December 1997, Volume LXXIX Number 4
At a time when French culture was aesthetically and politically polarized, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes provided a convincing national idiom. This paper examines the critical reception of Puvis de Chavannes’s mural Summer (Paris, Hôtel de Ville, 1891) in the context of debates about modernism, nationalism, and subjectivity that permeated fin de siécle culture. Summer’s large flat areas of color and generalized, disjunctive forms mobilized individual fantasies of the maternal. Picturing the motherland, Summer put fantasy to the task of instilling collective identity. Furthermore, Summer provided a site where the social consequences of a modernist address to the unconscious were explicitly debated.
This article considers Manet’s 1862 portrait of Jeanne Duval in light of Baudelaire’s poetry and aesthetic writings on fashion and caricature. The painting is situated within the political debate concerning the regency of Empress Eugénie and the ensuing discourse concerning women and power in Second Empire France. Eugénie’s political influence threatened to blur gender boundaries considered appropriate to the age. By allowing Duval’s skirt to dominate the painting, Manet invoked a sign of feminine influence and opened a space to explore the dissent that was suppressed in political discourse.
This paper investigates the social structure of gift giving among art collectors in early modern Italy. It focuses on Padre Sebastiano Resta, a collector of drawings based in Rome, between 1680 and his death in 1714. Gift giving was the preferred mode of exchange among aristocratic collectors, a practice that shaped their aesthetic response to art objects. A common culture of elite consumption fostered the neo-feudal nostalgia through which gifts were exchanged and the critical perception of art as the object of courtly love.
In the Pietà made by Michelangelo for Vittoria Colonna a new category of art--the drawing made as a finished work and presented as a gift--became a privileged model for a conception of religious faith and divine grace promoted in the reforming circles with which both Michelangelo and Vittoria were associated. The letters and writings of Michelangelo and Vittoria that surround this drawing articulate a series of correlations between art as a gift and divine grace as a gift and reveal important tensions in Italian artistic and religious culture on the eve of the Counter-Reformation.
This paper excavates the philosophical and optical sources for Alberti’s commentary On Painting. Alberti claims that his three rules of art derive from the way that people see. This paper shows that they are adapted from Alhazen’s optics, which explains how vision provides a secure knowledge of the material world. In Aristotelian philosophy, the cognitive process for understanding material objects is termed composition. By making composition a rule of art, Alberti locates early quattrocento painting within a philosophical tradtion that accords vision a primary role in human cognition.
Discovered in the church of the Virgin constructed by Constantine Lips, a high official in the court of Leo VI, the Saint Eudokia plaque is the finest inlaid marble icon to have survived from medieval Byzantium. This examination proposes a new identity for this obscure saint. The evidence suggests that Eudokia is not the exiled empress of the Early Christian period but the little-known wife of the emperor Leo VI. The representation of this empress demonstrates that in the early tenth century, the creation of Byzantine saints and the commissioning of sacred art were intimately related to affairs of the imperial household.
Analysis of the mosaics in S. Vitale at Ravenna reveals two phases in the panels of Justinian and Theodora, which the histories of Procopius help to explain. The first phase, dating from 544-45 and originally including the bishop of Ravenna Victor, probably shows the emperor and empress with their commander in Italy Belisarius, his wife Antonina, their daughter Joannina, and Theodora’s grandson and Joannina’s fiancé, Anastasius. In the second phase, Victor’s successor Maximian replaced Victor’s head with his own in 548 and added a new figure, probably the general John the Nephew of Vitalian.