Interiors and Interiority 9783110340457

The book explores the historical connections between the notions of architectural interior, subjective space, human inte

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Interiors and Interiority

Table of contents :
Introduction: Interiors and Interiority
Interior Acts
Parade’s End: On Charles-Antoine Coypel’s Bed and the Origins of Inwardness
Staging Retreat: Designs for Bathing in Eighteenth-Century France
Living with Pictures: Goethe’s Interiors
Scenes from the Dressing Room: Theatrical Interiors in Fiction Film
In/Doors: The Dialectic of Inside and Outside
‘Marching Thoughts on White Paper’: Margaret Cavendish’s Tools and Spaces of Proto-Novelistic Interiority
Interior in the Exterior: Marie-Antoinette’s Grotto at Trianon
Inside Out: Cézanne’s Perforated Wall
Mariology, Calvinism, Painting: Interiority in Pieter de Hooch’s Mother at a Cradle
Space, Intimacy, and Deformity: Stags at Louis XV’s Versailles
Non-European Artifacts and the Art Interior of the Late 1920s and Early 1930s
From the Household of the Soul to the Economy of Money: What Are Sixteenth-Century Merchants Doing in the Virgin Mary’s Interior?
A Room with a Temperature: On some Interiors of the 1830s/40s and the Discovery of the Energy Laws
Photographic Premises: Notes on the Exposure of Interiors around 1900
Contra the Großstadt: Mies van der Rohe’s Autonomy and Interiority
Surface, Screen, Seam
Inner and Outer Realms: Opaque Windows in Vilhelm Hammershøi’s Interior Paintings
Rilke’s Magic Lantern: Figural Language and the Projection of “Interior Action” in the Rodin Lecture
Touch Screen: Skin as a Shifter between Body, Space, and Image in the Work of Birgit Jürgenssen
Wild Walls, Revolving Sets, Built Cuts: Staged Interiors in Contemporary Photography and Film Installation
Politics and Ethics
Gerhard Richter’s Tisch: Memory Images and German Disavowal in 1962
Andrea Zittel’s “Small Liberties”: Siting Interiors in the Current Media Landscape
Unbelonging Interior: Chantal Akerman’s Là-bas
Picture Credits

Citation preview

Ewa Lajer-Burcharth and Beate Söntgen Interiors and Interiority

Interiors and Interiority

Edited by Ewa Lajer-Burcharth and Beate Söntgen

ISBN 978-3-11-034043-3 e-ISBN (PDF) 978-3-11-034045-7 e-ISBN (EPUB) 978-3-11-038960-9 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A CIP catalog record for this book has been applied for at the Library of Congress. Bibliographic information published by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data are available on the Internet at © 2016 Walter De Gruyter GmbH Berlin/Boston Cover illustration: André Kertész, Circus Budapest, 1920 © Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures Typesetting: Satzstudio Borngräber, Dessau-Roßlau Printing and binding: Hubert & Co. GmbH & Co. KG, Göttingen Printed on acid-free paper Printed in Germany

Content Acknowledgments — IX Ewa Lajer-Burcharth and Beate Söntgen Introduction — 1

Interior Acts Katie Scott Parade’s End: On Charles-Antoine Coypel’s Bed and the Origins of Inwardness — 17 Mimi Hellman Staging Retreat: Designs for Bathing in Eighteenth-Century France — 49 Johannes Grave Living with Pictures: Goethe’s Interiors — 73 Stefanie Diekmann Scenes from the Dressing Room: Theatrical Interiors in Fiction Film — 87

Inside/Out Anselm Haverkamp In/Doors: The Dialectic of Inside and Outside — 103 Julie Park ‘Marching Thoughts on White Paper’: Margaret Cavendish’s Tools and Spaces of Proto-Novelistic Interiority — 119 Etienne Jollet Interior in the Exterior: Marie-Antoinette’s Grotto at Trianon — 139 Susan Sidlauskas Inside Out: Cézanne’s Perforated Wall — 157



Incorporations Beate Söntgen Mariology, Calvinism, Painting: Interiority in Pieter de Hooch’s Mother at a Cradle — 175 Catherine Girard Space, Intimacy, and Deformity: Stags at Louis XV’s Versailles — 195 Charlotte Klonk Non-European Artifacts and the Art Interior of the Late 1920s and Early 1930s — 211

Oikonomies Holger Kuhn From the Household of the Soul to the Economy of Money: What Are Sixteenth-Century Merchants Doing in the Virgin Mary’s Interior? — 229 Wolfgang Kemp A Room with a Temperature: On some Interiors of the 1830s/40s and the Discovery of the Energy Laws — 247 Franziska Brons Photographic Premises: Notes on the Exposure of Interiors around 1900 — 261 Robin Schuldenfrei Contra the Großstadt: Mies van der Rohe’s Autonomy and Interiority — 279

Surface, Screen, Seam Anne Hemkendreis Inner and Outer Realms: Opaque Windows in Vilhelm Hammershøi’s Interior Paintings — 297



Brigid Doherty Rilke’s Magic Lantern: Figural Language and the Projection of “Interior Action” in the Rodin Lecture — 313 Katharina Sykora Touch Screen: Skin as a Shifter between Body, Space, and Image in the Work of Birgit Jürgenssen — 347 Annette Urban Wild Walls, Revolving Sets, Built Cuts: Staged Interiors in Contemporary Photography and Film Installation — 367

Politics and Ethics Benjamin H.D. Buchloh Gerhard Richter’s Tisch: Memory Images and German Disavowal in 1962 — 389 Katrin Grögel Andrea Zittel’s “Small Liberties”: Siting Interiors in the Current Media Landscape — 413 Ewa Lajer-Burcharth Unbelonging Interior: Chantal Akerman’s Là-bas — 435

Contributors — 457 Picture Credits — 461 Index — 465 Plates — 471

Acknowledgments Earlier versions of the essays in this volume were presented during a two-part conference held in 2011 at the Radcliffe Institute for Advance Study at Harvard University and in Berlin a year later. We would like to thank first and foremost all the contributors to our volume and everyone else who helped us realize this project. We are very grateful to the Radcliffe Institute and the people at Aloys F. Dornbracht GmbH, who offered us an exceptionally generous support when the funding for the second part of the conference in Berlin was in jeopardy. We also owe gratitude to Eva Frey, Katrin Grögel, Franziska Brons, Mara Kölmel, Sarah Grandin, Lola Mense, Lea Mönninghoff and Laura Kowalewski for their invaluable assistance in preparing the manuscripts for publication. Elisabeth Roosens introduced us to the publisher, and Katja Richter and Verena Bestle at de Gruyter stewarded the book into print with great expertise and patience, for which we are deeply grateful.

