Ólafur Rastrick: Porcelain Dogs and Hidden Treasures. On the Task of Icelandic Cultural History in the 1920s
Exploring the cultural status and role of the porcelain dog figure in Iceland during the 1920s as a point of departure the article seeks to examine the social agenda that calls for enhanced research on Icelandic cultural history were based on. Generally presumed to be of Danish bred the highly popular porcelain dog came in the period to function as a symbol of cultural menace. At the same time, as national confidence mounted with the Icelandic state obtaining sovereign status in 1918, a lacuna seemed to present itself in the eyes of the local intelligentsia with regard to the nation’s cultural past. With the exception of language and literature, culture in the aesthetic sense seemed suspiciously absent from Icelandic history. Several local intellectuals identified the need to rectify this apparent deficiency that appeared to have been caused by important aspects of Icelandic cultural history having faded into oblivion. The article entertains the idea that this call for enhanced research was based on comparison with the idealised exemplar of the so-called cultured nations while simultaneously but conversely rejecting aspects of contemporary popular culture, such as the porcelain dog, as an alien and injuriously adversary to true Icelandic culture.
Keywords: cultural history, art history, cultural heritage, cultural menace, incompleteness