Independent researcher, Belgrade, Serbia

AUKCIJSKI ZABORAV: pitanje otuđene i ekspatrisane zaostavštine dinastije Obrenović
AUCTION-INDUCED FORGETTING: the Question of Alienated and Expatriated Legacy of the House of Obrenović

Journal 13/2017 (Museum of Applied Art), pages 9-21

Article category: original scientific paper


Abstract (original language):
Destrukcija i otuđenje materijalnih svedočanstava sastavni su deo aktivnog zaborava u uslovima kada kulturnu politiku diktira rezon ustoličen ishodom radikalnih društveno-političkih previranja. Tako je i „vartolomejskom“smenom na srpskom prestolu 1903. primat često ustupan ideološkim slojevima dokumentarnosti artefakata svrgnute dinastije, pre nego umetničkim i upotrebnim vrednostima, te se na osnovu istih određivao njihov dalji status. Posle Majskog prevrata, značajan deo pokretne imovine Obrenovića je vandalizovan, poharan što u mirnodopskim, što u uslovima stranih okupacija, ili je, nakon više aukcijskih prodaja, završio u privatnim zbirkama evropskih kolekcionara.

Autor nastoji da isprati način na koji je od izvornog konteksta otrgnuta poslednja navedena grupa memorabilija, s naglaskom na zaostavštini ponuđenoj na aukcijama u „Kristiju“ (Christie's) 1904. i „Doroteumu“ (Dorotheum) 1905, čiji su nemali deo činila vredna dela primenjene umetnosti. Iz kritičkog vidokruga neće biti izostavljeni ni retki slučajevi „repatrijacije“ pojedinih predmeta iz zaostavštine, kao ni činjenica da su memorabilije dinastije Obrenović i dalje predmet trgovine i aukcijskih transfera.

Key words: (original language)
zaostavština Obrenovića, aukcija, zaborav, ekspatrijacija, repatrijacija

Destruction and alienation of heritage traces are an integral part of active forgetting introduced by the outcome of political overthrows. In determining the status of the legacy of the House of Obrenović in the aftermath of the 1903 change of rulling dynasty on the Serbian throne, an analogous raison d'être was put into force. Following the bloody coup, a large amount of movable goods of the deposed royal house was either vandalised or plundered, either ended up as auction lots.

The sales of dynastic effects on domestic soil were but an overture to a far wider auction activities abroad. Thus, on 8 December 1904, Queen Draga's property, consisting of costumes and jewels, was auctioned at Christie's of London, in favour of the late queen's sisters. It sparked interest among bidders and merchants trading in luxuries, who were attracted by the possibility of adding unique items to their collections, whose high-quality craftsmanship was granted by the fact that they had once belonged to a royal persona. Nevertheless, despite the initial pomp, the prices realised were far below expectation.

The subsequent sale at the Viennese Dorotheum, from 10 to 16 October 1905, was not only the largest in terms of quantity of the Obrenović memorabilia, but also in number of items offered to this auction house up to that point. Comprised of complete suites of furniture, silver, glass, and porcelain services, decorative objects, gifts of crowned heads and statesmen, and works of art, this auction was unparalleled in attesting to the court culture during the reign of the last Obrenović rulers. It was initiated for fundraising purposes by Queen Nathalie, but motives of a more personal nature – primarily, the necessity of forgetting the tragic past these articles evoked – prompted her to make such a decision, the decision which has once again underlined that the meanings with which we invest objects most often prevail over their artistic and utility features.

Though on a much smaller scale, assets related to members of the House of Obrenović have continued to be subject to trade and auction transfers over the course of the 20th and into the 21st centuries. Rare instances in which a portion of the 'expatriated' legacy managed to find its way back to Serbian museum collections are primarily the result of private initiatives, rather than due to a wider cultural platform.

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