Edited By James Kearns and Alister Mill
Shifting Institutional Practices during the Second Empire: The Salon Lottery of 1859
An unusual event occurred during the Salon of 1859 when a committee organised and sanctioned by the state mounted a lottery of works of art within the government-run exhibition. My essay investigates the elaboration and meaning of this new enterprise. I will examine how and why a lottery came into being in 1859 and its significance for our understanding of Salon exhibitions, particularly during the Second Empire (1852–70). In the spring of 1859, the Salon became a public event in unprecedented ways as citizens had an opportunity to interact with the exhibition in a manner that had not previously been possible – they could buy lottery tickets for what evolved into a draw for over 125 artworks. The response was such that a broader cross-section of French citizens engaged with the visual arts than had occurred to date, including artists, members of the press, citizens in Paris and the provinces, people outside France, and many of the state employees and ministers responsible for organising the Salons. The lottery of 1859 is significant, I will argue, because it suggests how developments in democratic practices intersected with the visual arts during the 1850s and 1860s, and thus offers us new perspectives that challenge dominant views of the period.
The Salon of 1859 took place during the first decade of the Second Empire when the exhibitions were held biennially; with 3,483 works listed in the catalogue, it was around 10% larger than the previous exhibition of 1857.1 It...
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