A Chapter in the Politics of Gender in Art
As eighteenth-century France’s sense of moral crisis rose, gender relations became more embattled. The greater presence of women in society evoked a reaction toward gender separation, as medical theorists circumscribed women’s «nature» within sexual and maternal roles. As hysteria and the vapors became common female afflictions, Enlightenment philosophes puzzled over the paradox of women’s condition.
The conflict over «effeminate» rococo and «masculine» neo-classical art illustrates these tensions. David’s milieu embraced a severer Roman, less feminocentric aesthetic. His preparatory sketches for The Oath exhibit hesitation as to how to frame his version of the story, but his final work diminishes women’s stature, not only in the myth, but for the revolutionary generation’s conceptualization of the republic. The work’s huge impact reinforced a gender history in which women’s place in the modern state was decisively relegated to its margins.
List of Figures ix
Figures 1. Jaël, from Le Moyne. Galleries des femmes fortes (1647). Engraving by Abraham Bosse, after Vignon. Taylor Institution, Oxford 6 2. David. Horatius Defending His Sons (1784) Drawing, Musée du Louvre, Paris. Photo: New York, Art Resource 66 3. J.-L. David. Drawing for The Oath of the Horatii. Albertina, Vienna. Photo: New York, Art Resource 67 4. J.-L. David. Drawing for The Oath of the Horatii. Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris. Photo, ENSBA 70 5. J.-L. David. Drawing for The Oath of the Horatii. Musée du Louvre, Paris. Photo: New York, Art Resource 71 6. J.-.L. David. Drawing for The Oath of the Horatii. Musée Wicar, Lille Photo: New York, Art Resource 72 7. J.-L. David The Oath of the Horatii. Musée du Louvre, Paris. Photo: New York, Art Resource 73 8. J.-L. David. The Revolt of the Sabines. Musée du Louvre, Paris. Photo: New York, Art Resource 93 interior_gutwirth.indd 9 7/18/11 8:33 PM interior_gutwirth.indd 10 7/18/11 8:33 PM
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