Ewa Lajer-Burcharth and Beate Söntgen

Introduction: Interiors and Interiority The connection between interior space and human interiority has a long and rich history and various arguments have been offered to establish, explain, or justify it. How did we come to think of subjectivity as inner space to begin with? At least four distinct genealogies of the interiorized conception of the self come to mind, each suggesting a distinct origin—and a distinct nature—of the association between interior and interiority. First, the literary genealogy links the origins of the interiorized selfconception to the emergence of autobiography as a new self-reflexive form of writing. Inaugurated by Saint Augustine’s Confessions, this new literary form flourished from the Renaissance on when, as Nicolas Paige has argued, writing came to be understood increasingly as a mode of self-experience, and the autobiographical form was mobilized to articulate the “inner architecture” of the self.1 It was within this new literary space that the self was able not only to observe and reflect upon itself but also, in Stephen Greenblatt’s classic formulation, to fashion and refashion itself.2 As a thoroughly secular literary construction of the self, Rousseau’s Confessions marks an important shift in this genealogy. It is not in relation to God or authority but in relation to others that Rousseau fashions his unique identity—his subjective difference—in his autobiography.3 The second, pictorial genealogy forges a relation between understanding the self as an interior space and the emergence of the suggestive depictions of interiors in seventeenth-century Dutch painting. As Martha Hollander has explained, by 1650, Dutch painters developed an especially compelling mode of representing interiors.4 By honing their illusionistic skills, and by adopting specific devices to enhance the sense of spatial depth, such as dorsien (a secondary picture within a picture), these painters achieved an unprecedented effect of vividness and three-dimensionality of the interior space. Highly illusionistic and uncommonly precise in the rendition

1 Nicholas D. Paige, Being Interior. Autobiography and the Contradictions of Modernity in Seventeenth Century France, Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001. 2 Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning. From More to Shakespeare, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1980. 3 “I know my own heart and understand my fellow man. But I am made unlike any one I have ever met; I will even venture to say that I am like no one in the whole world. I may be no better, but at least I am different.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Confessions, trans. by J.M. Cohen, London: Penguin Books, 1953, p. 17. Emphasis ours. 4 Martha Hollander, An Entrance for the Eyes. Space and Meaning in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002. For broader argument on the image of the interior in painting, see Karl Schütz, Das Interieur in der Malerei, Munich: Hirmer Verlag, 2009 and Susan Sidlauskas, Body, Place and Self in Nineteenth-Century Painting, Cambridge, UK / New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2000.


 Ewa Lajer-Burcharth and Beate Söntgen

of details, these new interior views provided not only a vision of a richly described private life, but also an image of a distinct mode of spatialized self-experience, one that was based not in self-reflection as much as visual observation of the material world. As such, these depictions of interiors were, as Svetlana Alpers has argued convincingly about Dutch seventeenth-century painting at large, symptoms of a culture that was profoundly visual, based in empirical observation and the visualization of its results.5 Dutch pictures may thus be seen to have proposed a concept of interiority based in a specific visual experience of the interior. As elements of interior decoration, these interior views may in fact be seen to have performed a double function, both representing the notion of interiority as a function of visual experience and encouraging in visual terms the experience of the actual interior in which they hang. The third genealogical narrative focuses on the contribution of architectural space to the process of internal subject formation. In this narrative, the emergence of the interior as a discrete and individuated space within the house played a major role in the cultural construction of an interiorized subject. This process originated in the eighteenth century when the interior first emerged as a key architectural concern, leading to several important changes in building practice.6 The internal organization of domestic space underwent a radical transformation to accommodate new concerns with the functional distinction between rooms and with notions of individual comfort and pleasure. New kinds of interior spaces were created to secure privacy or for expressly personal use (e.g., the corridor, the boudoir), and new types of building were designed for solitary retreat (e.g., the hermitage, the bagatelle).7 Thus architec-

5 Svetlana Alpers, The Art of Describing, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1983. 6 There is rich literature on this issue, which cannot be cited in toto here. See, for example, Monique Eleb-Vidal, Anne Debarre-Blanchard, Architectures de la Vie Privée, Brussels: Archives d’Architecture Moderne, 1989; Michel Gallet, Paris Domestic Architecture, trans. by James C. Palmes, London: Barrie and Jenkins, 1972; Alain Mérot, Retraites mondaines, Paris: Le Promeneur, 1990; Anthony Vidler, Claude-Nicolas Ledoux. Architecture and Social Reform at the End of the Ancien Régime, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990; John Whitehead, The French Interior in the Eighteenth Century, London: L. King, 1992; Katie Scott, The Rococo Interior. Decoration and Social Spaces in Early Eighteenth-Century Paris, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995; Joan DeJean, The Age of Comfort. When Paris Discovered Casual and the Modern Home Began, London: Bloomsbury, 2009; Denise Amy Baxter, Meredith Martin (eds.), Architectural Space in Eighteenth-Century Europe. Constructing Identities and Interiors, Farnham: Ashgate, 2010; and Georgina Downey (ed.), Domestic Interiors. Representing Homes from the Victorians to the Moderns, London: Bloomsbury, 2013. 7 See Annik Pardailhé-Galabrun, The Birth of Intimacy. Privacy and Domestic Life in Early Modern Paris, trans. by Jocelyn Phelps, Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991. For the boudoir, see Michel Delon, L’Invention du Boudoir, Cadeilhan: Zulma, 1999. For the relation between interior furnishing and subjectivity, see Dena Goodman, Kathryn Norberg (eds.), Furnishing the Eighteenth Century, New York, NY: Routledge, 2007. For the broader cultural context in which the notion of privacy emerged, see Orest Ranum, “The Refuges of Intimacy”, in: Roger Chartier (ed.), A History of Private Life. Passions of the Renaissance, vol. 3, Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1989, pp. 207–263; Beate Rössler, Der Wert des Privaten, Frankfurt am Main:

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ture self-consciously took on the task of constructing an interior world of the individual. These developments were accompanied by new theories of interior decoration in recognition of its psychological effects, (e.g., the work of Le Camus de Mézières), while the notion of convenience was rearticulated in terms of specific bodily sensations, subjective states, and affects produced by architectural space.8 To convey the subjective dimension of the decorated interior, a new way of visualizing it was introduced. Such was the “developed surface drawing” (as Robin Evans called it) with its folded-out wall elevations wherein perspectival rendering and shading were used to evoke the perceptual and psychological experience of space by an individual viewer.9 One can say that while architecture was being individualized, both in its built form and in its representation, the notion of the individual became spatialized.10 A version of the argument that the architectural interior did not only represent but also shaped the homo interior was developed by Walter Benjamin.11 In Benjamin’s highly influential interpretation, the nineteenth-century interior became the privi-

Suhrkamp, 2001; and Richard Sennett, The Fall of Public Man, New York, NY: Knopf, 1977. For privacy and literary culture, Michael McKeon, The Secret History of Domesticity. Public, Private, and the Division of Knowledge, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005. 8 Nicolas Le Camus de Mézières, The Genius of Architecture, Santa Monica, CA: Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1992. For a historical account of the changing role and understanding of interior design up to the eighteenth century, see Buie Harwood, Bridget May, Curt Sherman, Architecture and Interior Design through the 18th Century. An Integrated History, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002. For approaches to interior design in the later period, see Penny Sparke (ed.), Designing the Modern Interior. From the Victorians to Today, New York, NY: Berg, 2009; Kent Kleinman, Joanna Merwood-Salisbury, Lois Weinthal (eds.), After Taste. Expanded Practice in Interior Design, New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 2012; Charlotte Gere, Artistic Circles. Design And Decoration in the Aesthetic Movement, London: Victoria and Albert Publishing, 2010 and Stefan Muthesius, The Poetic Home. Designing the 19th-Century Domestic Interior, London: Thames & Hudson, 2009. A different conceptualization of the relation between the sensing body and the interior revolves around fashion. For an early model of this analysis, see Mark Wigley, White Walls, Designer Dresses. The Fashioning of Modern Architecture, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995. See also Alla Myzelev, John Potvin (eds.), Fashion, Interior Design and the Contours of Modern Identity, Surrey: Ashgate, 2010. 9 Robin Evans introduced this term. See his “Figures, Doors, and Passages” and “The Developed Surface. An Enquiry into the Brief Life of an Eighteenth-Century Drawing Technique”, in: Translations from Drawing to Building and Other Essays, London: Architectural Association, 1997, pp. 153–232. 10 For a broader cultural argument about the eighteenth-century origins of interiority, see Dror Wahrman, The Making of the Modern Self. Identity and Culture in Eighteenth-Century England, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004. For the connection between the interior and the idea of inwardness, see Claudia Becker, Zimmer-Kopf-Welten. Motivgeschichte des Interieurs im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1990. 11 Walter Benjamin, “Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century” (1939–1940), in: Reflections, trans. by Edmund Jephcott, New York, NY: Schocken Books, 1986 and The Arcades Project, trans. by Howard Eiland, Kevin McLaughlin, prepared on the basis of the German volume by Rolf Tiedemann, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.


