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Annual Art History Lecture: Paint, Possessions, and Polity: Fifteenth-Century Foundations of French Painting

Location: Palamountain Hall: Davis Auditorium

Date: 02/06/2013

Time: 5:30 PM

Annual Art History Lecture by Jennifer Courts, Visiting Assistant Professor "Paint, Possessions, and Polity: Fifteenth-Century Foundations of French Painting" France's position in the development of fifteenth-century oil painting is often overlooked for a number of reasons, foremost of which is the national economic and emotional toll of the Hundred Years' War. Traditional scholarship has viewed the French adoption of oil painting as motivated by a change in taste among wealthy Parisians, away from the International Gothic and toward "modern" painting in the style of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden. But what exactly made oil painting, ostensibly the domain of the wealthy merchants of the duchy of Burgundy during the early fifteenth century, of interest to an audience composed of the sovereign and his closest advisors at the heart of the kingdom of France? I will address this question by focusing on the unique ability of oil painting to recreate the people, places and objects of the material world. Using the example of the Crucifixion of the Parlement de Paris (1449-53; Paris: Louvre), this talk explores the political environment of Paris circa 1450, a city in the middle of rebuilding its economy and relationship with the king in the wake of the Hundred Years' War, to explain the choice of the oil medium to construct a much-needed vision of a centralized and powerful French nation grounded in the details of materiality. Taking advantage of the capacity of oil painting to credibly recreate the details of the physical world, the painting recombines reality to construct a utopian view of France as prosperous and most Christian kingdom under the wise rule of Charles VII.

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