Chapter 29 Europe and America 1700-1800

The informality and sense of moment link the painting

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The informality and sense of moment link the painting to contemporaneous English and European portraits, but the spare style and emphasis on the sitter’s down-to-earth style differentiate the American work from British and continental counterparts.
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Kauffmann, Cornelia presenting her children as her treasures, 1785 The theme is the virtue of Cornelia, mother of the future political leaders Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, who attempted to reform the Roman republic in the second century B.C. Cornelia’s character is revealed in this scene, which takes place after a lady visitor had shown off her fine jewelry and then haughtily requested that Cornelia show hers. Instead of rushing to get them, Cornelia brings her sons forward, presenting them as her jewels. The architectural setting is severely Roman, with no Rococo motif, and the composition and drawing have the simplicity and firmness of low- relief carving. Only the Rococo style’s charm and grace linger, and in Kauffmann’s own tranquil manner. The subject of this piece is an informative exemplum virtutis (example or model of virtue ) drawn from Greek and Roman history and literature. The moralizing pictures of Hogarth and Grueze already had marked change in taste, but Kauffmann replaced the modern setting and characters of their works. The actors are clothed in Roman garb and posed in classical Roman attitudes within Roman interiors.
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Jacques Louis-David, Oath of the Horatii, 1784 A milestone painting in David’s career, it depicts a story from pre-Republican Rome, the heroic phase of Roman history. The topic was not an arcane one for David’s audience. This story of conflict between love and patriotism, first recounted by the ancient Roman historian Livy, had been retold in a play by Pierre Cornielle performed in Paris several years earlier, making it familiar to David’s audience. According to the story, the leaders of the warring cities of Rome and Alba decided to resolve their conflicts in a series of encounters waged by three representatives from each side. The Roman champions, the three Horatuis brothers, were sent to face the three sons of the Curatius family from Alba. A sister of the Horatii, Camilla, was the bride-to-be of one of the Curatius sons, while the wife of the youngest Horatuis was the sister of the Curatii. The painting shows the Horatii as they swear on their swords, held high by their father, to win or die for Rome, oblivious to the anguish of their female relatives. In it’s form, it is a paragon of the Neoclassical style. The subject deals with patriotism and sacrifice as well as the admirable force and clarity. The statuesque figures are rigid and angular forms of the men contrast with the soft curvilinear figures on the right.
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David, Death of Marat, 1793 Jacques-Louis David depicted in this painting the assassination of Jean-Paul Marat. Marat was a revolutionary radical and a writer who was David’s close personal friend.
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  • Fall '14
  • French Rococo, Mrs. Richard Brinsley, French Rococo room, Rococo artists, line. French Rococo

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