 Ewa Lajer-Burcharth and Beate Söntgen

leged site of bourgeois self-definition: it was both the space and the figure of a new, socially specific subjective formation. The bourgeois subject’s impulse to interiorize governed not only the forms of interior decoration but also this subject’s relation to the world at large—at once a symptom of the bourgeois retreat from the world and a mode of exercising his control over it. It is this impulse that Benjamin discerned also in a new genre of literature, the detective novel, which emerged in the nineteenth century. Its protagonist’s task was to interpret the traces left by the occupants of the interior as clues—not to crime but to bourgeois subjectivity.12 Last but not least, there is the psychoanalytic model for thinking about the mental realm as an interior space. Freud’s theorization of psyche is at the origins of this model. The very structure of psychic life has been conceptualized by Freud in spatial terms as an internal topography, and he often used interior metaphors to talk about the key components of the mental apparatus, e.g., when he envisioned the unconscious as a suite of rooms.13 Moreover, on different occasions and in different ways, Freud imagined the major force within the psychic realm, sexuality, in spatial terms, as when he identified the domestic interior as a frequent representation of sexuality in dreams.14 The most distinct feature of the psychoanalytic model is the complex relation it has established between the mental realm and the human body—revealing as it did the psyche’s simultaneous dependence on the body, notably in the constitution of the drives, and its autonomy from it—and the no less complex relation of interiority to the exterior space. The latter is important especially in Lacan’s theorization of the earliest stages of subjective formation as linked to spatial and visual self-experience through

12 “The criminals of the first detective novels are neither gentlemen nor apaches, but private members of the bourgeoisie,” Benjamin 1939–1940 (as in note 11), pp. 155–156. Benjamin’s approach continues to resonate in many cultural and literary analyses and in discussions of architecture. One recent example is Diana Fuss’s innovative exploration of the relation between the interior and the actual space in which authors such as Emily Dickinson, Marcel Proust, and Sigmund Freud lived and worked. See Diana Fuss, The Sense of an Interior. Four Writers and the Rooms that Shaped Them, New York, NY: Routledge, 2004. See also Charles Rice, The Emergence of the Interior, New York, NY: Routledge, 2007 for an extensive and highly nuanced discussion of Benjamin. 13 Freud discerned two basic psychic topographies: one consisting of the three realms (preconscious, unconscious, and conscious), another of three agencies (id, ego, and super-ego). For an overview of these topographies developed by Freud in different works, see Jean Laplanche, J.-B. Pontalis, The Language of Psychoanalysis, New York, NY: Norton, 1967, pp. 449–453. For the unconscious as a suite of rooms, see Freud, “Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. Lecture XIX. Resistance and Repression” (1916–1917), in: The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis 16 (2001), trans. by James Strachey, pp. 295–296. Discussed by Charles Rice (as in note 12), pp. 39–40. For a psychological but not psychoanalytic discussion of the interior, see Gaston Bachelard’s classic text, The Poetics of Space, trans. by Maria Jolas, Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1969. 14 See Freud, “Interpretation of Dreams” (1900–1901), in: The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis 5 (2001), trans. by James Strachey (ed.). Some examples can be found on pp. 214, 346, and 354.

Introduction: Interiors and Interiority 


the image of one’s own body.15 The earliest confrontation with one’s own reflection in the mirror provides the nascent self not only with an image of a coordinated body but also a sense of its relation to the external space, the image of the body appearing to the subject as a boundary that separates it from the outside world. As Elizabeth Grosz has emphasized in her reading of Lacan, it is this confrontation of the subject with its own image that allows it to situate itself in space, the recognition of the existence of space as such being linked to the emergence of bodily ego.16 One of the important questions raised by the psychoanalytic account of the role of the body and space in the formation of psychic interiority is the question of gender. For example, the application of the psychoanalytic model of analysis to architectural interior revealed its formative function as both gendered and gendering space.17 These four basic models for thinking about the relation between interior space and interiority have in one way or another informed this collection of essays. Its goal, however, is different. It is not an alternative genealogy of the bond between space and self nor its history per se that this book wishes to sketch out. Rather, in considering an array of cultural and artistic representations of the interior and interiority, our volume seeks to offer new insights into the nature of the mutual dependence between these two notions. Synchronic in its structure, the book groups analyses of diverse spaces, objects, and mediums spanning the period from roughly the sixteenth century to the present under categories foregrounding their thematic and conceptual affinity. Such synchronic presentation seemed to us more productive than a chronological or developmental account in that it promised to reveal new cross-historical connections and generate new ideas about the different cultural forms and uses of both interiors and interiority. We also hoped to suggest the importance of discontinuity in constructing a history of the relation between space and self and to draw attention to the significance of ruptures and misalignments in this relation. Based on two conferences we organized in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in Berlin, Germany, our volume gathers contributions from an international group of scholars representing different disciplines (art and architectural history, and cultural, literary, and film studies) and specializations. The categories we have adopted to present this material reflect the shared intellectual and methodological concerns of this diverse group. Among them are interests in the performativity of spaces, in

15 Jacques Lacan, “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience”, in: Écrits. A Selection, New York, NY: Norton, 1977, pp. 1–7. 16 See Elizabeth Grosz, “Space, Time, and Bodies”, in: Space, Time, and Perversion. Essays on the Politics of Bodies, New York, NY: Routledge, 1995, pp. 83–102. 17 An important early example of an analysis of the modern interior in gendered psychoanalytic terms was offered in Beatriz Colomina, “Interior”, in: Privacy and Publicity. Modern Architecture as Mass Media, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998, pp. 233–281. See also her edited volume Sexuality and Space, New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996. See also Anthony Vidler, Warped Space. Art, Architecture, and Anxiety in Modern Culture, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2000.


