Conference | HECAA Sessions at UAAC, 2016

Posted in conferences (summary) by Editor on December 22, 2016

This posting is three months late, but in wrapping up year-end business, I think it’s important to note that HECAA has been represented at UAAC since 2013. Again, thanks so much to Christina Smylitopoulos for organizing this year’s session (actually two panels this year as a result of lots of strong proposals)! Next year’s conference meets October 12–15. CH

Universities Art Association of Canada / l’association d’art des universités du Canada
Université du Québec, Montréal, 27–30 October 2016

HECAA Open Sessions (Historians of Eighteenth-Century Art and Architecture)
Chaired by Dr Christina Smylitopoulos, University of Guelph

David Mitchell (PhD candidate, McGill), The Colour of Death: Polychrome Anatomies in Print and Wax

While it was a convention of early modern art theory that colour was evocative of animate life, my paper focuses on eighteenth-century anatomical models in order to investigate an alternate set of implications for polychrome effect. In such works, dead flesh served as reference for investigation of the animating force of physiological mechanism. Documentation of protracted legal battles in France over technological patent for both coloured mezzotint and anatomical waxwork offers, I argue, a discourse of colour plotted in counterpoint to art theory’s promotion of the animate force of coloris. And the elaboration of this other colouristic semantics related pigmented substance, craft, and authority in shifted configuration.

Ersy Contogouris (Adjunct Professor, Université du Québec à Montréal), James Gillray’s Preparatory Drawings for Connoisseurs Examining a Collection of George Morland’s

In 1807, James Gillray published a satire on the phenomenal success of George Morland, painter of rustic genre scenes, whose early death three years earlier had led to a great increase in the demand for his works and to the circulation of countless forgeries. This paper will examine the ten preparatory drawings—a uniquely large number—that survive for his Connoisseurs Examining a Collection of George Morland’s. Their analysis enriches our understanding both of the caricature itself and of the nature of Gillray’s recurring criticism of the late eighteenth/early nineteenth-century art market, and provides us with an unprecedented view into Gilray’s creative process, revealing the many steps involved in developing an idea into a caricature, the role of writing in Gillray’s thought process, and the struggle to find the perfect title. Taken together, these drawings invite us to rethink some of the accepted notions regarding caricature.

Catherine Girard (Visiting Assistant Professor, Williams College), Mirrored Surfaces: Painting and Reflexivity in French Royal Interiors

The addition of mirrors alongside paintings was a major transformation of eighteenth-century interiors that enhanced the reflexivity of richly decorated spaces. French aristocratic hunters were at the heart of this intensified dialogue between interiors and interiority, as large mirrors and genre paintings showing figures that looked and behaved like them adorned the increasingly specialized rooms that were conceived and built for their after-hunt parties in royal residences. This paper explores the reflexive quality of such spaces created in France during the Rococo moment. While the meals taken outdoors by royal hunters reenacted a concomitant architectural quest for intimacy, the pictures painted for hunting dining rooms allowed the same participants to extend the corporeal sensations imprinted by the pursuit and kill to the in situ experience of paintings. The role of illusion in representation was thus expanded to entire rooms, telescoping the outdoors into newly articulated, intimate, and proto-immersive interiors.

Ryan Whyte (Assistant Professor, OCAD University), En sens contraire: Paradoxes of Reversal in French Reproductive Prints of the Ancien Régime

In French printmaking in the Ancien Régime, the reversal of the image inherent in the printmaking process was so rarely remarked on that modern scholarship has responded with corresponding silence on the subject. This paper addresses those lacunae by examining exceptional cases where the printmaker corrected reversed images in reproduction because the reversal rendered some aspect of the composition strange, usually right-handed subjects made left-handed. Such correction occurred within multiple and contradictory artistic and social contexts, including period notions of handedness, at a time when progressive educational discourse, bound up in neoclassical conceptions of virtue and social reform rejected traditional prejudices against left-handedness and promoted the teaching of ambidexterity. Yet the perception of the inherent reversibility of the composition, in which the ‘corrected’ representation of handedness was the exception that proved the rule, was reinforced both by printmaking processes and by the predominance of dematerialized, literary conceptions of composition.

Stéphane Roy (Associate Professor, Carleton University), Révolution et marché de l’art : transformations et continuité

« Quand la guillotine fonctionne […] il est rare que l’art s’épanouisse ». Ainsi s’exprimait l’auteur anonyme de la notice « Beaux-arts » de l’Histoire et dictionnaire de la Révolution française (1987), faisant écho à une longue tradition historiographique selon laquelle la production artistique de la période révolutionnaire a marqué une rupture complète avec les modèles académique et philanthropique d’Ancien Régime. Les historiens ont montré, depuis, que la situation des arts était plus complexe et que la période révolutionnaire avait produit un corpus d’œuvres appréciable. Mais qu’en est-il du marché de l’art ancien au cours de cette même période? Les fluctuations du politique ont-elles eu une influence sur les goûts? Un nouveau public a-t-il pris le relais des collectionneurs d’Ancien Régime? Peut-on parler d’une transformation radicale ou d’une continuité des goûts? Un examen des catalogues de vente mettra au jour une culture visuelle peu connue de cette période charnière.

