Facing Modernism: Jean-Antoine Houdon and the Politics of the Portrait Bust in Eighteenth-Century France

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Abstract

This chapter examines the classicizing portrait bust as a constitutive form of art that articulated and propagated social and cultural agendas. The portraits investigated here were created in pre-Revolutionary France, and employed various classicizing motifs: A bare chest or nudity, mythological allegories and allusions, the representation of natural hair rather than the contemporary wig. These motifs were usually incorporated into a realistic portrayal of the face and an intimate air conveyed by the bust. By analyzing these portraits, commonly interpreted as Neoclassical (thus tying the sitter to the glorified past of Western culture), and by contextualizing them in the epistemological shift concerning the formation of modern selfhood, I suggest that the viewer is confronted with an intricate and conflicted representation of French middle and high society during a seismic cultural shift.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Companion to Nineteenth-Century Art
EditorsMichelle Facos
PublisherWiley Blackwell
Pages413-430
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781118856321
ISBN (Print)9781118856369
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018

Publication series

NameBlackwell Companions to Art History

Keywords

  • Childhood
  • Enlightenment
  • Femininity
  • Identity
  • Motherhood
  • Oudon
  • Portrait
  • Rousseau
  • Sculpture
  • Voltaire

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (all)

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