 Ewa Lajer-Burcharth and Beate Söntgen

the agency of things, in cultural mobility, and in materiality understood as the very source rather than a mere support of meaning. The sections of the book titled Interior Acts, Inside/Out, and Incorporations engage directly with these new interests, while the two last sections explore the ways in which these issues may inflect our approach to more traditional concerns with the economy, politics, and ethics of space. The variety of interiors our authors consider is another distinguishing aspect of this collection. Far from being limited to the domestic space, traditionally privileged in the discussions of interiority, interior is defined here more broadly and considered in its different guises. Thus, in addition to a bedroom (Scott), and a bathroom (Hellman), our contributors examine an artist’s studio (Kemp), a theatrical dressing room (Diekmann), a grotto (Jollet), a staircase (Girard), a private art collection (Grave and Klonk), an art exhibition (Klonk), and a lecture on art, both as a space and as a literary form (Doherty). Objects, such as doors (Haverkamp), or a table (Buchloh), are also recognized as sites and figures of both the interior and interiority. The essays analyze spaces that are real and imaginary, architectural and pictorial, narrative and filmic, visual and built, including a particular kind of both visual and spatial construction, installation, one of the privileged forms of contemporary art. Contemporary art seemed to us particularly important to consider given how prominently the interior has figured in the aesthetic production of the last two decades or so as subject, trope, or format, the ubiquity of installation art being only one of its symptoms. However, we chose not to isolate the discussions of the work of artists as diverse as Chantal Akerman, Andrea Zittel, and Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler in a separate section devoted to contemporary art but to embed them instead in the different chapters of the book, our choice being determined by the conceptual rather than temporal affinity of these analyses with other contributions. Our authors brought diverse cultural practices and aspects of everyday life to bear on their objects, some of them—such as hunting (Girard)—seldom allied with the notion of the interior, while others—such as temperature (Kemp)—though seemingly obvious, rarely considered. While the interior has often been associated with depth, some of our authors consider its diverse manifestations as a surface (the Surface, Screen, Seam section). An important aspect of several contributions to this volume is their emphasis on the ambivalence and complexity of the connection between the interior and interiority and, in some cases even the incommensurability or disconnection between these concepts. In two contributions, it is explicitly the fissure in the relation between the represented interior and the notion of interiority, the negation or disavowal involved in representation, that the authors, if differently, focus on (Buchloh and Lajer-Burcharth). In sum, the essays gathered in this volume engage not only in a sustained investigation of the relation between the interior and interiority in the modern moment but also in an exercise of estrangement, in questioning the stability and continuity of the connection between these two notions. The very diversity of approaches proposed by our authors invites the reader to think about this connection in different ways. 

Introduction: Interiors and Interiority 


The first section of our book, Interior Acts, features essays that share a performative understanding of the interior as an agent rather than a container, a space that does rather than simply is. In Katie Scott’s essay, it is an artist’s interior, the lodgings of an eighteenth-century painter, Charles-Antoine Coypel at the Louvre, that acts as both agent and symptom of a major cultural and personal change. By tracing the vicissitudes of a painting that served as a headboard for Coypel’s elaborate bed, Scott sketches out the contours of a cultural transformation—from the court society’s habits of ostentation and self-display toward the bourgeois culture of intimacy and inwardness. Described by Scott as “the parade’s end”, this cultural phenomenon renders both Coypel’s ornate bed and his pictorial practice outmoded and ridiculous, leading to the transformation of his bedroom and his studio from a theater of social rank and artistic status into a private interior. Just as Coypel’s bed was, in Scott’s analysis, not a mere convenience of everyday life but a means of (self-)representation, so is the bathroom in Mimi Hellman’s essay not only a physical but also a performative space. Hellman explores the cultural life of an eighteenth-century bathroom by considering not only how it looked (the form and function of its decor) but also how it was used and experienced. It is the historical distance and difference of this experience that the author focuses on. As she points out, far from being a solitary exercise in hygiene, eighteenth-century bathing was an elite performance of identity and status in which the sensory experience of space and its decor played a major role. By insisting on the importance of both the material and experiential specificity of the elaborate bathrooms, such as the one designed by Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart for the baron de Besenval, Hellman demonstrates their odd status in the narratives of the teleological development of the modern interior. Not a stage in the progress toward architectural modernization, the eighteenthcentury bathroom was more of a detour—a retreat—from modernity. Johannes Grave revisits Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s house to examine the complex function of the pictures that adorned it. Repositories of both cultural and personal memories, the paintings from Goethe’s personal art collection did not merely decorate but intervened in and interrupted the writer’s living space. It is the sinister power of these pictures, rather than their power of attraction, that Grave considers, focusing, like Hellman, not only on what they were but also on how they were experienced. Both as objects and as images, Goethe’s paintings acted, Grave speculates, as animations of the past that created a dissonance, a disruption in the experience of the present, complicating the function of Goethe’s interior as an arena of everyday life. The ambivalent function of the interior is also at the core of Stefanie Diekmann’s discussion of the backstage as a popular trope in American and European cinema. If, as Diekmann points out, films about theater focus on the dressing room, it is because, invisible to the theater audience, this adjunct space offers film viewers a peek into the hidden truths and mechanisms of spectacle and show business. A site of emotional breakdowns, confessions, or intrigues, the backstage is not simply a “safe haven” of privacy for the actors, but also a “vehicle of exposure”, revealing the unwanted, prob


 Ewa Lajer-Burcharth and Beate Söntgen

lematic interiority at play in the filmic narrative. It is precisely as such that the dressing room appears in American and European films, past and present, from Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Hollywood classic, All About Eve (1950), to Stephen Frears’s Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005). Zeroing in on a 1954 American drama, Country Girl, Diekmann demonstrates how the backstage “backfires”, undoing the protagonist’s self-deceiving masquerade and forcing his humiliating self-recognition. Every interior needs an exterior to exist as such, and vice versa. The ways in which this inextricable entanglement of inside and outside is represented, articulated, or reframed in concrete spaces as well as in images and texts are the focus of interest in the contributions to the second section, Inside/Out. Liminal spaces in particular manifest the complex and reversible relation between interior and exterior. Examining the motif of a prominent threshold, the door, Anselm Haverkamp shows how the painting of the early modern era interweaves transcendence, subjectivity, and a reflection on pictorial representation. By the specific means of painting, the concrete material reality of the interior mediates our contact with an exterior world pervaded by divine agency. In Vermeer’s art in particular, zones of blurring are the primary locus of the illustration of the self’s precarious relation to the world in the material realm of the interior. Julie Park sheds light on how another means of representation—the white ground of writing paper—can become a privileged space for visualizing interiority. In her essay on the seventeenth-century writer and femme savante Margaret Cavendish, Park considers the relation between writing and new instruments of science such as the microscope, which promised to uncover the “interior parts of things”. Lady Cavendish, for one, argued that the microscope, in fact, barely penetrated the surfaces of things. The pen, by contrast, enabled her “both to retreat into and to render visible the interior forms and motions of her own life”. From this perspective, the act of exteriorization in which inward experience is transformed into the visible, physical marks of writing is equivalent to an absorption in the writer’s inner soul. Étienne Jollet discusses a very different intersection between interior and exterior at play in Marie Antoinette’s grotto in the garden of the Petit Trianon. A chasmic space, the grotto, Jollet suggests, can be read as both an interiorization of nature and an exteriorization of an inner reality through the medium of nature. The queen’s legendary retreat as she fled the revolutionary riots, the grotto is literally a site of immersion that dramatizes the interplay between private and public persona, between subjective inwardness and collective historical consciousness. If concrete spaces one can walk through offer a physical experience of the fluid transition between interior and exterior, so do pictures, as Susan Sidlauskas demonstrates in her analysis of Cézanne’s Balcony. A depiction of a liminal space, Cézanne’s painting illustrates the convergence of nature and interior in a fragile yet flexible structure that does more than simply stage the painter’s notoriously complicated feelings about domesticity. The balcony is here also a breathing screen between inside 

