New Book | History, Painting, and the Seriousness of Pleasure

Posted in books by Editor on March 19, 2020

From the Oxford University Studies in The Enlightenment series:

Susanna Caviglia, History, Painting, and the Seriousness of Pleasure in the Age of Louis XV (Liverpool: Voltaire Foundation in association with Liverpool University Press, 2020), 330 pages, ISBN: 978-1789620399, $99.

French painting of Louis XV’s reign (1715–74), generally categorized by the term rococo, has typically been understood as an artistic style aimed at furnishing courtly society with delightful images of its own frivolous pursuits. Instead, this book shows the significance and seriousness underpinning the notion of pleasure embedded in eighteenth-century history painting. During this time, pleasure became a moral ideal grounded not only in domestic life but also defining a range of social, political, and cultural transactions oriented toward transforming and improving society at large. History, Painting, and the Seriousness of Pleasure in the Age of Louis XV reconsiders the role of history painting in creating a new visual language that presented peace and happiness as an individual’s natural rights in the aftermath of Louis XIV’s bellicose reign (1643–1715). In this new study, Susanna Caviglia reinvestigates the artistic practices of an entire generation of painters born around 1700 (e.g. Francois Boucher, Charles-Joseph Natoire, and Carle Vanloo) in order to highlight the cultural forces at work within their now iconic images.

Susanna Caviglia is the Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies at Duke University. Her work focuses on early modern European art and culture with an emphasis on France and Italy. Her interests include the body in art, theory and practice of drawing, and cross-cultural relationships within the Mediterranean world. She is the author of Charles-Joseph Natoire (1700–1777) (Arthena, 2012).


List of illustrations

• Historical perspective: The peaceable kingdom of Louis XV
• The painters
• Toward a new artistic idiom

I. Historia in stasis
Chapter 1: The action de repos
• Prolegomena to the theory and practice
• Meditation, contemplation
• The dynamic body suspended
• Narrative disrupted
• Moments in the present and the future
Chapter 2: Corporeality and repose
• Fontenelle’s ideal
• Corporeal conversations
• Figures of seduction
• The expression of repose
• From narrative representation to figural presentation

II. The figure in artistic practice
Chapter 3: Figure/study/artwork
• Copying the figure
• The whole and the part
• The emergence of corporeal repose
• The new body language
Chapter 4: The story beyond the figure
• From study to subject
• Autonomous figures in painting
• Repertoires of models
• Life study and historical subject

III. The fabrication of a new grand genre
5: Before the painting
• The figure: From the idea to the painting
• The emergence of new creative practices
• The single body and the multiplication of bodies
• The figure: From reuse to quotation

Epilogue: On novelty in painting
• Brand new beauties
• The painting of the present


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Note (added 19 March 2020) — The original posting included only an abbreviated table of contents.

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