Cette étude s’inscrit dans le cadre d’une enquête sur l’évolution des goûts en France à la fin du 18e siècle, saisie plus particulièrement à travers l’inventaire et l’analyse des ventes publiques d’œuvres d’art pendant la période révolutionnaire.

Alena Robin (Associate Professor, The University of Western Ontario), Carmelite Preaching in Guadalajara

Signed and dated in 1747 by Antonio Enríquez, a painter active in the second half of the eighteenth century in Nueva Galicia (now Mexico), a huge painting recently appeared in the collection of the Museo Regional de Guadalajara. The painting was registered in the 1931 inventory without a photograph, as was the rest of the collection, and it was most likely forgotten until now. The painting is currently kept in a corner of the storage room of the museum, sectioned in two, and rolled up. The purpose of this presentation is to uncover the complex composition of this painting in relation to the settling of the male Carmelite order in Guadalajara. Issues of the reality of painting in the so-called periphery will be addressed through the figure of Antonio Enríquez. Questions of patronage will also be raised as an inscription on the canvas points towards the benefactor of the painting.

Isabelle Masse (PhD Candidate, McGill University), Entre pastel et photographie : les portraits de Gerrit Schipper au Bas-Canada, 1808–10

Le pastelliste néerlandais Gerrit Schipper (1775 – c.1825) débarque à Philadelphie en 1802, à l’endroit et au moment où l’inventeur John Isaac Hawkins (1772–1855) brevète un nouveau modèle de physionotrace, un appareil reproduisant mécaniquement les visages de profil. Shipper qui travaille avec une semblable « machine à dessiner » se déplace de ville en ville annonçant dans les journaux locaux que sa « nouvelle méthode pour peindre au pastel » produit des « ressemblances exactes ». Le physionotrace suscite en effet des prétentions de vérité qui le font souvent considérer dans la littérature comme étant protophotographique. Ainsi, les rigoureuses effigies en miniature réalisées par l’artiste se situent à la frontière de deux médiums, le pastel et la photographie. À l’aide d’un corpus créé au Bas-Canada entre 1808 et 1810, cette communication fait valoir que la double médialité des portraits est révélatrice des profondes transformations que subit le médium du pastel à l’aube du XIXe siècle.

Paul Holmquist (Independent Scholar; Carleton University, Contract Instructor), ‘Elle fond les Villes’: The Physiognomy of Reconnaissance in Claude-Nicolas Ledoux’s Ideal City of Chaux

This presentation examines the conception of reconnaissance in eighteenth-century France as a central principle of Claude-Nicolas Ledoux’s theory of architectural expression. Connoting ‘gratitude’ as well as ‘recognition’, reconnaissance is asserted by Ledoux as part of the moral effect of his architecture parlante with respect to nature as a providential order, and society as embodying the common good. I argue that the significance of reconnaissance for Ledoux can best be understood in light of Rousseau’s conception of gratitude as the love for what in turn loves and preserves one’s self, and the origin of conscience. Through an analysis of key projects of Ledoux’s ideal city of Chaux I will show how the evocation of reconnaissance in the spectator underlies Ledoux’s ambition to inculcate civic and personal virtue, and entails an essential reciprocity with the expressivity of architecture that challenges any reduction of his character theory to one of mere affect or signification.

New Book | The Royal Garden: Identity, Power and Pleasure

Posted in books, conferences (summary) by Editor on June 3, 2016

From the Ax:son Johnson Foundation:

Kurt Almqvist and Susanna Hakelius Popova, eds., The Royal Garden: Identity, Power and Pleasure (Stockholm: Axel and Margaret Ax:son Johnson Foundation, 2016), 193 pages, 250SEK.

The Royal Garden_cover.inddThroughout history, royals have strongly influenced the form and content of gardens and parks. Our strong connection to these cultivated places is not only due to our fascination with nature itself, but reveals our relationship to royal houses, monarchy and the nation. Through the conservation of these places we do not only see and view nature, but our own cultural heritage.

In this book, eight garden experts from five countries provide important examples of how kings and regents—through their extraordinary creations—have shaped history, communicated with the world, and mirrored themselves in their respective eras. The essays stem from a seminar, The Royal Garden, arranged by The Axel and Margaret Ax:son Johnson Foundation for Public Benefit and held at Drottningholm Palace near Stockholm in 2015.