Introduction: Interiors and Interiority 


and outside, letting the beholder experience the boundary between self and world as permeable and reversible. While the second section explores the complex relation between interior and exterior, the third one, Incorporations, examines the interior’s absorptive qualities. As Walter Benjamin already pointed out, the interior is a space that combines things of diverse origin, from all sorts of consumer goods to artifacts and even dead animals, and integrates them into its own distinctive order, without, however, digesting them altogether.18 It thus creates cultural as well as religious configurations in an altered and disfigured form to be deciphered by the historian. Beate Söntgen discusses the central role the body—the female body in particular—plays in this process of incorporation and transmutation in an essay on Pieter de Hooch’s Mother at a Cradle. The painting illustrates how Reformation-era Holland translates theological ideas into social values through an image of a female figure bathed in light in an interior that invokes the setting of the Annunciation. The “new Mary”, however, receives not the Word of God with its redemptive dimension but instruction as to her duties as a housewife and mother. Only the play of opening and closure, of revealing and concealing that defines the spatial disposition of the interior and the mise-en-scène of the female figure recalls the transcendence of the earthly realm associated with Annunciation iconography. As Catherine Girard reveals, a body of a very different kind came to define the private apartments of Louis XV. Bizarre hunting trophies in the form of deformed stag’s antlers, captured in imposing still lifes by Oudry, insert acts of violence associated with the king’s own body into his rooms. The ornamental plasticity of the painted antlers help to integrate them into the structure of the interior, marking it through their unsettling psychological and sexual overtones. If Girard discusses royal collecting and decorating preferences, Charlotte Klonk focuses on a different form of collection in another period: her essay examines the motives and purposes behind the accumulation of non-European artifacts by private collectors and museums in the 1920s and 1930s. Attending to the highly stylized installations of these objects, Klonk considers not only their role in the aesthetic refashioning of life but also the violence inherent in their appropriation of the cultural other for the purposes of the modern Western subject. It is the aggression inherent in these displays of otherness— the incorporation of the other into the self achieved by the very design of a museum gallery or a private interior—that Klonk’s analysis reveals. Oikonomies investigates the intersections between private interior spaces and various forms of economic activity. The very root of the Greek word oikonomia, which

18 Benjamin, “Convolute I. The Interior, The Trace”, in Benjamin 1999 (as in note 11), pp. 212–227; Benjamin 1939–1940 (as in note 11); Benjamin, “Louis-Philippe, or the Interior”, in: Selected Writings, (1935–1938), Michael W. Jennings, Howard Eiland, Gary Smith (eds.), Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, vol. 3, 2002, pp. 38–39.


 Ewa Lajer-Burcharth and Beate Söntgen

can be translated as “household management”, suggests the link to the interior. Hence the title of this section highlights the historically variable factors that affect the functionality, value, and quality of residential life. Once again, the interior proves to be far from monadic: it is a perforated space, an inside that is related to and indeed determined by its outside. The contributors to this section trace the exchange, circulation, or transformation of material and immaterial goods, of techniques and diverse kinds of energy—dynamic processes that take place both within the house and between the interior and the outside world. Holger Kuhn examines the gender-specific distribution of household tasks in the early modern era. In the example of Quentin Massys’s picture The Money Changer and His Wife, Kuhn reveals the surprisingly close affinity between the monetary logic of exchange and the logic of sexual reproduction. Like the female figure discussed by Söntgen, the woman looking up from a prayer book in this painting bears Mariological features, which in this instance hint at a supernatural procreative power. A disconcerting parallelism emerges between the divine creation and the unnatural procreation of the coins piled up on the man’s side of the table, a form of earthly housekeeping that rivals the world’s divine order. Wolfgang Kemp discerns a different kind of parallel between productive forces, in the Marxist sense of the term, in the mid-nineteenth century self-portraits of German painters: their works attest to a conversion of aesthetic into thermal energy. The poets’ manuscripts and the painters’ sketches serve as fuel without which the stove would be cold—by heating the interior, they secure its function as a place of fresh artistic production. In her discussion of German photographic studios around 1900, Franziska Brons explores the role of the interior in marketing photography as a new medium. Outfitted as bourgeois interiors in keeping with the period’s good taste, the studios furnished the sitters with an aura of domestic intimacy and inwardness. These qualities were regarded as the defining features of modern bourgeois subjectivity—autonomous and shielded from public scrutiny. In the photographer’s studio, however, a setting where economic considerations carried considerable weight, the appearance of the bourgeois subject was inseparably bound up with his or her public exposure—an effect already evident in Dutch interiors of the seventeenth century. The need to block out the outside world and withdraw into a personal space grew stronger as the modern age progressed. Unlike Kemp’s poor artist exposed to the elements, affluent citizens were able to shield themselves from the disagreeable aspects of modern life. As Robin Schuldenfrei observes, they built walls around spaces of private, independent, carefree life amid the bustling metropolises of capitalism. Contrary to the program sketched by the sociologist Georg Simmel and other thinkers who sought to resolve the antinomy between the individual and society in this period, Mies van der Rohe’s designs, despite their demonstratively open spaces, remained wedded to the notion of the autonomous individual separated from the world at large. The ability of this sovereign subject to transcend the conditions of modern society was to 

Introduction: Interiors and Interiority 


become manifest in the difference between deliberately designed rooms and dwellings shaped solely by economic constraints. The question of the boundary—a surface, a screen, or a seam—understood as a space of interiority and self-articulation links the contributions to our book’s fifth section. Whether taken literally, as the walls and windows of a domestic interior (Hemkendreis), or figuratively, as a rhetorical effect (Doherty), surface appears in these essays as the very site and symptom of the subjective interior. Anne Hemkendreis considers the case of the nineteenth-century Danish painter, Vilhelm Hammershøi, whose entire oeuvre revolved around the image of an evacuated interior. Some of his paintings feature a single figure with her back turned; others are entirely empty, their opaque windows screening off the outside world. Enclosed upon themselves, Hammershøi’s paintings produce, like his windows, the effect of a mottled surface. As such, they materialize perception as a subjective process that—divorced from the exterior world and interiorized—engages the viewer’s own subjective experience. The issue of the interior effect of the surface is at the core of Brigid Doherty’s analysis of Rainer Maria Rilke’s lecture on Rodin’s sculpture. Doherty draws attention to Rilke’s use of figurative language to produce a textual equivalent of sculptures and especially to convey the effect of their animated surface. Although Rilke did not use lantern slides to illustrate his lecture, his suggestive descriptions produced a powerful interior reaction—a “psychic reorientation”—in his audience that the poet himself likened to the effect of a magic lantern. In Katharina Sykora’s complex meditation on the art of the twentieth-century Viennese artist Birgit Jürgenssen, it is skin that functions as both physical and psychic surface. Having embraced it as her medium, Jürgenssen used skin across her entire oeuvre to challenge a cluster of relations between corporeality, space, and image. Whether a signifier of touch, contact, border, veil, or threshold, bodily surface serves in her work to reconceptualize a series of binary oppositions between here and there, open and closed, interiority and exteriority, thus challenging the stability of gender as a category based in these oppositions. Focusing on the photograph- and film-based installations of the artists team Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler, the last contributor to this section, Annette Urban, explores the issue of illusion as a surface effect. Working in the late 1990s, Hubbard and Birchler created complex interior worlds by first producing architectural environments and then reproducing them as photographs and video projections. Such is their installation series titled Gregor’s Room (1998–1999), which is based on stage sets originally constructed as an imaginary dwelling of the character in Franz Kafka’s story The Metamorphosis. By exhibiting only the photographs and the video of these imaginary spaces, Hubbard and Birchler created another fictional interior inhabited, as it were, by its original architectural version. Urban is concerned with the complex nature of illusion generated by this internally doubled and surface-bound space. The last section of our book considers the political and ethical implications of artistic engagements with the question of the interior and its relation to interiority. While the connected issues of politics and ethics were raised also in some of the con


