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The Bulletin du Centre de recherche du château de Versailles is a peer-reviewed electronic journal produced by the Centre de recherche du château de Versailles (CRCV), publishing scientific articles and studies on European court societies from the 16th to the 19th centuries. It welcomes contributions from scholars, postgraduates and senior researchers from all countries, disciplines and institutions.

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Entre admiration et rejet : la perception de l’art français par les étrangers au tournant des xviie et xviiie siècles

Admiration and rejection: how French art was perceived by foreigners in the late 17th and early 18th centuries

Admiration and rejection: how French art was perceived by foreigners in the late 17th and early 18th centuries

International symposium, 5–7 May 2021

Centre de Recherche du Château de Versailles – Centre Allemand d’Histoire de l’Art Paris

Our overall theme, whose subtitle emphasises the alternation ‘between admiration and rejection’, is based on observations that we have been able to make as part of the ARCHITRAVE research project. The architects studied on this occasion – in particular Leonhard Christoph Sturm, Christoph Pitzler and Lambert Friedrich Corfey, together with Christian Friedrich Gottlieb von dem Knesebeck – developed an astonishingly original, simple and functional classicism which reveals obvious borrowings from French architecture but ultimately has little in common with its method of assembling trimmed stone blocks and functional arrangement of interior spaces. This unusual distancing from France, concomitant with evident interest in its architecture, formed the starting point for our investigation how French art was perceived and received during the transition between the Baroque period and the start of the Age of the Enlightenment.

So this symposium reflects a desire to re-evaluate cultural transfers between France and the German states during this period. This new approach will take account of numerous, often disparate contributions, made recently both in the field of theory and methodology and in that of more quantitative research. For the paradigm of the ‘expansion of French art’, introduced into art history in the 1920s by Louis Réau, turned out to be very tenacious. Some researchers have continued, to a greater or lesser degree, to adhere to the domination of the French cultural model in Europe at the end of the 17th century and during the 18th. However, the development, in the late 1980s, of research into cultural transfers from a transnational perspective showed the complexity and diversity of the processes of reception. But recently, the ideas formulated in 2007 by Eva-Bettina Krems on artistic relations between France and the former Reich have come to the fore; namely that each ‘import’ – spatial distribution, formal solution or objet d’art – was always accompanied by a change in function or an adjustment of the principles to the conditions and needs of the destination country (« Modellrezeption und Kulturtransfer: methodische Überlegungen zu den künstlerischen Beziehungen zwischen Frankreich und dem Alten Reich (1660-1740) », Jahrbuch der Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden, n° 31, p. 7-21). The multi-author work Versailles et l’Europe: l’appartement monarchique et princier, architecture, décor, cérémonial (dir. T. W. Gaehtgens, M. A. Castor, F. Bussmann et C. Henry, 2017) shows to what extent such processes of adaptation to local architectural traditions and ceremonial requirements could play an important role, particularly in the former Reich.

Bearing in mind the new area of research sketched out above, we have thus given priority to the following approaches in the choice and treatment of contributions to the symposium:
– a comparative perspective that takes account of the competing issues linked to the processes of adaptation and in which the focus on France and Germany is always placed in a broader multinational context, including other models such as the Netherlands, Spain, Great Britain and Italy;
– a quantitative analysis making it possible to collect reliable statistical data on observed phenomena;
– research relating to material evidence, centred on media and art; in addition to decorative objets d’art, it is based in particular on prints, as well as on more neglected forms of communication, such as medals and any object that could serve as ‘mediation’ after it was bought or received as a diplomatic gift in dynastic relations or political alliances;
– an analysis of transfers that includes the sites where networks used by foreigners in France formed. Knights' academies, language schools, as well as foreign embassies in Paris have still not been sufficiently taken into account as places for socialising;
– the shifting of the epistemological framework of the literary analysis of the travel accounts in question makes it easier to follow the transition from a descriptive, didactic form to a more subjective form of writing allowing space for emotions.

ARCHITRAVE project website :

See the full programme of the symposium on the website of the Centre de Recherche du Château de Versailles.

Organization of the symposium: Philipps-Universität Marburg; Centre de Recherche du Château de Versailles; Centre Allemand d’Histoire de l’Art Paris; Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen

Scientific editor: Hendrik Ziegler

Translators and copy-editors: Bernard Wooding, Jean-Philippe Follet, Jean-Léon Muller,  Chrisoula Petridis, Alexandra Pioch, Marie-Paule Rochelois

Electronic publication: 8 April 2022

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