History, painting, and the seriousness of pleasure in the age of Louis XV

BookHistory, painting, and the seriousness of pleasure in the age of Louis XV

History, painting, and the seriousness of pleasure in the age of Louis XV

Oxford University Studies in the Enlightenment, 2020:02


February 10th, 2020

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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.

Author Information

Susanna Caviglia is Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Art History 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).

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
List of illustrations9
Historical perspective: the peaceable kingdom of Louis XV28
The painters34
Toward a new artistic idiom37
I Historia in Stasis43
1. The action de repos47
Prolegomena to the theory and practice49
Meditation, contemplation55
The dynamic body suspended62
Narrative disrupted71
Moments in the present and the future82
2. Corporeality and repose97
Fontenelle’s ideal102
Corporeal conversations107
Figures of seduction113
The expression of repose118
From narrative representation to figural presentation126
II The figure in artistic practice159
3. Figure/study/artwork165
Copying the figure169
The whole and the part181
The emergence of corporeal repose191
The new body language197
4. The story beyond the figure205
From study to subject206
Autonomous figures in painting215
Repertoires of models220
Life study and historical subject226
III The fabrication of a new grand genre239
5. Before the painting241
The figure: from the idea to the painting246
The emergence of new creative practices250
The single body and the multiplication of bodies259
The figure: from reuse to quotation262
6. Epilogue: on novelty in painting279
Brand new beauties281
The painting of the present288