 Ewa Lajer-Burcharth and Beate Söntgen

tributions to the previous sections, (e.g., Klonk, Schuldenfrei, Söntgen), here they constitute the authors’ primary concern. In what way does the interior as an inhabited space participate in the transmission of collective and individual memory? What is the politics of interior design? Can interiority itself be designed or produced on purpose? How can one define the ethical dimension of belonging to a particular space or a place? These are some of the questions that inform the essays in this section. Through an in-depth analysis of Gerhard Richter’s idiosyncratic rendition of a table in his painting Tisch (1962), Benjamin H.D. Buchloh addresses the question of the collective disavowal of the historical past in post–Second World War Germany. Reconstructing the complex situation—at once political, cultural, and personal— from which Tisch emerged, Buchloh elucidates the meaning of erasure performed by Richter’s work. The painter’s gesture of staging and obliterating the image of the table constitutes, in Buchloh’s view, a deliberate, critical rupture in Germany’s postwar discourse of denial and forgetting of the immediate political past. Targeting the postwar consumerist culture epitomized by the table’s image, culled as it was from a high-end design magazine, Richter’s painting engages not just with the repressed memory but with the repression itself, that is, with modern design as a form and means of cultural forgetting. The politics of design is also at stake, if differently, in the practice of contemporary artist Andrea Zittel. Katrin Grögel considers Zittel’s Designs for Living Units to explore the question of privacy and interiority in the late stage of the era of conspicuous consumption. Zittel’s work raises the issue of the ethics of need and desire inherent in the (real and imagined) demand for individually defined spaces of retreat and withdrawal from communal or shared life. The question is what the broader repercussions of the drive for self-isolation, the deliberate de-scaling or miniaturization of life space, and the separation from the community at large that are inherent in Zittel’s design projects are. What does it mean to want to live entirely, physically and psychologically, by oneself? And what happens when the designs for such monadic modes of living enter the aesthetic space of display, raising—potentially at least—the specter of self-indulgence and self-promotion not only of the artist’s actual or prospective clients, but also of the artist herself? In Chantal Akerman’s film Là-bas, the interior itself is, as in Hammershøi’s paintings, the main actor. The 2006 film explores the artist’s complicated relation to both a specific place, Israel, where the film was shot during the artist’s visit to that country, and to the memory of her family’s and her own past, a past that, though linked to a life elsewhere, was stirred by her visit. Shot from within the room in Tel Aviv in which the artist stayed, with Akerman carefully removing herself from view, Là-bas poses the question of how the artist belongs with this interior—and the cultural and political realm for which it stands—and how, in turn, this interior inhabits her. Lajer-Burcharth’s point is that Akerman’s strategy of both absenting herself from the room and infusing it with audible personal content suggests the interior on view as neither a safe reserve of memory nor a stable locus of the self, but as a more provisional, ambiv

Introduction: Interiors and Interiority 


alent space of negotiation of personal and cultural belonging and identity. Akerman’s aesthetic of ambivalence thus throws the alignment of the interior with interiority in some doubt, opening up the question of the ethics of such alignment. The question of belonging raised by Là-bas brings up a broader query implicit in this book, namely, how does the problem of the interior and interiority pertain to our current cultural moment, or, to put it differently, how do we belong with the notion of the interior? The pressure under which the spatialized notion of subjectivity has come most recently, in the era of the digitalization and globalization of experience, gives the consideration of interiority an unprecedented degree of intellectual urgency. What does interiority mean in the era of digital companions and ubiquitous screens?19 Are we witnessing the end of interiority as we know it, or is it simply a change in how it is conceived—e.g., a shift from the notion of spatial depth to the idea of surface or an interface? Is technology the force behind, or the vehicle of, the ongoing transformation? How are we to imagine subjective autonomy in the era of virtual and cultural mobility? Should inner spaces be protected or shared? We are hoping that this book will stimulate further reflection on these issues.

19 See Sherry Turkle, “Authenticity in the Age of Digital Companions”, in: Interaction Studies, 8.3 (2007), pp. 501–517. For a discussion of these questions as they were raised in contemporary art, see also Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, “Interiors at Risk. Precarious Spaces in Contemporary Art”, in: Harvard Design Magazine, 2.29 (2008–2009), pp. 12–21.

Interior Acts

Katie Scott

Parade’s End: On Charles-Antoine Coypel’s Bed and the Origins of Inwardness 1 Dedans “Lives” of the early modern French artist make virtually no reference either to the interior as a space of artistic creativity or to interiority as the condition of artistic work. In the third volume of Antoine-Joseph Dézallier d’Argenville’s Abrégé de la vie des peintres, published in 1752, the year of Charles-Antoine Coypel’s death, and which commemorates artists born, like him, in the second half of the seventeenth century, painters are remembered rather in their outwardness or exteriority, that is, for their activity abroad in the world. They travel from their natal towns in the provinces to Paris and then to Rome in search of the best art education, and once successful they are kept on the move by important commissions throughout France and in England, Spain, Belgium, Bavaria, Austria, Bohemia, etc.1 The passport, not the interior, seems to define the French painter circa 1700: Dézallier d’Argenville reports, in fact, that one was dispatched at that time to Philippe Meusnier in Munich, to secure his return to France because the king had urgent need of his talent.2 The space of the artist’s work, his invention, was, the “lives” imply, on location, his studio a knot of social relations with patrons, assistants and students. Other things feature in Dézallier’s Lives. Tools in the first instance, evidence perhaps that the literature on art was still marked by the corporate discourse on the trades: Dézallier makes repeated note of the use of pens, less often of, brushes. He also remembered objects introduced at the end of artistic work, during exchange: he tells the story of a robe de chambre embroidered by a “young beauty” for Joseph Vivien in return for a portrait she cannot afford.3 Domestic objects, on the other hand, are rarely mentioned; an anecdote about Jean-Baptiste Blin de Fontenay, a “favoris de Bacchus”, features a wine glass, and an account of soirées chez Élizabeth Chéron, painter and poet, involved musical instruments, but in no “life” is mention made of a bed.4 Investigation of the “life” of a particular bed, in the eighteenth century virtually an interior within the interior, will, I propose, serve to articulate the unspoken and sometimes conflicted relation between artists and interiority in the ancien régime.

1 Antoine-Joseph Dézallier d’Argenville, Abrégé de la vie des plus fameux peintres, 3 vols., Paris: De Bure l’aîné, 1745–52, vol. 3: pp. 261 (Jean Raoux in England), 275 (Jean-Baptiste Van Loo in England), 275 (Louis Van Loo in Spain), 286–88 (Joseph Vivien in Belgium and Bavaria). 2 Ibid., pp. 280–281. 3 Ibid., p. 287. 4 Ibid., vol. 2: pp. 370–371 (Elizabeth Chéron), vol. 3, p. 243 (Jean-Baptiste Blin de Fontenay).


