Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts (BA)
College of Humanities and Fine Arts
Stephanie R. Miller
The reign of Louis XIV is characterized by his desire to control based on his political ideology of absolutism. This desire manifested itself in several political and social changes made across the kingdom, and through his parties and expansions at Versailles, which highlighted his sole power. Sovereign for seventy-two years, he personified the idea of divine power and centralized government, which ultimately created a general sense of restriction among the Sun King’s court. In other words, the aristocratic class was kept under the tight grasp of Louis XIV.
As the King’s reign waned, the French nobility’s craving for freedom grew, as did Jean-Antoine Watteau’s artistic prowess. Inventor of the fête galante genre and early artist of what would be later defined as the Rococo style, Watteau’s skill and novelty won him the attention and patronage of the French elite in the early eighteenth century; he was even accepted into the Royale Academie in 1712. In the year of the Sun King’s death, 1715, Watteau created La Perspective, featuring men and women in the garden of Pierre Crozat, Watteau’s influential patron. Made at this political turning point, several of this painting’s elements, such as its setting, composition, and depiction of light, can be understood as reflections of the elite class’ desire for freedom against the establishment of monarchical control, and foreshadows several themes that would become popular in the Regency era. This paper explores Watteau’s work of aristocratic frivolity as being representative of new ideas of institutional freedom.
Carlson, Jayme G., "Stepping Out of the Sun: Watteau and Freedom in the Early Eighteenth Century" (2022). Honors Theses. 449.