Society and the Arts in 18th-Century France


Spring 2012


4th Floor Classroom


Jeffrey L. Collins

This interdisciplinary seminar studies the arts of 18th-century France, emphasizing recent scholarship that roots aesthetic products in a social, cultural, and philosophical context. The course follows the creation of the goût moderne amid a shift from court patronage to the private Parisian hotel, and resulting developments in the production, marketing, and circulation of objects. It then examines how the spread of the rococo under Louis XV affected both interior planning and decoration and the outdoor fantasies and amusements associated with the fête galante. We will study the role of prominent female patrons such as Madame de Pompadour, Madame Geoffrin, and Marie Antoinette, as well as the arts of the salon (including music, conversation, letter-writing), and their related material culture. Issues include the increasing role of marchands-merciers in producing and promoting hybrid luxury goods; the proliferation of new furniture forms to meet demands of comfort and intimacy; the intersection of art and eroticism; the fascination with (and domestication of) the “exotic”; and the rise of neoclassicism under Louis XVI. Students pursue individual projects using the resources of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Frick Collection to examine silver, metalwork, textiles, furniture, ceramics, painting, sculpture, and the graphic arts. 3 credits. satisfies pre-1800 requirement