June 1998, Volume LXXX Number 2
The narrative scenes carved in low relief on the massive stone slabs that decorated the palaces of first-millennium B.C.E. Assyrian kings in northern Mesopotamia participated in the construction of an Assyrian cultural ideology that was based in part on a negative view of cultural difference. This essay suggests that images of non-Assyrian people--created for an audience that was largely Assyrian, male, and elite--use a visual language that identified intercultural difference with intracultural transgression. Non-Assyrians were depicted with postures and gestures that carried negative connotations; moreover, these representations positively reinforced Assyrian identity and power structures.
This essay seeks to animate the debate over the original form of the twelfth-century cathedral of Notre-Dame of Paris. The problem is first located within a historiographic framework, and then the four existing interpretations are elucidated. A limited archaeological exercise allows certain clear conclusions to be reached, notably, that the twelfth-century Parisian cathedral probably already incorporated long-reach flying buttresses much like the present units. Thus, Notre-Dame of Paris regains its place as a masterpiece of engineering ingenuity achieved as Paris became the capital city and France began to assume the geographical shape that we know today.
The Virgin Mary’s Swoon at the Crucifixion has been recognized as a visualization of the doctrine of compassio: Mary shares Christ’s suffering. She is thus able to help in Christ’s work of redemption. Yet images and texts from the twelfth through the fourteenth centuries attest to another profound meaning of the Swoon. As Mary collapses, she is in labor. Images of the Swoon can be related to an antique iconography of childbirth and to birthing practice in contemporary society. As mother of the Savior and of all mankind in salvation, Mary on Calvary becomes mankind’s loving protector and intercessor.
Enrico Scrovegni commissioned the Arena Chapel to expiate the sin of usury, through which the family had amassed a fortune. The program includes several features suggesting a preoccupation with ill-gotten gains. Central to the program’s meaning is the juxtaposition of the Pact of Judas with the Visitation. Fertility was understood throughout the Middle Ages as usury’s antithesis; usury was condemned because it forces barren metal to breed unnaturally. The Virgin’s fruitful womb was celebrated by Bonaventura, among others, as the antidote to avarice: the avaricious "bear no fruit." Mary’s fertility promises salvation for the Scrovegni family.
“We See a Ghost" compares William Hogarth’s print Credulity, Superstition and Fanaticism (1762) with its rather different, unpublished first state, Enthusiasm Delineated (1761). The latter is revealed as a polemic on shopworn French academic art theory, including the systems proposed by Charles LeBrun and Roger de Piles, and on misplaced, even erotically passionate enthusiasm for the old masters. Fearing to cause a scandal with the blasphemous art lovers of the first state, Hogarth remade the print into a satire on Methodist fanaticism, the version that was published.
The controversy concerning the nudity of the male protagonists in David’s Intervention of the Sabines (1799) can be understood only by interrogating the wider gender politics of nudity á la grecque in Directory France. At stake in the scandal of nudity was not only classicism but the Republic. By the late 1790s, neither could be disengaged from anxieties about fashion, women’s sexuality, and women’s viewing.
Using aspects of postcolonial and reception theory, this article explores how mid-nineteenth-century France and England responded to the sudden rediscovery of ancient Assyrian artifacts. The conception of Assyria, exemplified in the paintings of John Martin and Eugène Delacroix, before the discoveries was variously transformed and disrupted in the different institutional, critical, social, and political situations of France and England during and directly after the discoveries. The result was a more complex and hybrid range of artistic representations of Assyria, in which judgments of aesthetic value, historical veracity, and gender identities were both restated and contested.
Albert Laprade’s Musée des Colonies was the only permanent building at the 1931 Colonial Exposition in Paris. As a monument to both the French colonial empire and to France itself, the museum posed a difficult problem for its architect. Laprade solved this conundrum by using the museum’s architecture to represent the metropolitan side of the empire and the sculptural and decorative programs to portray the colonies, thereby reinforcing both colonial and Beaux-Arts representational hierarchies. This paper analyzes this dichotomy in terms of the aesthetic hierarchy of architecture over the decorative arts and the racial hierarchy of France over its colonies.