonic Ethiopian Christian history — and, like my first monograph, demonstrates the realm's carefully cultivated and long-lasting connections with other parts of the world.