The French Academy
"The image is completely military and its intentionality is clearly political-dynastic. The monarch appears in a landscape with a battle in the background -the siege of Namur, painted by Joseph Parrocel (1646-1704)- that marks the last time the king led his armies. He wears French cavalry armor decorated with fleurs de lis of a type that was normal in the 17th century. His helmet rests on a stone on which he also rests one end of his command baton, which has the same decorations as his armor. He wears a general’s cummerbund and the sash of the Order of the Saint-Esprit across his chest, with the plaque hanging against his left side. This elaborately martial appearance does not stop him from wearing a high and dark wig of the sort then in vogue and his air of distinction combines a blasé self-confidence with an aura of majestic distance, all of which is reinforced by the authority conveyed by his gestures. He firmly grasps his command baton in his right hand while resting he left on his hip." - Prado Museum











Historic Context

Louis XIV

18th century The Age of Enlightenment
1643 - 1715
Reign of Louis XIV - "The Sun King"
1660 - 1774 Rococo
Versailles established as official royal residence
1715 - 1774
Reign of Louis XV
1760 - 1830
Industrial Revolution
1763 - 1781
American Revolution
1774 - 1792
Reign of Louis XVI
Loius XVI & Marie Antoinette tried for treason and beheaded
1789 - 1799
French Revolution
Late 18th to early 19th centuries Neoclassicism
1799 - 1814
Napoleon controls France
Hyacinthe Rigaud, Louis XIV, 1701.











1664 French Academy begins to hold annual Salons
To show at a salon, a young artist needed to be received by the Académie by first submitting an artwork to the jury; only Académie artists could be shown in the salons. Salons were started under Louis XIV and continued until 1704. After a hiatus, the salons started up again in 1725.

  • A salon, the Salon and salon style
  • A salon = a fashionable assemblage of notables held by custom at the home of a prominent person
  • The Salon = annual display of art established as a venue to show the works of Academy members
  • Salon style = method in which artworks are exhibited in a gallery that utilizes the maximum amount of space possible
Piero Antonio Martini, The Paris Salon of 1785.











Hierarchy of genres

Abduction of the Sabine Women

History painting = scenes with narrative content derived from mythology, Christian history, literature and historical events
Nicolas Poussin, The Abduction of the Sabine Women,
c. 1633 - 1634.











"The painting depicts one of the mythical episodes surrounding the history of ancient Rome. The city has just been founded by Romulus, and the Romans wish to ensure the future prosperity of their young nation. As there is a lack of women to provide the necessary offspring, they plan a mass abduction. With this in mind, they invite the neighboring Sabines to a feast during which they seize the women and drive off the men. Three years later, the Sabines attack Rome in revenge. But the conflict is prevented thanks to the women, who stand between their brothers and their husbands (to whom they have become reconciled). Thus peace was achieved between the two peoples. Poussin has chosen to illustrate the scene of the abduction. Romulus stands on the left, dominating the proceedings, in a pose directly inspired by Imperial statues. In the central section, the painter emphasizes the panic and confrontation between the men and women. This all takes place against an architectural background in linear perspective, which gives the work its vanishing point." - The Louvre
Abduction of the Sabine Women
Nicolas Poussin, The Abduction of the Sabine Women, c. 1633 - 1634.











Nicolas Poussin, The Holy Family on the Steps, 1648.





















Poussinistes vs. Rubenistes
Favored line - disegno
Favored color - colore or colorito
Believed that drawing appealed to the mind
Believed color was more true to nature than line
Drawing superior to color effects, because color appealed to the senses
Drawing appealed to the educated few, while color appealed to everyone


Landscape with Saint John on Patmos
Raising of the Cross
Nicolas Poussin, Landscape with Saint John on Patmos, 1640.
Peter Paul Rubens, The Raising of the Cross,
1610 - 1611.











Versailles Palace

Louis Le-Vau and Jules Hardoin-Mansart, Versailles Palace, 1668 - 1685.



Building of Versailles











Hall of Mirrors

Jules Hardouin-Mansart and Charles Le Brun, Hall of Mirrors, Palais de Versailles,
Begun 1678. Approx. 240' in length.










Portuguese word "barroco" = irregularly shaped pearl
French word "rocaille" = artificial shell or rock ornament popular for gardens
Germain Boffrand, Salon de la Princesse, Hotel de Soubise, Begun 1732.











Characteristics of the Rococo style:
  • Highly decorative
  • Lighthearted and playful
  • Element of fantasy and escape
Arabesque = linear surface decoration based on foliage and calligraphic forms, usually characterized by flowing lines and swirling shapes
Johann Balthasar Neumann, Kaisersaal (Imperial Hall),
1719 - 1744.
Frankfurt, Germany.











Rosalba Carriera, Charles Sackville, 2nd Duke of Dorset, c. 1730.











Jean-Antoine Watteau, Le Pelerinage a l'ile de Cithere (Pilgrimage to Cithera), 1717.











Cythera = island of love and the island that Venus arrives on after her birth at sea
Pilgrimage to Cythera
"amor vincit omnia" - love conquers all
fetes galantes = elegant fetes or entertainments
Jean-Antoine Watteau, Le Pelerinage a l'ile de Cithere (Pilgrimage to Cithera), 1717.










The Garden of Love

Peter Paul Rubens, The Garden of Love, c. 1638.











Jean-Antoine Watteau, The Signboard of Gersaint, c. 1721.












vanitas = an image in which the objects symbolize the transience of life and remind the viewer of their own impending doom. Vanitas paintings are usually still lifes or genre subjects

Clara Peters, Still Life with Flowers, Goblet, Dried Fruit and Pretzels, 1611.











Vanitas elements:
  • Louis XIV portrait
  • Clock
  • Straw
  • Woman gazing into a mirror
Jean-Antoine Watteau, The Signboard of Gersaint, c. 1721.