Pictorial sign and social order : L'Académie Royale de Peinture et Sculpture 1638-1752
Mirzoeff, Nicholas (1990) Pictorial sign and social order : L'Académie Royale de Peinture et Sculpture 1638-1752. PhD thesis, University of Warwick.
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Official URL: http://webcat.warwick.ac.uk/record=b1407419~S1
In my doctorate, I have sought to question the establishment of
the Academy in France along two particular lines of enquiry. I
considered why the government established a state institution for
the arts and how and why it sought to influence artistic
production. Under Richelieu, artistic initiatives were
subordinated to the requirements of factional court politics. But
after the upheavals of the Fronde (1648-53), the monarchy
created the Absolutist court in which aesthetics were politics.
In the phrase used by the logicians of Port-Royal: Le portrait du
Cesar, c'est Cesar".
The increased political importance of the image coincided with
a radical re-evaluation of sight and its representation in the
visual image, following the work of Descartes. I therefore set
out to analyse the debates in and around the Academy concerning
theories of vision and their implication for the artist. I found
the Academy resisted Cartesian and perspectival theory and
expelled its first Professor of Perspective, Abraham Bosse, in a
dispute which sheds much light on its institutional and
theoretical base. Far from being an easy Academic victory, the
dispute required the intervention of Colbert himself. Insteadof
the Desarguian perspective championed by Bosse, the Academy's
theorist, Gregoire Huret sought to control the pictorial sign
through gender difference. But his theory contained too many
prohibitions to be of practical use to artists.
It was not until the Academy was pushed by the government into
accepting the Modern theories of Roger de Piles that a gap opened
between nature and its representation in which artists could
operate. These two histories were closely linked, for it was not
until the Academy found a means of representing its theory in the
work of Watteau and the fête galante artists, that it achieved
institutional security. The final chapter of my thesis analyses
Watteau's work as a resolution of the long-standing theoretical
uncertainty in the Academy over the status of the visual image.
In an epilogue, the rapid death of the fete galante as a genre is
shown to mark the end of this chapter of Academic history.
In elucidating the often complex artistic theories in early
modern France, I have made use of the methodology and theory of
contemporary French thinkers such as Louis Mann, Michel Foucault
and Jacques Derrida. Their insights have helped me appreciate the
complexity and vitality of Academic thought which has so often
been readily dismissed as sterile scholasticism. The painters of
the Academy were also theorists. In that sense, we have much to
learn from them.
|Item Type:||Thesis or Dissertation (PhD)|
|Subjects:||D History General and Old World > DC France
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
|Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH):||Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture (France) -- History, Art and state -- France -- History -- 17th century, Art and state -- France -- History -- 18th century|
|Official Date:||August 1990|
|Institution:||University of Warwick|
|Theses Department:||Department of History|
|Extent:||259,  leaves|
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