New Book | Enlightened Animals in Eighteenth-Century Art

Posted in books by Editor on April 16, 2021

From Bloomsbury:

Sarah Cohen, Enlightened Animals in Eighteenth-Century Art: Sensation, Matter, and Knowledge (London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2021), 264 pages, ISBN: 978-1350203587, $170 (also available in ebook and PDF formats).

How do our senses help us to understand the world? This question, which preoccupied Enlightenment thinkers, also emerged as a key theme in depictions of animals in eighteenth-century art. This book examines the ways in which painters such as Chardin, as well as sculptors, porcelain modelers, and other decorative designers portrayed animals as sensing subjects who physically confirmed the value of material experience.

The sensual style known today as the Rococo encouraged the proliferation of animals as exemplars of empirical inquiry, ranging from the popular subject of the monkey artist to the alchemical wonders of the life-sized porcelain animals created for the Saxon court. Examining writings on sensory knowledge by La Mettrie, Condillac, Diderot and other philosophers side by side with depictions of the animal in art, Cohen argues that artists promoted the animal as a sensory subject while also validating the material basis of their own professional practice.

Sarah Cohen is Professor of Art History and Women’s Studies at the University at Albany, SUNY, USA. She has published extensively on representations of the body, both human and animal. Her first book Art, Dance and the Body in French Culture the Ancien Régime was published in 2000.


1  The Social Animal
2  The Sensitive Animal
3  Monkey Artists
4  The Language of Brutes
5  Animating Porcelain
6  The Soul of Matter


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