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Friday Talk: Goddesses, mistresses and the tradition of French sixteenth-ce...

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Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery

35 Stirling Highway

University of Western Australia

Crawley, WA 6009

Australia

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Enquiries: lwag@uwa.edu.au or 08 6488 3707

FRIDAY TALK:

Goddesses, mistresses and the tradition of French sixteenth-century portraiture

Join Jane Southwood, UWA Honorary Research Fellow, as she discusses a series of exquisite sixteenth-century French paintings and sculptures by individual named and unnamed artists from the Ecole de Fontainebleau, portraying the mistresses – or ‘favourites’ – of reigning French monarchs.

The portrayals draw on mythological, literary and iconological sources to place these women in a context befitting their beauty, status and importance within the life of the monarch and within French society. The portrayals often also contain in their margins an additional narrative, revealing the life of the woman in the portrait.

UWA Campus Partner: Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions



Abstract:

In sixteenth–century France a series of exquisite paintings and sculptures by individual, named artists and
by unnamed artists from the Ecole
de Fontainebleau, portrayed the mistresses—or ‘favorites’—of reigning French monarchs.

The portrayals draw on mythological, literary and iconological sources to place these women in a context befitting their beauty, status and importance within the life of the monarch as within French society. The portrayals often also contain in their margins an additional narrative bearing on the life of the woman in the portrait.

The idealised representation of the women depicted invites the viewer to unravel the commonplaces underlying the portraitsand to decipher the ‘language’—oftenunknown to the modern viewer—on

which these portraits are constructed. Cognisant of the complexity of this language in secular art, the French critic, Guy de Tervarent, devised a dictionary, published by Droz in 1958, titled Attributs et symboles dans l’art profane. Dictionnaire d’un langage perdu, (Attributes and symbols in secular art. Dictionary of a lost language), a valuable tool for scholars of the early- modern period, as are the emblem books and the literature of the period.

The tantalising narratives of the life of the women portrayed are also ‘readable’ if the portraits are closely examined and we can query how far the truth is masked by the artists’ representation of the women in the portraits.

Jane Southwood

Most recently Lecturer in French, University of New England, now Honorary Research Fellow, School of Humanities, University of Western Australia, Jane Southwood has worked in five tertiary institutions in France and Australia.

She has delivered papers in French and English, and published in both languages in France, the UK and Australia, on maritime exploration, on the art of sixteenth- century and nineteenth-century France, on the writings of the eminent classicist, environmentalist and first woman to be elected to the French Academy since its inception in 1635, Marguerite Yourcenar (1903—1987). In addition, she has published on French poetry, prose and music of the medieval and early- modern periods and of the ninenteenth century, on the history of medicine and on translation.

She received her BA, MA and PhD from the University of Western Australia, where she studied French sixteenth-century literature and culture with Beverley Ormerod and wrote a PhD on twentieth- century literature with Denis Boak.

Before leaving to settle in Adelaide with her family, where, in retirement, she is a researcher, writer, translator and passionate spokesperson on the environment, Jane worked in French Studies, UWA, and is delighted to once again be an enthusiastic member of the UWA community.

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Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery

35 Stirling Highway

University of Western Australia

Crawley, WA 6009

Australia

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