Making a Scene

In Which I Will Proceed To Do Just That

10 notes


My dear Rene,

… while I was in the process of re-reading bits of Candide this morning, my eyes fell upon one of my favourite paintings, Voltaire’s most famous portrait which he liked so much that he decided to make it official.

To be perfectly honest, we do not have the original work but only a copy realised circa 1736 after Quentin de la Tour’s 1735 preliminary sketch:

Portrait de Voltaire

But, by the Great Clock-Winder, do I love the final result!

In fact, I entertain an unreasonable amount of adoration for everything Maurice Quentin Delatour ever painted. The percentage of cuteness that man was able to slip in the official portraits of so many important men and women of the Lumières reaches very dangerous levels.

Who bleeping paints smiles on 18th-century paintings?! Who?!

From left to right and from top to bottom:

   ■ Self-portrait of the artist, 1737, exhibited as “The Author Laughing”; Geneva Art and History Museum.
   ■ François-Marie “Voltaire” Arouet (1694-1778), writer, historian, and philosopher, incarnation of the French Enlightenment movement, great advocate of freedom of expression, of religion, and the separation of church and state, creator of the irony as a literary genre, essayist, very bad playwright, and professional I.R.S. escapist.
   ■ Jean Le Rond d’Alembert (1717-1783), mathematician, physicist, mechanician, philosopher, and music theorist; perpetual secretary of the Académie française, co-creator with Denis Diderot of the Encyclopédie in 1750and its co-editor until 1759. Paris, Louvre Museum (1753).
   ■ Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville (1711-1772), virtuoso violinist and composer. Saint-Quentin, Antoine Lécuyer Museum (1747).
   ■ Jean II Restout (1692-1768), celebrated rococo painter. Antoine Lécuyer Museum (1746).
   ■ Marie Fel (1713-1794), renowned singer at the Opéra de Paris, she was Delatour’s companion for over thirty years. Private collection (1757).
   ■ Louis Duval de l’Epinoy (1696-1778), geographer, counsellor and secretary of Louis XV. Lisboa, Calouste Gulbenkian Museum (1745).
   ■ Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer, famous for his theories on politics and education, and also for abandoning all his children, but especially for his thoughts on civil society and citizenship, which would help shape the centuries to come. Antoine Lécuyer Museum (1753).
   ■ “Mademoiselle Ferrand meditating about Newton”: Élisabeth Ferrand (1700-1752) was only known as the geometry-versed friend of philosopher and epistemologist Étienne de Condillac (1714-1780), who helped the French discover and appreciate John Locke; a familiar of Diderot’s circle, he was friends with Rousseau. Munich, Alte and Neue Pinakothek (1753).
   ■ Marie Sallé (1707-1756), dancer and choreographer at the Opéra de Paris. Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisboa (1741).
   ■ Self-portrait of the artist, 1750, “… with Lace Jabot”, Amiens, Musée de Picardie.

Incidentally, the Marquise of Pompadour, most famous mistress of King Louis XV from 1745 to her death in 1764, ordered her full-body portrait in 1749. Delatour was 45, the Marquise 28, and Louis XV “the Beloved” was at the peak of his reign. The painter asked a rather colossal sum of 48,000 French livres, he got paid only half of it—already a fortune for that time. The painting was achieved five years later for the 1755 Salon of the Académie de peinture, where all the official artists exhibited their works, which ensured many ulterior orders from rich clients.


Did you know, by the way, that the French Realists and Naturalists were opposed to the Académie and its official art, which caused the creation of a side Salon in 1863 for the artists rejected by the Académie. There’s a good reason for the adjective académique to refer both to scholarly matters and, rather sardonically, to the starchiest classicism.

Filed under to add a bit of erudition to your day Voltaire French art academie Helshades being awesome

93 notes

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has attracted a wide variety of interpretations, ranging from the Feminist, to the Marxist, to the Psychoanalytic. Some of these interpretations have relied on the scantiest of evidence while others are simply mistaken in their analysis of the period. Ecocriticism reminds us of the importance of nature in our understanding of literary and cultural texts, and this is never more appropriate than in an analysis of Frankenstein.

This morning’s scholarly journal perusing threw up a gem.

Man, I have never seen someone stand in a glass house and throw rocks THAT HARD.

(via copperbadge)

Filed under academia *insert snort of amusement here