The Portrait Bust and French Cultural Politics in the Eighteenth Century


In The Portrait Bust and French Cultural Politics in the Eighteenth Century, Ronit Milano probes the rich and complex aesthetic and intellectual charge of a remarkably concise art form, and explores its role as a powerful agent of epistemological change during one of the most seismic moments in French history.
The pre-Revolutionary portrait bust was inextricably tied to the formation of modern selfhood and to the construction of individual identity during the Enlightenment, while positioning both sitters and viewers as part of a collective of individuals who together formed French society. In analyzing the contribution of the portrait bust to the construction of interiority and the formulation of new gender roles and political ideals, this book touches upon a set of concerns that constitute the very core of our modernity.

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Dr. Ronit Milano is a faculty member in the Department of the Arts, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. She has published several articles on the French pre-Revolutionary portrait bust, and is currently writing a book on contemporary art installations in eighteenth-century sites.

"...this is a compelling book. Solidly researched and cogently argued, it provides an important corrective to the lacuna of scholarship on sculpted portrait busts in the modern era and stands as an excellent complement to recent publications on late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century portraiture"
Heather Belnap Jensen, Brigham Young University, in H-France 16.15, 2016
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"The Portrait Bust and French Cultural Politics in the Eighteenth Century offers fresh and game-changing insights into the ways the conventions of the sculpted portrait reflected shifting values in the socio-political sphere of late eighteenth-century France. Like a skillful cryptographer, Milano has decoded the fascinating and revealing information embedded in eighteenth-century French portrait busts, long and mistakenly considered primarily decorative and descriptive. By organizing portrait busts into categories (age, gender, profession), Milano has identified subtle yet content-dense changes in portrait conventions and, more importantly, the ideas these transformations communicated to contemporary audiences. In this engagingly-written study, she clearly demonstrates that portrait busts embodied for contemporary viewers a wealth of ideas through which we can chart the dynamic development of Enlightenment thought."
Michelle Facos, Indiana University-Bloomington
List of Illustrations
Chapter 1: “He is a Philosopher”: Individual versus Collective Identity
Chapter 2: Decent Exposure: Bosoms, Smiles and Maternal Delight in Female Portraits
Chapter 3: Between Innocence and Disillusion: Representations of Children and Childhood
Chapter 4: Transitional Identities: Family Structure, the Social Order, and Alternative Masculinities at the Dawn of Modernity
Chapter 5: The Face of the Monarchy: Court Propaganda and the Portrait Bust
All interested in eighteenth-century French art, intellectual history, gender history, history of childhood, visual culture and Ancien Régime politics, and anyone concerned with the formation of modern selfhood or with sculptural portraiture.
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