The conference included these presentations:

• John Dixon Hunt — The Royal Garden as an Historic Concept
• Göran Alm — The Paradise: A Swedish Royal Garden Recreation
• Magnus Olausson — Travels, Tournaments, and Freemasonry: National and International
• Åsa Ahrland — The Royal Park: From Regal Pursuit to Public Recreation
• Renske Ek — The Royal Baroque Garden at Het Loo as a Work of Art
• Patricia Bouchenot-Déchin — Louis XVI, André Le Nôtre, and the Royal Garden of Versailles
• Todd Longstaffe-Gowan — Sweet Prospects and Stately Avenues: The Role and Importance of the Lime Tree Avenues at Hampton Court
• Peter Wirtz — Case Study Domaine de Wideville: Revamping a Louis XIII Garden
• George Plumptre — Overview of, and Differences in, Ten Interesting Royal European Gardens

Journée d’étude | Mode, luxe et metiers a Paris au 18e siecle

Posted in conferences (summary) by Editor on January 28, 2015

From H-ArtHist:

Mode, luxe et metiers a Paris au 18e siecle
Hôtel Soubise, Paris, 3 February 2015

Cette journée d’étude organisée par l’association ART & LUXE à l’hôtel Soubise, 60 rue des Francs Bourgeois à Paris, mardi 3 février 2015, de 14h à 17h, aura pour thème les métiers de la mode et du luxe à Paris au 18e siècle.

À cette occasion seront réunis des spécialistes de l’estampe de mode, de l’histoire des métiers et du style: Pascale Cugy, Clare Haru Crowston, Christian Baulez et Georgina Letourmy-Bordier. Pascale Cugy, auteur d’une thèse récente sur l’estampe de mode, mettra en images les métiers de la mode et du luxe sous l’Ancien Régime. La présence exceptionnelle de Clare Haru Crowston, professeur d’histoire de l’Europe moderne, résidant aux Etats-Unis et travaillant sur l’apprentissage en France sous l’Ancien Régime, permettra une rencontre unique au sujet de ses récentes recherches sur les marchandes de modes à Paris au 18e siècle. Cette journée sera aussi l’opportunité offerte par Christian Baulez, conservateur général honoraire du Patrimoine, de présenter le mobilier récemment acquis par le musée des archives nationales pour l’hôtel de Rohan à Paris. Georgina Letourmy-Bordier, expert en éventails, assistée de Sylvain Le Guen, éventailliste, aborderont ensemble ce métier bien particulier, sur lequel peu de travaux sont encore accessibles, et feront une démonstration en objets.

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14:00  Corinne Thépaut-Cabasset (Paris): Accueil

14:30  Pascale Cugy (Université Rennes-2): Costumes grotesques: Mettre en images les métiers de la mode et du luxe en France sous l’Ancien Régime

15:00  Clare Haru Crowston (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign): Les marchandes de modes, un métier célèbre mais encore peu connu

15:30  Christian Baulez (Château de Versailles): Mathieu Debauve, menuisier en sièges des Voyer d’Argenson

16:00  Georgina Letourmy-Bordier (Paris): Entre atelier et boutique, les éventaillistes parisiens au XVIIIe siècle

16:30  Sylvain Le Guen (Paris): Fabriquer l’éventail aujourd’hui

17:00  Discussion

La session sera suivie d’une visite des salons du premier étage où sont exposés les sièges réalisés par Mathieu Debauve sur les dessins de Charles de Wailly, acquis en 2012 pour le musée des Archives nationales de France.

Dans la limite des places disponibles et sur inscription à :
Association ART & LUXE
38 boulevard Henri IV 75004 Paris


Conference Report | ‘The Educated Eye?’ Connoisseurship Now

Posted in conferences (summary) by Editor on May 14, 2014

Writing for Apollo Magazine’s blog, Katy Barrett provides a recap of the one-day conference on connoisseurship held at The Paul Mellon Centre earlier this month (still available as a recorded webinar). From The Muse Room:

Katy Barrett, ” ‘The Educated Eye? Connoisseurship Now’ at the Paul Mellon Centrer,” The Muse Room: The Apollo Blog (6 May 2014).

he Connoisseur, (1830), unknown artist. Yale Center for British Art, gift of Max and Barbara Wilk

The Connoisseur, 1830, unknown artist (Yale Center for British Art, gift of Max and Barbara Wilk)

What do we mean by ‘connoisseurship’ these days? The term has had negative connotations since at least the 17th century—as long, essentially, as academics, collectors and dealers have prided themselves on possessing this quality. Yet, it also denotes a fêted attribute that any self-respecting art lover would wish to have.

A lively and thought-provoking conference and webinar at The Paul Mellon Centre on Friday 2 May, The Educated Eye: Connoisseurship Now considered this thorny question. Speakers with varied and eclectic backgrounds brought perspectives from the realms of art museums, print collections, art funding, academia, dealerships, auction houses, and conservation. . . .

I was particularly struck by a comment by Stephen Deuchar about academic connoisseurship hiding under the mantle of material culture these days. . . .

Both from our speakers and their subject, personality emerged for me as key to the day. The mantle of authority both as a ‘connoisseur’ and as a commentator on such a person’s validity rests in the marriage of knowledge and persuasive communication, in the mixing of the subjective and the objective, not so different really from an appealing gallery educator or exhibition text. Repeatedly, discussion came back to the need for collaboration to keep these elements in balance. . . .

