Materials of Empire: Colonial Narratives 1700–1860

  • Jan 15, 2022Jul 31, 2022
  • Houston, TX


Portuguese earrings from a Parure, c. 1780–1820, emeralds, diamonds, and yellow gold with silver overlay, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Rienzi Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harris Masterson III.

This exhibition explores objects from the Rienzi Collection that shed light on the links between Europe, Africa, the Americas, and India. This small exhibition examines the stories objects reveal as well as conceal, and places them within the context of entangled legacies and experiences of empire.

This exhibition at the MFA Houston explores the legacies of empire. Exploration, war, scientific expeditions, and religious missions feature prominently in the history of Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. These factors fueled an age of discovery in which thousands of ships transported explorers, merchants, and migrants from Europe to far-reaching destinations.

Vessels bound back to Europe carried cargo such as gold, silver, sugar, and tobacco. The ships also transported millions of enslaved men, women, and children from Africa to points across the empires to serve as labor in the cultivation of the new materials. Every crossing brought new encounters and confrontations between people and ways of life, resulting in a complex cultural landscape.

Learn more