Institut für Kunstgeschichte


Prof. Dr. Noémie Etienne

SNSF Professor

Abteilung für Kunstgeschichte der Neuzeit (KN)

+41 31 684 32 81
Institut für Kunstgeschichte
Mittelstrasse 43
3012 Bern

Research Topics

  • Art and Material Culture from the 17th to 19th Centuries
  • Exoticism in Europe, 17th and 18th Centuries
  • Restoration and Conservation Practices
  • Diorama and Exhibition History
  • Early Modern Artistic Literature
  • Digital Humanities

1. The Exotic? Integration, Exhibition, and Imitation of Non-Western Material Culture in Europe (1600-1800)

This research project explores how, during the 17th and 18th centuries, foreign material culture was introduced into France and Switzerland and integrated into European interiors and decorative arts. Scholars have emphasized this era’s emerging taste for the exotic in order to explain the unprecedented craze for lacquer, porcelain and textiles that imitated non-Western techniques and iconography. Others refer to Edward Said’s concept of Orientalism in order to politicize such interest in Asia, India and the Americas. What constituted the exotic during the age of Enlightenment? How was the place of foreign material culture negotiated, at various scales and in various contexts? And how did it impact European identities? This project intends to move from questions about the nature of exoticism to explore exoticism in practice. The physical relocation of material fragments in European interiors and objects will be at its core.

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2. The Art of Diorama (1400-2000)

Dioramas are at the crossroads of artistic and scientific practices. They bring together painters, sculptors, scientists, and collectors, thus providing an opportunity to reflect on the polyvalence of these actors and the nature of their expertise. The painter and scientist Louis Daguerre coined the term “diorama” in 1822 to describe his new illusionist theater in Paris. In addition to providing theatrical and visual experiences, dioramas are multidimensional installations that incorporate paintings, objects, stuffed animals or mannequins. Understood as composite and hybrid things, they share formal similarities with Italian Presepe (Nativity Scene), Renaissance sculpted groups, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century wax groups, or even contemporary installation art. Can art history be useful in studying these objects, and, conversely, can dioramas help shed light on neglected objects and ideas in the discipline? How might they enable us to rethink traditional concepts in the field, such as authorship, authenticity, and realism? This research project underscores the importance of dioramas as trans-historical, trans-cultural media.


Dr. Etienne also co-founded and co-directed the interdisciplinary project Eternal Tour between 2005 and 2011, and is a founding editor of Journal18.


  • La restauration des peintures à Paris, 1750-1815. Pratiques et discours sur la matérialité des oeuvres d’art, Rennes, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2012.

  • The Restoration of Paintings in Paris, 1750-1815. Practice, Discourse, Materiality, translated by Sharon Grevet, Los Angeles, Getty Publications, 2016.


Edited Books and Journals

  • Founding editor of Journal18, a journal for Eighteenth Century art and culture (with Meredith Martin and Hannah Williams).

  • "Things between Worlds. Creating Exoticism and Authenticity in the West, from the 19th Century to the Present," guest editor, Material Culture Review, Cap Breton, 2014.

  • À Bras le Corps. Image, matérialité et devenir des corps, Paris, Presses du Réel, 2013 (editor with Agnès Vannouvong).

  • L’histoire à l’atelier. Restaurer les œuvres d’art, 18e-21e siècles, Lyon, Presses universitaire de Lyon, 2012 (editor with Léonie Hénaut).


Peer reviewed Articles

  • "Memory in Action. Clothing, Art and Authenticity in Anthropological Dioramas (New York, 1900)," Material Culture Review, Cap Breton, Canada, 2014, pp. 46-59.

  • "Artworks in Progress: The Restoration, Reception and Requalification of Things," Zeitschrift für Schweizerische Archäologie und Kunstgeschichte, Band 71, Heft 1, 2014, pp. 5-14.

  • "La restauration des peintures à Paris, 1750-1815: état de la recherche et perspectives," Patrimoines. Revue de l’Institut du Patrimoine, Paris, 2013, pp. 86-91.

  • "Un artiste connaisseur? L’expertise du restaurateur au XVIIIe siècle," Revue de Synthèse, t.132, 6e série, no.1, 2011, pp. 1-17.

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2018 Guest Professor, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
2016 – SNSF Professor, University of Bern
2015 – 2016 Postdoctoral Fellow, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles
2013 – 2015 Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of Fine Arts-NYU, New York
2013 Scientific Assistant (teaching and research), University of Zurich
2012 Visiting Scholar, New York University, and Postdoctoral Fellow, SNSF
2011 PhD in Art History, University of Geneva and Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
2009 – 2010 University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, and Predoctoral Fellow, Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)
2005–2011 Scientific Assistant (teaching and research), University of Geneva