The full report is available here»

Conference Recap | MAHS 2014, St. Louis

Posted in conferences (summary) by Editor on April 28, 2014

While I’m afraid it’s a bit late, I nonetheless want to draw attention to the excellent slate of papers presented in conjunction with a panel I chaired earlier this month at the 41st annual meeting of the Midwest Art History Society (MAHS), hosted by the Saint Louis Art Museum. If your ears perked up at yesterday’s posting on The Wallace’s small exhibition, Reproducing the 18th Century: Copying French Furniture, I would especially draw your attention to Tobias Locker’s paper; it nicely brought the eighteenth century to St. Louis, indeed to the doorstep of the museum, which is located in Forest Park, the site of the 1904 exhibition. My warm thanks to all four speakers for their fine work. I’ve also included the abstract for Judy Mann’s presentation on an exciting acquisition for SLAM, Joseph Claus’s Bust of Caracalla (a press release is available here). -Craig Hanson

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MAHS Annual Meeting, Eighteenth-Century European Art
Saint Louis Art Museum, 3–5 April 2014

“Cornelis de Bruyn (1652–1726): Artist, Traveler, and Writer,” Rebecca Brienen, Vennerberg Professor of Art and Professor of Art History, Oklahoma State University

This paper addresses the fascinating career of Cornelis de Bruyn (1652–1726), an artist, traveler, and writer from The Hague who spent nearly thirty years outside of the Dutch Republic, living and working in places as far flung as Rome, Constantinople, and Batavia in the Dutch East Indies. During his lifetime, De Bruyn was in contact with other Dutch and European artists, many of them leading painters of the day. In addition, major political figures, including Dutch Stadholder and English king William III, Tsar Peter I of Russia, and Nicolaes Witsen (Dutch East India Company Director and burgomaster of Amsterdam) were patrons and supporters of de Bruyn. The existing literature on de Bruyn has focused specifically on his published travel accounts, but not on his career as an artist in Europe and abroad, areas that this paper will address.

“Capturing Genius: Collecting Salvator Rosa’s Etchings in Eighteenth-Century England,” Nicole N. Conti, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Minnesota

British artists, antiquarians, and aristocrats in the eighteenth century transformed Baroque artist Salvator Rosa (1615–1673) into an archetypal figure embodying the spirit of the Grand Tour. Rosa’s persona pervaded many aspects of intellectual life in England: tourists experienced Rome through his eyes, staying in his former home and comparing their journeys to his landscapes; collectors bought his paintings and etchings; artists emulated Rosa’s style in their works, and created original works that featured Rosa; and composers, novelists, poets, and playwrights wrote works of fiction casting Rosa as a revolutionary. This paper looks at the role collecting Rosa’s prints had in this eighteenth-century revival of Rosa and his cult of genius. It specifically examines albums compiled by eighteenth-century aristocrats of Rosa’s Figurine—a set of 64 small etchings that contains between 1 and 5 figures such as ragged soldiers, knights, Roman sentinels, and seductresses. While each composition contains a unique image, the prints share many visual rhymes: the same figures reappear in different combinations; some figures point off the page; others display dramatic gestural reactions; some compositions mirror each other; some images appear to represent the same group from a different vantage point; etc. This iconography allowed the prints to play off one another in an unlimited number of ways, encouraging the collector to interact with the images and to create personal narratives between the figures. Through the act of recombining these images, the album-maker asserted his own interpretive agency over the images and assigned a new meaning to Rosa and his oeuvre that reflected the needs of the collector.

“Sèvres’ Teaching of Love and the Concept of Marriage in Eighteenth-Century France,” Sarah S. Jones, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Missouri–Columbia

In 1763, the royal porcelain manufactory at Sèvres, France, produced a small sculpture entitled The Teaching of Love. The mythological subject of the piece references an episode in the life of Cupid, god of love, in which he was taught to read by Mercury. Produced in unglazed biscuit porcelain, the Sèvres group displays an adolescent Cupid passing along his knowledge to three young women on the verge of marriageable age. If Mercury, the god of eloquence, taught Cupid about rhetoric, then Cupid, god of love must be relaying his knowledge of love to these girls. Cupid is often cast as an allegory for love and sentiment, an ingredient emphasized in marital relationships during the romantic Rococo era. Eighteenth-century philosophers developed the notion of love, or sentiment, as a vital part of marriage. I propose that Cupid teaching a young girl, as he was taught by Mercury, denotes that an education in the ways of love was an integral element in grooming a girl for her marital relationship in mid-eighteenth century France. Education controlled the passions of the mischievous god; love and sentiment controls immoral passions that threatened the stability of the early modern marriage. I suggest that this scene of girls under the tutelage of a charismatic Cupid relates to the shifting ideas about the concept of marriage and proper aspects of a woman’s preparations for her marital relationship in eighteenth-century France.

“Celebrating Rococo Splendor in St. Louis: Historicizing Prussian Furniture at the 1904 World’s Fair,” Tobias Locker, Lecturer, Saint Louis University, Madrid

Early World Fairs were showcases for technical innovations and achievements in the arts. Nations presented themselves with spectacular pavilions that often referenced a glorious period of their past with distinct architectonical forms or interiors, thereby endowing chauvinist narratives and economic ambitions with historical weight. At the 1904 St. Louis Fair, the German Empire pursued a concept that had proven successful at the Paris Exhibition four years earlier. In St Louis, the Imperial pavilion resembled the central building of Charlottenburg Palace, and its interiors emphasized the Frederician Rococo, embellished with a mix of original and recreated interiors intended to recall the time when Prussia became a major player in Europe.

