Holly Shaffer specializes in 18th and 19th century art and architecture in South Asia, Britain, and the British empire.
Her book, Grafted Arts: Art Making and Taking in the Struggle for Western India, 1760-1910 (Paul Mellon Centre with Yale University Press, 2022), which won the AIIS Edward C. Dimock, Jr. Prize, focuses on Maratha military rulers and British East India Company officials who used the arts to engage in diplomacy, wage war, compete for prestige, and generate devotion as they allied with, or fought against, each other to control western India. This book conceptualizes the artistic combinations that resulted through “graft”—a term that acknowledges the violent and creative processes of suturing arts, and losing and gaining goods, as well as the shifting dynamics among agents who assembled such materials in India and in Britain.
She has edited Volume 51 of Ars Orientalis on the Graphic Arts (2021), which focuses on how interlocking practices of making, collecting, compiling, and publishing graphic arts across Asia and between regions in Asia and Europe encouraged the replication, and also the subtle transformation of forms, opening up new possibilities for interpretation. This is part of a continuing project on the migration and reinvention of forms among different media—including paintings, chromolithographic prints, photographic albums, and printed books.
Another long-term project focuses on ephemeral arts, with an attention to the relationships between food and art, including ingredients and vessels, spaces of artistic exhibition and culinary consumption, and the discussion of taste in printed publications.