Paper, Stone, Flesh and Blood: Transforming Views of Sculpture in French Revolutionary Prints
24th May 2006 - 26th August 2006
Sculpture Study Galleries
Anonymous 'Place Vendôme: Le plus Grand des Despote, Renversé par la Liberté' 1792
Courtesy of Musée Carnavalet - Histoire de Paris, France
The French Revolution, as it erupted in 1789, brought in a period of unprecedented social and political change. Over the course of a turbulent decade, a plethora of prints was produced to record fast moving events and promote new ideologies. Public sculpture, as a powerful symbol of the established regime, was caught up in the midst of this process. This exhibition shows how prints chart the shifting values of the Revolution through sculpture, as France moved from absolute monarchy to revolutionary republic.
Sculpture appears in a multitude of prints, which blur the boundaries between the real and the imaginary and show human beings interacting with sculpted figures in varied and surprising ways. The statues of King Louis XVI and his ancestor, Henry IV come alive and converse on their pedestal. A colossal figure of Hercules, representing the People, strangles the body of the King. A portrait bust of Louis XVI is toppled from its pedestal, whilst another, of Voltaire, is crowned with a circle of stars in front of the Pantheon. Some prints depict the actual destruction of royalist statues, which became an important metaphor for the toppling of the old regime. Others present proposals for new types of Revolutionary monument, few of which were ever realised. Several document the temporary Republican sculptures which were paraded at public festivals and would otherwise be lost to history.
The prints in the exhibition have been selected by Valerie Mainz and Richard Williams of Leeds and Durham Universities, from the Biblioth‘que Nationale and Musée Carnavalet in Paris, and the Musée de la Revolution in Vizille. The research has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication in the HMI Essay series and a conference supported by the CentreCATH, entitled ‘The Afterlife of Memory: Memoria/Historia/Amnesia’, to be held at Leeds University, 5 - 8 July 2006.
- Accompanying Essay:
Sensing Sculpture at the time of the French Revolution (No.51)