Painting, Authority, and Experience at the Twilight of the Grand Siècle, 1688–1721
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CitationWile, Aaron. 2017. Painting, Authority, and Experience at the Twilight of the Grand Siècle, 1688–1721. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation offers a new reading of French painting between the decline of Charles Le Brun and the maturity of Jean-Antoine Watteau, a period long dismissed as a transition to the rococo. Drawing on a constellation of polemical aesthetic debates, it traces how the intellectual and political crises that beset France during the final years of Louis XIV’s reign and the Regency destabilized the sources of authority that previously secured painting’s meaning and mission. Artists’ confrontation with the period’s shifting ground of sovereignty transformed the relationship between painting and spectator, making the encounter with art a moment for the formation of a subjectivity independent of royal power. Contrary to the accounts that have portrayed absolutism as the antithesis of aesthetic innovation, this study thus relocates the story of modern art and subjectivity within the heart of absolutist culture.
Each chapter is centered on a different institution of established authority and the paintings that called the legitimacy of those institutions into question, focusing on the era’s four most innovative artists: Charles de La Fosse, Jean Jouvenet, Antoine Coypel, and Antoine Watteau. Chapter one, on La Fosse’s mythological paintings for the royal retreats of the Trianon de marbre, examines the king’s private body as a new site of artistic freedom as it became increasingly alienated from the representational machinery of the absolutist state. Chapter two, on Jouvenet and La Fosse’s frescos for the dome of the Royal Church at the Invalides, investigates how the paintings pitted the precedence of the mystical bond between God and King against the claims of a newly empowered spectator. Chapter three explores how Coypel’s Gallery of Aeneas, painted for the regent after Louis XIV’s death, responded to the crisis of the hero in the wake of the Sun King by putting forward a new idiom of “modern” painting that spoke to the moral and political stakes of spectatorship during the Regency. A coda, on Watteau’s fêtes galantes, argues that, by eliciting reverie in the spectator, Watteau’s canvases challenged painting’s new-found authority to promote the primacy of the viewer’s private, subjective experience.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41140215
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