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C O U R S E 
Sexing the Canvas: Art and Gender
Jeanette Hoorn, The University of Melbourne
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Seduction in Boucher's pastoral paintings
Notes taken on February 12, 2017 by Edward Tanguay
Boucher's pastoral paintings
a pendant pair
two works that were created to be displayed together
hung on either side of a medallion portrait by John Baptist Lemuel of Louis XV
both the paintings and the medallion sculpture are from 1748
the height of King Louis XV's time as king
the epitomize aspects of 18th century French art
defined by its lightness of touch, sense of beauty, its eroticism and connections with themes of love
Louis XV was known as Louis XV The Well Loved
not just by his people but by women
Madame de Pompadour
he had several mistresses, she was the favorite
single most important female patron of the arts in France
her favorite painter was Francois Boucher
first painter of the king
director of the academy of French Painting and Sculpture
group of artists
during the time of Louis XIV came together to establish the rules of painting and sculpture and how artists should be trained
Boucher plays with conventions
a part of Rococo art
relied on skilled users
had learned how to decode painting in connection with their ideals of sociability and behavior
pastoral paintings
finished in 1748
closely connected to pastoral literature and plays
plays in the 18th century did not only take play in official theaters
also in private theaters of the nobility
worked with Favart
reformed the comic opera
took the bawdy and ribald performances of sexuality in pantomime, and connected them with refined codes of sociability that appealed to the nobility
with the idea that the more refined audiences would start coming back to the theater
Favare and Boucher grew up near each other
by the 1740s they were collaborating
Boucher came up with the ideas which he painted which then Favart then turned into plays and performances
Boucher also did costume design and scenic backdrops for pastoral plays
many plays derived from a tradition of pastoral literature that goes back to the 17th century
a salon culture dominated by women and the tastes of women going back to Louis XIV
by Louis XV, women set many of the standards of taste
visual arts
in the discourse of refined behavior
pastoral plays
no dialogue
familiar songs in the background telling what people were doing
set in a golden age somewhere in a landscape
usually a simple love story between a shepherdess and a shepherd
gives her a flute lesson
girl asleep, young man who delivers a basket of flowers from the shepherd
Favart's wife was often the main lead
but not always as the shepherdess but the shepherd
quite different from many other eras
Portrait: Leçon de flute
these are not real shepherds and shepherdesses that work in the fields
but idealized
wander around the landscape with their sheep and think about nothing but love
the sheep are always perfectly coiffed
the shepherdess is not engaged with her sheep
she is learning a lesson from her shepherd who is attempting to woo her
next to them a fountain of love
connection with aristocratic way of life
the nobility defined themselves by not working
by the mid 18th century, they also had no real military function anymore
they spent a large amount of their time pursuing leisure which was their primary occupation
one aspect of that leisure was the pursuit of love
a highly codified way of wooing a woman
the crudeness of sexuality is turned into something that is highly refined and coded
at the foot of the woman is a crown of flowers
one meaning is that she gives this to her lover when he wins her heart
also an erotic meaning of the vagina
the flute
a reference to the male penis
her being taught to play it is a reference to her being taught to perform oral sex
not understood by everyone but only those in a small elite circle
Boucher's conventions on gender
male figure is seated above the female figure
Mannlich, student of Boucher
had students make many drawings which Boucher signed and sold them off
Boucher corrected the way students were painting the female body
the female body should be painted as if it had hardly any bones at all
the idea is that they're curved, soft lines
nothing that's hard or breaks the eye in a way as it moves around the canvas
female has a porcelain white color
male figure has more of a sun-kissed look, more flesh tones
The Mysterious Basket (1748)
female and male are different along the customary markings
the man is not the shepherd but the rustic delivering the basket
man is very masculine
ripples and veins
fleshy and physicality that we don't see with the shepherd
he is crude character
Boucher was often criticized when pastoral scenes were shown in salons
the way these coded meanings were understood, was a kind of pastoral versions of themselves, i.e. the upper echelons of society
when they were shown at general salons they were criticized and seen as dangerous
where art exhibitions take place every two years in Paris
the perfumes of the fish mongers wife mixed with the perfumes with the ladies of the court
showing sexuality as having any consequences
you can learn to play a flute, but there is no suggestion that that can lead to any sort of moral downfall
the male didn't look masculine enough
less friendly critics
Denis Diderot
founding member of the encyclopedia
didn't like Boucher's work
thought it was moral degenerate
in a later salon, Diderot, says, "when am I going to be rid of these pastorals"
women would come and linger in front of these painters and would not understand that there was a price to be paid for this kind of sexual activity
it was a misinterpretation of signs and symbols meant for certain class of society