In particular, this paper addresses the important work of the contemporary luxury furniture producer Joseph-Émmanuel Zwiener (c. 1848–after 1910). On the basis of new archival findings, various examples will illustrate how this Berlin-based cabinetmaker—‘purveyor to the court of his majesty the German King and Emperor William II’—adopted historic French and Prussian models. The paper links his production to the royal furniture the Swiss-born Johann Melchior Kambly (1718–1784) had created for Frederick of Prussia, and it will explain how the objects of these two artisans had already been used to support a nationalistic narrative at the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris. Considering that Zwiener’s outstanding Neo-Rococo furniture was seen by contemporaries as equal to the works of the famous Parisian entrepreneur François Linke, the political dimension in exhibiting his luxury objects as ‘German’ creations is explained. Thus, it will become clear how historic and historicizing furniture were instrumentalized within a nationalist cultural discourse reflecting the competition between Prussia and France at the beginning of the twentieth century.

MAHS Annual Meeting, Recent Acquisitions in Midwestern Collections
Saint Louis Art Museum, 3–5 April 2014

Joseph Claus’s Bust of Caracalla: An Eighteenth-Century Look at an Ancient Masterpiece, Judith W. Mann, Curator, European Art to 1800, Saint Louis Art Museum


Joseph Claus, Bust of the Emperor Caracalla (r. 198–217 AD), signed and dated 1757, white marble, height 71.5 cm
(Saint Louis Art Museum)

Joseph Claus’s Bust of Caracalla demonstrates the sculptor’s great talent at rendering likeness and his adept carving of marble, making it a masterful example of the Neo-classical style. The bust is one of six known copies after the famous ancient Caracalla that was acquired by the Farnese family in Rome during the sixteenth century. That bust remained in the ducal family’s palace until 1787, when it was shipped together with the rest of the Farnese collection to Naples, where it can still be seen at the Museo Nazionale. Very little is known about Joseph Claus; he has yet to be the focus of extended study. He was born in Cologne, and his earliest dated bust (1754) portrays Clemens August von Wittelsbach, Archibishop and Elector of Cologne and a member of one of the most powerful families of the time. Claus arrived in Rome by 1755 and remained there for most of his career. He is known for his finely-detailed classicizing portraits that are tour-de-forces of marble carving and for his copies after the antique. This paper analyzes Claus’s Bust of Caracalla in terms of what little is known about the artist and evaluates the sculpture in the context of other copies executed by Claus’s contemporaries.

The full conference programme is available here»



Living the History of George Washington’s Tent

Posted in conferences (summary), museums, today in light of the 18th century by Editor on April 14, 2014

There were, for me, many stimulating offerings available at this year’s ASECS conference in Williamsburg, including a fine session on “Historical Reenactment,” sponsored by the Society of Early Americanists and chaired by Joy Howard. While I found all seven of the brief contributions thought-provoking (none more so than Michael Twitty’s presentation of his extraordinary work, including the Southern Discomfort Tour), Tyler Rudd Putman’s account of working as an intern on The First Oval Office Project during the summer of 2013 seemed perfectly suited to a posting here at Enfilade. I was thrilled he agreed. -CH

Living the History of George Washington’s Tent

T Y L E R   R U D D   P U T M AN

I spent the summer of 2013 dressed for work in the 1770s. As a historic trades intern working in costume in a workshop at Colonial Williamsburg, I was part of the First Oval Office Project, an initiative to recreate the sleeping tent, or marquee, used by George Washington during the American Revolution. Amazingly, this 22-foot-long oval tent still exists in the collection of the Museum of the American Revolution. Of thousands of tents made and used during the Revolution, only two survived to 2014; both belonged to Washington, saved for posterity.

Why would people spend years of research and months of sewing to make a big piece of canvas, especially when we already have the original? You can imagine what the old marquee is like after two centuries. It’s fragile. When the new Museum in Philadelphia installs it in Philadelphia in a new building about to begin construction, it will rest on a custom support system, so it doesn’t tear itself apart. But we wanted a tent that could travel, a tent that people could touch, a tent that people could walk into, look up at the ceiling inside, and wonder what it was like to be Washington during the Revolutionary War. Moreover, for all the hours experts have spent scrutinizing Washington’s marquee, there were still all sorts of mysteries we hoped to solve by making an exact copy. There were strange stitches, hints of repairs and adjustments, and other oddities we hoped to explain in the process of sewing a new tent, stitch by stitch, by hand (there were no sewing machines in the 1770s).

We also know almost nothing about the men and women who sewed Washington’s tent in 1777. They left few documentary traces, but recreating labor can help historians recapture lives. What was it like to sit ‘tailor fashion’, cross-legged atop a worktable, for a long day? Documents indicate that some women worked sewing tents during the Revolution as well. How was sewing work different for them? What does regular hand-sewing do to your hands?


The author at work sewing tent canvas.

