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Title: A Rule Without Measure: Michelangelo and French painting 1814-1837
Authors: Doyle, Allan Patrick
Advisors: DeLue, Rachael Z.
Contributors: Art and Archaeology Department
Keywords: Michelangelo
Subjects: Art history
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: ABSTRACT This dissertation focuses on the ways in which early nineteenth-century French artists on both sides of the Classicist-Romantic divide drew upon the art of the past to define themselves in the present. I examine how the figure of Michelangelo Buonarroti was used by a network of critics, administrators, and artists to embody the irreconcilable demands of tradition, on the one hand, and a new market-driven taste for originality, on the other. My first two chapters examine Michelangelo’s persona in contradistinction to that of Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael Sanzio, by analyzing their writings and artworks in light of the aesthetic discourse of their time. I argue that Michelangelo and his biographers constructed a historical persona in which he functioned as a ‘rule without measure,’ that is, an inaugural limit or norm within a chain of emulative relationships. The remainder of the dissertation examines the use of Michelangelo as an academic counter-model in France during the Restoration and July Monarchy. I begin by examining the commissioning, execution, and critical reception of Xavier Sigalon’s full-scale replica of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment ordered by Adolphe Thiers. Painted in Rome by Xavier Sigalon, the copy’s installation in Paris in 1837 led Eugène Delacroix to declare Michelangelo the “father of modern art.” The following chapter analyses Horace Vernet’s anecdotal history painting, Raphaël au Vatican (1833) in light of then-current debates over pedagogy and emulation. My concluding chapter examines the early development of lithography in France within the framework of the Michelangelesque and the use of Renaissance models of production. In particular, I read Théodore Géricault’s contributions to a monumental series of illustrated travelogues, the Voyages pittoresques, as allegorical meditations on the impact of the new medium. It was the capacity of the authoritative figure of Michelangelo to suspend the antinomies of Romanticism—past and present, worker and genius, finished and unfinished, classicist and Romantic—which artists of the time found compelling. I conclude that Michelangelo’s essentially vexed relation to the art of the past allowed him to signify both the continuity guaranteed by the emulation of old masters and the disruptive force of genius.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Art and Archaeology

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