18 Nov 2021

Thursday, 7pm


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This webinar is free. Slots are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Ambassador is Spoiling Us: Gifts and Material Diplomacy at the Courts of Siam and France at the End of the Seventeenth Century

In the pre-modern period (c. 1400-1800), gifts were at the core of the ceremonies that accompanied the formal reception of foreign ambassadors. Both in Asia and in Europe, the choreography of the reception of ambassadors was carefully staged. This was the case for the Eurasian ambassadorial exchange between the distant Kingdoms of Siam (Thailand) and France in the 1680s. The fame of this specific diplomatic cross-cultural episode is due to the quantities and value of the gifts presented by the Siamese ambassadors to the Court of France and viceversa by the French ambassadors sent to the court of Siam. This presentation argues that diplomacy should not be read only at the level of rulers, in this case between Phra Narai (r. 1656-88) and Louis XIV (r. 1643-1715). The examination of the gifts themselves shows a series of other actors, most notably the ambassadors, but also Jesuits, merchants and adventurers.












Giorgio Riello is Chair of Early Modern Global History at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy and Professor of Global History and Culture at the University of Warwick, United Kingdom. He is the author of Cotton: The Fabric that Made the Modern World (Cambridge University Press 2013 – winner of the World History Association Book Prize 2014), Luxury: A Rich History (Oxford University Press, 2016 - co-authored with Peter McNeil), and Back in Fashion: Western Fashion from the Middle Ages to the Present (Yale University Press, 2020). He has published on global trade between Europe and Asia, and on material culture and fashion in the early modern period. He has recently co-edited Global Gifts (Cambridge University Press, 2020) and The Right to Dress: Sumptuary in a Global Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 2019). He is currently completing a book (with Dagmar Schaefer) entitled ‘Cultures of Innovation: Silk in Pre-Modern Eurasia’ and he is developing a project entitled ‘European Factories of the Indian Ocean, 1600-1780’ considering the system of trade in the Indian Ocean.



Conan Cheong
Conan Cheong








Conan Cheong is Curator for Southeast Asia at ACM, specialising in Buddhist and Hindu art. He received an MA in Art History and Archaeology under the Alphawood Scholarships at SOAS University of London in 2018. At ACM since 2013, he most recently curated Living with Ink: The Collection of Dr Tan Tsze Chor (2019) and Fashionable in Asia (2021).



Image: ‘Arrival of the French ambassador in Siam’, drawing from the volume Usages du Royaume de Siam, cartes, plans et vues en 1688, c. 1688. Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Estampes et photographie OD-59-PET FOL.



ACMtalks brings leading scholars in conversation with curators at ACM to explore our core curatorial themes: Maritime Trade, Faith & Belief, and Materials & Design. These lectures and discussions will illuminate aspects of the museum’s collection strengths in export art and sacred objects, as well as Asian fashion and textiles, lacquer and silver, jewellery, and ceramics. Webinars take place on the third Thursday of every month, from 7 to 8 pm, Singapore Standard Time (UTC+08).


ACMtalks is supported by Kris Foundation
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Kris Foundation is a non-profit initiative set up in 2009 by Kris Tan. The Foundation is dedicated to empowering young classical musicians in Singapore and the region through its scholarships, support of arts organisations and signature concert series.