 Katie Scott

Fig. 1: Charles-Antoine Coypel, Painting Awakening Sleeping Genius, ca. 1730, oil on canvas, 190 × 135 cm (Christie’s NY 10/7/2007; location unknown).

Charles-Antoine’s bed does not, of course, survive, or not as a bed. What remains is a picture (fig. 1/ Plate 1), oil on canvas, 190 by 135 centimeters, which originally—a preparatory drawing indicates (fig. 2)—served as the backboard for a lit à l’alcove.5 The trois-crayons drawing on beige paper, formerly in the Émile Wolf collection, is not of a kind to have been produced by or for a menuisier or joiner, for construction of an actual bed, since the bed’s structure and hangings are mere accessories to the prime focus: the figures. Painting, holding her palette, brushes and maulstick, descends from the heavens to wake the recumbent, ephebic figure of Genius, recognizable by his flaming brow and his wings. Indeed, the drawing’s pentimenti, hesitations, redrawings and ambiguities all relate to the bed, which would not have been realizable quite in the form that Coypel draws it. Comparison with surviving beds of this kind from the 1740s (fig. 3) reveals the contradiction between the vertical format of the

5 See Thierry Lefrançois, Charles Coypel. Peintre du roi (1694–1752), Geneva: Arthena, 1994, P115, D53 and D54.

Parade’s End: On Charles-Antoine Coypel’s Bed and the Origins of Inwardness 


Fig. 2: Charles-Antoine Coypel, Preparatory Drawing for Painting Awakening Genius, ca. 1730, black and red chalk with white highlights on beige paper, 39.4 × 29.1 cm (formerly Emile Wolf Collection, New York).

painting and the longitudinal arrangement of such beds that stand sideways against the wall and are therefore distinguished by two chevets or bed-ends.6 When, after the painter’s death, an inventory was taken of Charles-Antoine’s effects on September 28, 1752, bed and picture had parted company. A bed in a niche hung with blue paper is described in Charles-Antoine’s bedroom. It had both winter and summer hangings—yellow serge for winter, printed cotton with flowers for summer—coordinated with a base valence of old, jonquil-colored damask. The bed itself was upholstered with three differently stuffed mattresses, piled with bolsters, cushions, and horsehair pillows; it was covered, moreover, with coverlets and assorted fur foot warmers.7 No mention is made of a painting; nor does a picture fitting the description of Genius Awakened by Painting figure in the lists of works of art at Coypel’s lodgings drawn up by the dealer and expert François Joullain. The work is inventoried instead among the contents of Charles-Antoine’s atelier, along

6 See Nadine Gasc, Apparition du lit d’alcôve ou de niche, in: Rêves d’alcôve. La chambre au cours des siècles, exhibition catalogue, Paris, Musée des arts décoratifs, Paris: RMN, 1995. 7 Archives Nationales, Minutier Central, LXXVI/337, Inventaire après décès, 25/09/1752.


 Katie Scott

Fig. 3: Lit d’Alcôve à Baldaquin, d’époque Louis XV, H: 168 cm L: 203 cm, Depth: 120 cm. Formerly at Château d’Omonville, France.

with other paintings (sketches and copies mostly), plaster casts, prints and drawings both by him and by others. It was modestly valued at thirty-six livres, barely the cost of the stretcher, canvas, and pigments. Briefly described in the catalogue drawn up by the connoisseur Pierre-Jean Mariette for the auction of Coypel’s effects in 1753 and relegated to the end of the French School, the painting was in the event withdrawn from sale.8 What happened between the beginning and the end, between the preparatory sketching and the discarding of the bedtime picture? Skeptics will, not unreasonably, want to know what evidence there is to confirm the project’s actual execution. Comparison of the painting with the drawing indicates missing areas on three sides of the surviving painted work: on the right, the cut forearm of Painting and loss too of

8 Pierre-Jean Mariette, Catalogue des tableaux, desseins, marbres, bronzes, modèles, estampes et planches gravées du cabinet de feu M. Coypel, 27/03/1753, Paris, 1753, p. 25, lot 110. On the collection see Émile Dacier, La curiosité à Versailles. La vente de Charles Coypel d’après les notes de Pierre-Jean Mariette, in: Revue de l’art ancien et moderne 61 (1932), pp. 61–72, and 131–44; Lefrançois 1994 (as in note 5), pp. 105–109.

Parade’s End: On Charles-Antoine Coypel’s Bed and the Origins of Inwardness 


part of her palette, brushes and mall-stick; to the left, the trimmed wing of Genius and the snipped tassel of the cushion; finally above, the elimination of the cloudy vapor that heralds the arrival of Painting through the window. It is likely that these so-called edges were painted on the bed’s structure, or on the wall against which it was placed, with a view to masking the intersection or threshold between furniture and painting. Exceptionally unusual though this painting project may have been, and notwithstanding loss of the actual bed, there is nevertheless sufficiently good physical evidence to indicate that the picture was realized as a central component of the original bed-object. What then is the story of the bed and how does it contribute to the histories of the interior and of interiority in the early modern period? In the status of the bed and the function of the bedroom is often identified the mark of utmost difference between the “court society” of the ancien régime and the bourgeois society that emerged after the French Revolution.9 Formerly the bedroom had served a double function—“a place for sleeping and receiving company” to quote the Dictionnaire de Trévoux’s definition10—a double function articulated by the division of the plan into separate areas: one third of the space occupied by the bed, two thirds by a colloquy of chairs.11 To the bed, the most conspicuous object in the room, was assigned, consequently, prestige value, manifest in records made by foreign visitors and, as Annik Pardhailé-Galabrun has noted, in the detail of its description in probate inventories, in the scope and richness of the vocabulary used to classify its changing forms and in the valuations it attracted, which the simple banality of the modern bed never approaches.12 In César Daly’s Architecture privé au XIXeme siècle (1864), written just over a century later, bed and bedroom attract no architectural comment except in the case of those “hôtels” in which the ancien régime is self-con-

9 See, classically Norbert Elias, The Court Society, Oxford: Blackwell, 1983, pp. 35–77. See also Katie Scott, The Rococo Interior. Decoration and Social Spaces in Early Eighteenth-Century Paris, London and New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995, pp. 103–117; Alexandre Gady, Les Hôtels particuliers de Paris. Du moyen âge à la belle époque, Paris: Parigramme, 2008, pp. 78–79. 10 Dictionnaire universel françois et latin, 3 vols., Trévoux: Estienne Ganeau, 1704, vol. 1: ad. voc. “Chambre”. 11 For the ideal proportion of the alcove in relation to the room, see Jean-François Blondel, De la distribution des maisons de plaisance, 2 vols., Paris: C.-A. Jombert, 1737–38, vol. 1: pp. 28, 43. AugustinCharles Daviler notes of the rooms in a hôtel, the bedroom was ‘le lieu le plus habité’. See Pierre-Jean Mariette (ed.), Cours d’architecture qui comprend les ordres de Vignole, Paris: Charles-Antoine Jombert, 1760, p. 384. 12 See Nicodemus Tessin the Younger’s detailed and annotated drawings of beds at the Trianon de Porcelaine made during his visit to France in 1687–88, reproduced in Elaine Evans Dee and Guy Walton (eds.), Versailles. The view from Sweden, Cooper-Hewitt Museum, New York: 1988, nos. 76–79; and Annik Pardhailé-Galabrun, La naissance de l’intime. 3000 foyers parisiens, XVIIe-XVIIIe siècles, Paris: Puf, 1988, p. 275–87. The specialist literature on French seventeenth- and eighteenth-century beds is not plentiful, but see Anne Ratzi-Kraatz, A French lit de parade à la duchesse, 1690–1715, in: J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 14 (1986) pp. 81–104.


