Just posting here the call for papers for a conference on artistic sociability in the early modern Louvre, which I am organising with Mia Jackson (QMUL) at the Wallace Collection next year.
We’ve both come at this from quite different perspectives – Mia from her research on the ébéniste, André-Charles Boulle, who lived in the Louvre and kept his collection of prints and drawings there; and me from research into the social networks of artists in my work on the Académie Royale (also housed in the Louvre) and on 18C artists’ local parishes (the Louvre being one of the liveliest artistic neighbourhoods). But our goal is the same: exploring what the Louvre was like before it became a museum, getting into all its nooks and crannies, retrieving its inhabitants, and basically bringing the old pre-Revolutionary Louvre back to life!
The response has already been great and we’re very excited to see it take shape.
Now one of the world’s best-known museums, the Louvre was once a vast artistic and cultural centre of a different kind. ‘The Louvre before the Louvre’ will delve into the fascinating but little known period of the Louvre’s history from 1643 to 1793, exploring the role this space played in the histories of art production and artistic sociability in early modern Paris.
Even before Louis XIV moved the Court from the Louvre to Versailles in 1682, the Louvre had already become the centre of artistic, creative, and intellectual energy in Paris. Artists and artisans of all trades – from watch-makers to history painters – were given lodgings and studio space in the same wings and corridors that accommodated cultural organs like the Menus Plaisirs du Roi (responsible for state festivities and spectacles), the royal printing press, and the royal academies (Painting and Sculpture, Architecture, Inscriptions, Science, and the Académie Française). As the palace expanded over the next two centuries, the Louvre complex (the building and surrounding streets) came to be dominated by this growing community of artists, artisans, men of letters, and their aristocratic patrons, inhabiting this space and living out their daily lives together.
‘The Louvre before the Louvre’ will reconstruct and re-evaluate this space of artistic sociability. As dust billowed and paint dripped in artists’ studios, theoretical debates were thrashed out in the academies, and groundbreaking technologies were designed in artisans’ workshops, the Louvre became a fertile ground for collaboration, the results of which are evident in many objects (e.g. by Boulle, Oppenordt, Oeben, Boucher, Oudry, Girardon, Coysevox, to name a few) now in the Wallace Collection where this conference will take place.
Seeking a more intimate understanding of the artistic and intellectual ‘neighbourhood’ of the Louvre and its effect on art and design in the period, we invite papers that explore the Louvre’s rich history, art, material objects, spaces, and social interactions during the 17th and 18th centuries. Suggested topics may include but are not limited to:
Please send proposals of no more than 300 words to email@example.com (Queen Mary University of London) and firstname.lastname@example.org (University of Oxford) by 15 Jan 2013.
For further information:
At the moment I’m writing a paper for this colloque happening in Paris at the INHA on 23-25 June. The organisers have brought together a really exciting looking programme of speakers from France, the USA, Germany and the UK to discuss ideas in response to the following call:
“Over the past two decades, sociabilité has become a useful and hotly debated concept for discussing the social, political and cultural changes during the eighteenth century. The works of Daniel Roche, Dena Goodman, Daniel Gordon, Antoine Lilti, and others have demonstrated that sociabilité can be fruitfully approached from the perspectives of sociology, philosophy and anthropology. In the eighteenth century, the Encyclopédie defined the term as “This inclination we have to do to others all the good that we can, to reconcile our happiness with that of others, and always to subordinate our personal advantage to the overall and communal advantage” (Louis de Jaucourt, 1751-1765) – that is, it was an abstract concept that explained the desire humankind had to participate in society. At the time, it was intricately linked to the social practice of commerce, broadly defined as any reciprocal communication or exchange. The emerging public sphere of the period, constituted by spaces such as academies, literary salons, and Masonic lodges, was the stage on which such exchanges were enacted.
Since the publication of Thomas Crow’s Painters and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Paris, art historians have taken an interest in the role of artists in the public sphere. These studies tend to take a monographic approach that is more interested in reconstructing the history of an individual artist, salonnière, or collector rather than the role that artworks played in larger systems of practice and exchange. This symposium will examine sociabilité in the eighteenth-century art world through the theme of social practice. By investigating the social practices of artists, amateurs, critics, salonniers and others we seek to uncover the larger networks of social exchange created by the commerce of material objects through collection practices, the art market and the display of art, and by the commerce of ideas through writing and conversation. To what extent did social practices in the public sphere influence artistic production and the material, economic, and verbal exchanges that took place around that production?”
The full programme of sessions is available on the conference website.
Just found this very exciting new resource that has come out of a project trying to create a kind of historical ‘Facebook’ of medieval Scotland. Using primary documents (mostly charters), historians at the Universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and King’s College London have created a database of ‘all known people’ in Scotland from the years 1093 to 1286.
Medieval Scotland isn’t exactly my place or period but I’m excited by the project because the idea of using social media technology to understand historical social networks and human interactions is something that really interests me. Last year I attended a launch event at the Science Museum in London for a competition in conjunction with their Cosmos and Culture exhibition, where participants were invited to come up with ways of using the museum’s collections data to create a website. I wasn’t really there as a contender, but I had lots of fun brainstorming ideas with those who were. Being more of a cultural/social historian than a science historian, what I was most keen on was the idea of tracing the social networks between scientists and other people in their historical contexts – making a ‘Facebook’ of the past (you can see our nascent efforts down the bottom on the ideas board next to Caroline Herschel, who paid an inspirational visit from 1797).
In my own research on 17th-/18th-century French artists in Paris, social-networking has often proved a useful analogy as I imagine something like a LinkedIn of the 18C art world: who knew who? in what capacity? for how long? where did they meet? etc etc. Thanks to the Paradox of Medieval Scotland project, I’m now even more convinced that there might be a way of actually using social media web-technologies to map the social networks in which artists moved… not only providing a way of visualising relationships in artistic communities, but actually allowing us to discover hitherto unobserved connections between people.