Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Swing

The Swing by Jean-Honore Fragonard

The Era: 
Arguably the most iconic painting of the era, The Swing by Jean-Honore Fragonard was created during a time where Rococo was a style exclusive to the aristocrats. During this time, the shift in power from the monarch to the aristocracy gave the latter more influence over the styles that dictated popular art and architecture of the past. Because the aristocracy had both immense power and wealth, the rules that governed them were more lax than that of the monarchy. Consequently, the Rococo period paintings became a celebration of a new type of culture that was loose in sexual rules and practices. 

What it Depicts:
The infamous painting's central feature is a woman on a long swing that hangs from a large tree. It appears innocent at first until you notice that she is gaily flinging off her shoe towards a suitor who lays in the bed of shrubs below her. Not only that, but her dress is flying up and she makes no attempt to smooth it down even though the male at the bottom left stares at what is beneath it. The lightness of her posture and clothing suggest a blithe attitude to anything outside of what she is currently doing. A priest stands behind her to push her forward showing that the aristocracy and their ways included those in the church as well. His position and expression imply that he is perhaps her lover.

What it Represents:
Simply put, The Swing is the embodiment of the Rococo spirit. Despite this being a "norm" for the time, the painting was still a scandal in the public's eyes. It not only captures a moment of spontaneity and frivolity, but also shows the darker side and relations of the Rococo period and its aristocrats.


Monday, November 25, 2013

"The Hunting Residence of Stupinigi"

The actualy name of the pavillion is, Palazzina di caccia of Stupinigi, which was built as a royal hunting lodge in the early 18th century in the Rococo style. It is located in Stupinigi, a suburb of the town of Nichelino,  six miles southwest of Turin.

It is one of the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy in northern Italy. The palace was designed by the architect Filippo Juvarra to be used as a hunting lodge for Victor Amadeus II, King of Sardinia. Works started in 1729 and two years later, the first formal hunt took place.

The original purpose of the hunting lodge is symbolized by the bronze stag perched at the apex of the stepped roof of its central dome. Also the numerous hounds' heads that decorate the vases on the roofline symbolize the purpose of the hunting lodge. The building has a saltire plan: four angled wings project from the oval-shaped main hall. Stupinigi was used for celebrations and dynastic weddings by members of the House of Savoy. In 1773, Maria Teresa, Princess of Savoy, married Charles Philippe, Count of Artois, brother of Louis XVI and the future Charles X of France.

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Marie Antoinette and The Royal Chapel

Marie Antoinette married at age 14 to future French king Louis XVI. After three centuries of rivalry, France and Austria had been allies since 1756. To reinforce these diplomatic ties, Louis XV and the Empress Maria Theresa decided to wed their respective children: the Duc de Berry, Dauphin of France, aged 15, and Marie-Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria, aged 14. The festivities commenced on 16-17 May in Versailles.

The idea of a marriage between the two crowns came to fruition only in 1770. On 19 April a wedding by procuration between the Dauphin, grandson of Louis XV, and Marie-Antoinette, youngest daughter of Maria Theresa was held in Vienna. The young Archduchess arrived in Versailles on 16 May. After entering the grounds of the Ch√Ęteau through the ornamental gates around 10 am, she was installed in the grand apartment of the queen where she prepared for the official wedding in the royal chapel. At 1 pm she made her entry into the king’s study. The Dauphin, dressed in a suit of gold with the diamond of the Holy Spirit, took her hand.

Followed by the king and the princes of royal blood, the young couple crossed the grand apartment packed with people. In the chapel they knelt in front of the altar where the Archbishop of Reims officiated. The king and the royal family surrounded them on their prie-dieus. The dauphin placed the ring on the slender finger of his bride. After the ceremony came the signing of the marriage registry. In his apartment in the early afternoon, the Dauphine received her wedding presents from the groom: a splendid carved chest containing a profusion of jewellery and precious objects.

"The young couple then attended the reception of the ambassadors before moving to the illuminated Hall of Mirrors looking out over the gardens, but the fireworks display was postponed because a storm broke out. The day ended with a sumptuous celebration in the brand new royal opera house designed by Gabriel. Then came the ritual of the ceremony of the going-to-bed: the young couple was then led into the nuptial bedchamber of Marie-Antoinette. The bed was blessed by the Archbishop of Reims. The king gave his nightshirt to the Dauphin and the Duchess of Chartres gave hers to the Dauphine. They went to bed in the presence of all the Court to show that they were sharing the same bed. Before closing the curtains, Louis XV gave some advice to his grandson. A waste of time! The marriage was not consummated until 7 years later."

After the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, the royal family was forced to live under the supervision of revolutionary authorities. In 1793, the king was executed; then, Marie Antoinette was arrested and tried for trumped-up crimes against the French republic. She was convicted and sent to the guillotine on October 16, 1793.