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Experimental archaeology, or recreating an object or activity from the past to better understand the culture from which it emerged, is not time travel. I don’t know what it’s like to work a fourteen-hour day on a bread and small beer diet, in a body weathered from years of such labor, with an eighteenth-century mind. But I know how it hurts when you break a needle against your thumb, and I’ve felt the jubilation of finishing a hopelessly long seam. If you had been there this summer, you would have felt your back muscles tire and your posture change after only a day of sewing. You would have started to notice things. Linen lint floating in the air. The peculiar, miniscule catching when a steel needle has a small barb growing at its tip. How it’s possible to daydream and almost fall asleep amid the rhythmic motions of sewing a long seam. It’s in these microscopic moments that we connect with people long gone. No matter how much cultural baggage and time separates us, there’s something here we share with our long-ago predecessors.

We could have figured all this out in a warehouse somewhere. That certainly would have made our big experiment more efficient. But we wanted to make the tent in front of the public, so that the process of creation would both answer our questions and educate everyday people. To this end, the Museum of the American Revolution teamed with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and, in the summer and fall of 2013, operated a tentmaking shop in Williamsburg.

Washington’s tent was made in Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1777, but we know that artificers and other tradesmen who worked for the army sewed plenty of tents in Williamsburg during the Revolution, so operating such a shop in the city fit well with the Foundation’s interpretive goals. A crew of costumed tradesmen, including myself, spent five days a week sewing common tents used by ordinary soldiers, uniforms, knapsacks, and George Washington’s marquee. We didn’t pretend to be historical characters but instead spoke with visitors as ourselves. The costumes were just another one of our tools, allowing us to understand and discuss things like posture, cleanliness, and fashion from a contemporary viewpoint.


Tailor Mark Hutter and interns Aaron Walker, Nicole Rudolph, Michael Ramsey, and Gwendolyn Basala at work in the tentmaking shop.

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Over eight months, we answered a lot of our questions and came up with all sorts of new ones. We had an exceptional, interdisciplinary crew of sewers, including experts in historic trades, artists, students, and historians. Behind the scenes, we relied on curators, conservators, weavers, woodworkers, and social media workers to keep our project on track. These diverse viewpoints generated valuable insights. In the process, we had to answer persistent visitor questions. “Were these tents waterproof?” many people asked. We wondered that, too, and we were lucky enough to have a rainy summer in Williamsburg, giving everyone the opportunity to see how linen canvas resists even torrential rain, how tightly sewn seams hold up well, and how everything depends on good tent poles, tight ropes, and firmly planted stakes.


Intern Aaron Walker tests a common tent, home to six Revolutionary soldiers, in a Williamsburg rain.

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I would also argue that we gained at least as much from the public as they did from visiting our workshop. Public interpretation, after all, is just interdisciplinarity in another form. What better way to test explanations of Revolutionary War society and politics than to present them to a banker, an IT specialist, or a med student visiting Colonial Williamsburg? Do the arguments of historians such as Gordon Wood, David Waldstreicher, or Rosemarie Zagarri fly with the average American? This isn’t about dumbing-down information, it’s about translating it. That’s why it’s called interpretation. One of the best conversations I had all summer came after I had been explaining colonial labor and social hierarchy to a middle-aged man. “So,” he asked, pausing in thought, “When did America become a good country for poor people?” As we talked about changing standards of freedom, individual rights, and American ideologies, you could see his eyes light up as he thought about his world, America today, in new ways. Who would have thought you could get all the way there, starting with a tent?

A month ago, a user of the online reddit forum “Ask Historians,” posed this question:

Are there any merits to these ‘doing history’ acts? I’m not a fan of battle reenactments… I see them as telling us more about ourselves now than they do about the past and I think it’s a mistake (detrimental?) to use them as ways in which history/the past is taught to the public and to students.

Perhaps this is a fair criticism of living history. I’ve certainly seen my share of bad costumed interpretation at museums, like the sort of tours led by guides in vaguely historic costumes demonstrating ‘traditional’ activities and repeating tired clichés. But there are also places and people that get it right. Michael Twitty, a historian and interpreter of early African-American foodways, argues that his interpretation is the result of a conversation between historical sources and current practices. Likewise, George Washington’s marquee means different things to retirees, boy scouts, or Midwestern families. But good living history interpretation makes it relevant to each of them in a personalized way. I think the reddit question offers the justification for this sort of quality living history. When it’s well done, when it engages with academic questions as well as public audiences, living history does tell us at least as much about ourselves as about the past. When that works, it’s beautiful—as beautiful as a clean white tent, the work of many hands, sitting on a grassy patch at Colonial Williamsburg.



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Tyler Rudd Putman is a PhD student in the History of American Civilization Program in the Department of History at the University of Delaware. He thanks Scott Stephenson, Mark Hutter, Neal Hurst, Gwendolyn Basala, Jay Howlett, Michael McCarty, Samantha McCarty, Brendan Menz, Joseph Privott, Michael Ramsey, Nicole Rudolph, Aaron Walker, the Museum of the American Revolution, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Nicole Belolan, Joy Howard, and the other members of the “Historical Reenactment, Living History, and Public History” panel at ASECS 2014.

