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Techniques of collage were first used at the time of the invention of paper in China, around 200 BC. The use of collage, however, wasn't used by many people until the 10th century in Japan, when calligraphers began to apply glued paper, using texts on surfaces, when writing their poems. The technique of collage appeared in medieval Europe during the 13th century. Gold leaf panels started to be applied in Gothic cathedrals around the 15th and 16th centuries. Gemstones and other precious metals were applied to religious images, icons, and also, to coats of arms. An 18th-century example of collage art can be found in the work of Mary Delany. In the 19th century, collage methods also were used among hobbyists for memorabilia (e. g. applied to photo albums) and books (e. g. Hans Christian Andersen, Carl Spitzweg). Many institutions have attributed the beginnings of the practice of collage to Picasso and Braque in 1912, however, early Victorian photocollage suggest collage techniques were practiced in the early 1860s. Many institutions recognize these works as memorabilia for hobbyists, though they functioned as a facilitator of Victorian aristocratic collective portraiture, proof of female erudition, and presented a new mode of artistic representation that questioned the way in which photography is truthful. In 2009, curator Elizabeth Siegel organized the exhibition: Playing with Pictures at the Art Institute Chicago to acknowledge collage works by Alexandra of Denmark and Mary Georgina Filmer among others. The exhibition later traveled to The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Art Gallery of Ontario.

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