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A God or a Bench

Sculpture as a Problematic Art during the Ancien Régime

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Anne Betty Weinshenker

Taking a new approach to consideration of the sculpture created in France during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, this book is concerned with its societal roles and the ways in which it was received. The author draws on an extensive range of texts by artists, critics, art theoreticians and other writers as well as on images, setting contemporary conceptions of the nature and purposes of sculpture and individual works into the contexts of the elite and popular cultures of the time. Among topics included are investigations of the employment of statuary for political and religious communication, pictorial representations of sculpture, the comparative roles of painting and sculpture, and the social status of various kinds of sculptors.
Previous treatments have dealt with these productions primarily in terms of stylistic developments or of the accomplishments of individual sculptors. This study however approaches its subject thematically rather than chronologically or biographically, while nevertheless acknowledging developments and variations that occurred during the period.
Contents: Sculpture as a public art: royal monuments and their reception; sculpture in parks and on public buildings – Life, death, and sculpture: tomb decoration; statues and death in literature and science – Linking of sculpture and idolatry: religious and political interpretations – The afterlife of the paragone: materiality and spirituality; allegories of the arts – Categorization of sculptors; the sculptor’s personality – Portrayals of sculpture in paintings and in sculptures; textual treatments.