Conference Report | HECAA Session at UAAC

Posted in conferences (summary) by Editor on October 26, 2013

Christina Smylitopoulos (University of Guelph) reports that the first Canadian HECAA panel at UAAC last weekend in Banff went splendidly. Five speakers presented exceptional papers, and the discussions were rich and exciting—all framed by sublime mountains!

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Paul Holmquist, “Tying the Seductive Powers of Art to the Innate Rights of Man: The Architect as Legislator in the Ideal City of Chaux”

This paper examines the correlation between the Architect of Claude-Nicolas Ledoux’s ideal city of Chaux as set out in his L’Architecture…(1804) and the enigmatic figure of the Legislator in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s On the Social Contract (1762). I argue that Ledoux’s Architect acts analogously to the Legislator in aspiring to shape the moeurs or customary views, practices and ways of life of a people by adapting them to natural law in new institutions and architectural programs. The Architect, like the Legislator, must also rely upon persuasion rather than coercion for the efficacy of his new institutions, and make the good of the ‘legislation’ publicly appear in the expressive program of architecture parlante. This analysis will show that as such Ledoux’s architectural theory and vision for Chaux addressed key philosophical questions posed by Rousseau concerning the foundation of society in terms of nature, reason, sentiment, and the imagination.

Alena Robin, “Being a Painter in Mexico City in 1735: Voices from the Archives”

In February 1735, Felipe Chacón, master painter and guilder in Mexico City, addressed the Royal Mint to recover his dues for the work he had been doing in different parts of the building. The document preserved in the National Archives in Mexico City is rich in descriptions of the now lost building. What could have been a simple monetary transaction did not, however, end there. The officers of the Mint contracted José de Ibarra and Nicolás Enríquez, also master painters, to evaluate Felipe Chacón’s work. Not satisfied with the first evaluation, the officers requested a second one. José de Ibarra and Nicolás Enríquez are painters that hold a significant place in the historiography of New Spanish painting. The name of Felipe Chacón is however unknown to this pictorial tradition. It is worth examining these documents to pause on what could mean being a painter in Mexico City in the eighteenth century.

Elizabeth Ranieri, “Trionfo della Fede sull’Eresia ad Opera dei Domenicani (1709) by Francesco Solimena: The Baroque Fresco as Medium for Epideictic Discourse”

Francesco Solimena’s sacristy fresco Trionfo della Fede sull’Eresia ad Opera dei Domenicani (1709) in the Neapolitan Church of San Domenico Maggiore follows the classical model of epideictic discourse by praising the virtues and the achievements of its Dominican patrons and audience. Solimena’s fresco is about the efforts of the Dominican order to educate the common people in order to eliminate heretical thought and behavior. The work was commissioned by the Dominican order for a Dominican audience; the patron-viewers of the fresco all have the same sex, educational level, religious affiliation, interests, and values. The virtues that are depicted in the fresco are Faith, Obedience, Poverty, Chastity, and Wisdom, all of which are valued by the Dominican order. The primary purpose of the fresco is to celebrate the virtues and achievements of the Dominicans, particularly the order’s historical and figurative triumph over heresy through the use of “faith” and “works.”

Diana Cheng, “Lord Chesterfield’s Boudoir: A Room without the Sulks”

The boudoir, as the early eighteenth-century writer Laurent Bordelon opined, was an apt description of the room where a married woman indulged in her dark, unreasonable moods. While the original intent of the nomenclature was to denigrate the undutiful wife, the boudoir was, on the contrary, a place without the sulks from the perspective of the inhabitant. Philip Dormer Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield (1694–1773), for one, considered his gilded arabesque boudoir at Chesterfield House the gayest room in England. The paper is a case study of this English aristocrat’s boudoir, highlighting its functional and decorative similarities and differences from a lady’s boudoir. It argues that the meaning and usage of the eighteenth-century boudoir, while seemingly varied depending on gender and class, was rooted in the desire of its inhabitant to re-stake the boundaries of social inter-dependencies and duties.

Ji Eun You, “Bringing the Revolution Home: Printed Fabric during the French Revolution, 1789–1795”

Between 1789 and 1795, the manufactories at Jouy-en-Josas and Nantes produced a small group of cotton fabrics printed with narrative and allegorical scenes of the French Revolution for interior furnishing. This paper explores the interpretive possibilities of these designs, with attention to the highly variable viewing experience that was contingent upon tactile interaction with the material through cutting, draping, and display. Simultaneously embracing and evading contemporary politics, the multiple viewings offered by the printed fabrics represent the period when radical political discourse compelled luxury decorative arts to renegotiate their places in French visual culture. My visual analysis of printed fabrics is joined to an investigation into the discursive and material context for luxury interior furnishings during the French Revolution. In doing so, I propose a way of rethinking the aesthetic experience of the French Revolution through decorative arts.

June 2012 Issue of ‘The Court Historian’

Posted in books, conferences (summary), journal articles, reviews by Editor on September 21, 2012

Eighteenth-century topics in the current issue of The Court Historian 17 (June 2012) . . .


• Clarissa Campbell Orr, “Popular History, Court Studies, and Courtier Diaries,” pp. 1-15.

• Robin Thomas, “Building the Monarchy: The Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, 1737,” pp. 35-60

• Neil Jeffares, “Between France and Bavaria: Louis-Joseph d’Albert de Luynes, Prince de Grimberghen,” pp. 61-85.


• Clare Hornsby, Review of David Marshall, Susan Russell, and Karin Wolfe, eds., Roma Britannica: Art Patronage and Cultural Exchange in Eighteenth-Century Rome (London: British School at Rome, 2011), pp. 91-93.

• Wolf Burchard, Review of Christina Strunck and Elisabeth Kieven, eds., Europäische Galeriebauten: Galleries in a Comparative European Perspective (1400-1800), Römische Studien der Bibliotheca Hertziana 29 (Munich: Hirmer Verlag, 2010); and Mathieu da Vinha and Claire Constans, eds., Les grandes galeries européennes XVIIe-XIXe siècles (Paris: Éditions de la Maison des sciences de l’homme, 2010), pp. 95-104.

Conference Reports

• Antonio Ernesto Denunzio, “Aristocratic Residences in Naples: The Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano and Arts Patronage by the Nobility from the 16th to the 20th Centuries” (Naples, October 2011), pp. 113-14.

• Charles C. Noel, “The Court in Europe: Politics and Religion, 1500-1800,” (Madrid, December 2010), pp. 117-20.

Reviewed: ‘Re-Reading Leaonardo’

Posted in books, conferences (summary), reviews by Editor on September 11, 2011

This terrific collection of essays grew out of the 2001 conference The Fortuna of Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Trattato della Pittura’, held at the Warburg Institute in London. I count myself lucky to have attended. Held just days after the 9/11 bombings (September 13-14), the conference was, as I recall, however, a strange affair — as so much of life was in those days immediately following the attacks — all the more reason to celebrate this accomplished volume.  -CH

Recently added to caa.reviews:

Claire Farago, ed., Re-Reading Leonardo: The ‘Treatise on Painting’ across Europe, 1550–1900 (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009), 652 pages, ISBN: 9780754665328, $124.95.

Reviewed by Ellen Prokop, The Frick Art Reference Library; posted 3 August 2011.

This impressive, generously illustrated collection of essays edited by Claire Farago developed from a symposium held in London in 2001 that focused on the historical reception of Leonardo da Vinci’s Trattato della pittura. Twenty-three studies, including introductory remarks and an annotated bibliography, by twenty authors (three scholars make multiple contributions) examine the transnational fortune of the treatise and consider Leonardo’s influence on the institutionalization of artistic production in early modern Europe. The focus on reception leads to consideration of fundamental issues regarding Leonardo’s legacy, such as the development of the modern conception of artistic genius, as well as broader concerns, such as the disciplinization of art history. By positing Leonardo’s influence instead of his reputation as the “historical phenomena” (3), the essays systematically problematize the constitution of that reputation. As Farago states: “An historical practice that focuses on the author’s identity without attending to the construction of identity per se, is blind to its own modes of knowledge production” (4). . . .

The full review is available here» (CAA membership required)

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While many of the contributions are relevant for the eighteenth century; these essays address the period directly:

•Thomas Willette, “The First Italian Publication of the Treatise on Painting: Book Culture, the History of Art, and the Naples Edition of 1733″
•Thomas Kirchner, “Between Academicism and Its Critics: Leonardo da Vinci’s Traité de la Peinture and 18th-century French Art Theory”
•Javier Navarro de Zuvillaga, “The Trattato in 17th- and 18th-century Spanish Perspective and Art Theory”
•Richard Woodfield, “The 1721 English Treatise of Painting: A Masonic Moment in the Culture of Newtonianism”
•Geoff Quilley, “The Trattato della Pittura and Leonardo’s Reputation in 18th-century British Art and Aesthetics”

Conference Review: Does the Picturesque Have a Future?

Posted in conferences (summary), reviews by Editor on January 17, 2011

Recently added to caa.reviews:

Conference — Emerging Landscapes: Between Production and Representation (London: University of Westminster, 25-27 June 2010).

Reviewed by Samantha L. Martin-McAuliffe, School of Architecture, University College Dublin; posted 11 January 2011.

. . . When the conference had seemingly reached the point where an obituary for the Picturesque seemed inevitable, Jonathan Hill (The Bartlett, University College London) delivered his keynote address, “Weather Architecture,” in which he called for a redemption of the tradition. Through a considered reflection on John Soane’s house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields and J. M. W. Turner’s London studio, Hill explained how the Picturesque attended to important themes, such as mortality, history, and, notably, the environment. Because this tradition aligned with topics such as the seasons and the senses (and hence the weather), the places it qualified were never static, but always emerging and forever changing. From this stance, the Picturesque is seen not so much as a formal model for construction that is fixed to a particular historical period, but instead as a sensitivity toward the surrounding world and its manifold processes—time, temperature, narrative. Is it possible, therefore, to recast the role of the Picturesque within contemporary landscape studies? Can it help the invisible yet constantly present conditions of the environment rise into notice? . . .

For the full review, click here» (CAA membership required)