 Katie Scott

sciously resurrected when the bed is again “the ordering principle, the axis of the decorative scheme”.13 In the eighteenth century the French language had no word for the interior. In architectural manuals of the period, rooms are described and analyzed individually by function—antechamber, salle, salon, cabinet—and collectively by the word appartement, which described both a social occasion and an architectural space.14 “Les Dedans” is the only phrase that encompasses something of our notion of interior. But dedans is a preposition not a noun,15 that is to say it denotes a spatial relation not a place. As such it belongs to a family of words including its antonym “outside”, its synonyms “in”, “into”, “to”, and such other prepositions as “under”, “over”, “beside”, “towards”, “along”, “through”, etc. Some locate spatial relations by inclusion, exclusion, proximity, distance, while others give them direction: an origin, a course, a destination. In Romance languages such words are called prepositions because they usually precede the constituent or complement with which the preposition forms its relation. But they can also follow, interrupt and surround the complement. One of the aims of this essay is to discover, figuratively speaking, if and when the eighteenthcentury pre-positional dedans developed in the direction of a circum-position, enclosing the complement, and ultimately became a noun: the interior. Grammatically speaking, only as a noun can “interior” assume a possessive form, can it belong to someone and perform an adjectival or defining function for the one in possession. The present instance, Coypel’s “interior”, is in this sense the more challenging because that of an artist, the history of whose own interiority is closely bound up with Romantic myths of artistic identity or genius. Anxiety attends the coupling of artist and interior in modernity as Christopher Reed has noted,16 because the history of the artist as it is conventionally told is the uninterrupted story of “his” emancipation from the constraints of patronage on the one hand and corporatism, or the trades, on the other. To put it differently, it is the familiar tale of “his” becoming autonomous and “his” art liberal, both seemingly frustrated first by the interior as a specific site determining the forms and content of artistic participation, and second, as a scene of “mere” decoration. Another ambition of this essay is to raise questions

13 César Daly, Architecture privée du XIXe siècle, sous Napoléone III, 3 vols., Paris: A. Morel, 1864, vol. 1: p. 15. 14 Blondel 1737–38 (as in note 11), 1: pp. 123­–131; Daviler 1760 (as in note 11), pp. 198–203, pp. 208–221; Scott 1995 (as in note 9), pp. 104–105. 15 See Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond d’Alembert, Encyclopédie, 17 vols., Paris and Neuchâtel: Briasson, David l’aîné, Le Breton, Durand, 1751–1777, vol. 4: p. 728. 16 Christopher Reed, Not at Home. The Suppression of Domesticity in Modern Art and Architecture, London: Thames and Hudson, 1996, pp. 7–17.

Parade’s End: On Charles-Antoine Coypel’s Bed and the Origins of Inwardness 


about the commensurability of interior and interiority in the case of the early modern male artist.17 To propose an answer of sorts, this essay broaches the book’s problematic both on the large scale, in terms, that is, of the historical, social and cultural norms of the ancien régime and on the small: in relation to one individual’s response to change, as registered in Coypel’s painting and poetry and as recorded in his “lives”. It considers both the rhetorical and public function of Coypel’s bed and it speculates on the effect that his painting may have had on him alone. In short, it combines historical analysis with a reconstruction, or better, a representation of interiority, usually the preserve of fiction.

2 Living at the Louvre Charles-Antoine Coypel lived at the Louvre. He was the third generation of Coypel to do so. His grandfather Noël had been granted an atelier in the Cour Carré in 1673, a studio later inherited first by his son, Antoine, and then by his grandson.18 CharlesAntoine was born little more than a stone’s throw away from the palace, in the cul-dusac St. Thomas du Louvre. However, in 1697, when Charles-Antoine was only three, his father was rewarded with a logement of his own. The following year Antoine painted a self-portrait with his son (fig. 4). The two are depicted either in Noël’s studio in the Cour Carré or in the cabinet at Antoine’s new logement.19 While Antoine looks up to observe the sitter/viewer in order to look back at his work, the boy stares at the

17 Recent accounts on the emergence of the interior as the place of the personal and the private have made a case for the role of women, and of spaces conventionally assigned to them such as the boudoir. See Meredith Martin, The Ascendancy of the Interior in Eighteenth-Century French Architectural Theory, in: Denise May Baxter and Meredith Martin (eds.), Architectural Space in Eighteenth-Century Europe. Constructing Identites and Interiors, Farnham: Ashgate, 2010, pp. 15–34 and on the antithesis between the public world of the Salon exhibitions and the “private” world of the boudoir, see Jill Cassid, Commerce in the Boudoir, in: Melissa Hyde and Jennifer Milam (eds.), Women, Art and the Politics of Identity in Eighteenth-Century Europe, Farnham: Ashgate, 2003, pp. 91–114. For such spaces see fiction, see most recently, Christophe Martin, Espaces du féminin dans le roman français du XVIIIe siècle, in: SVEC, 2004/1. 18 Nicole Garnier, Antoine Coypel, 1661–1722, Paris: Arthena, 1989, pp. 11, 258; Lefrançois 1994 (as in note 5), p. 42. 19 Garnier 1989 (as in note 18), p. 61; Lefrançois 1994 (as in note 5), “Iconographie”, I.1. CharlesAntoine gives the details of the prescribed form of the painting, noting that it was “peu favorable”: “Ce tableau devoit remplir le panneau d’une porte étroite. Monsieur ordonna que l’Auteur s’y peignit lui-même et lui permit de s’y représenter avec son fils aîné, qui pour lors étoit un enfant de quatre ans.” Charles-Antoine Coypel, Vie d’Antoine Coypel, in: François-Bernard Lépicié, Vies des premiers peintres du roi, 2 vols., Paris: Durand, 1752, vol. 2: p. 15.


 Katie Scott

Fig. 4: Antoine Coypel, Self-Portrait with Charles-Antoine in the Studio, 1698, oil on canvas, 59 × 42 cm (Besançon, Musée des beaux-arts).

unfolding painted illusion.20 The close juxtaposition of bodies, the warm palette, and the irradiated facial expressions of father and son stage their complicity in the project, an impression of mutuality articulated more literally in the preparatory sketch where the father’s gesture may easily be (mis)read as one of feeding Charles-Antoine from the palette with his brush, by virtue of the boy’s rapt attention to his father, not the work.21 The Self-Portrait, to digress a moment longer, had been commissioned by Monsieur, Louis XIV’s brother, for incorporation into a doorframe that was to serve as a entrance into a cabinet at the Palais Royal in which hung only paintings by Antoine, Monsieur’s Premier peintre since 1685. That an image of such intimacy should have been occasioned by practical necessity, should have been foreign to both privacy and interiority—a door after all publicly announces itself as a conduit in between spaces— here serves neatly to illustrate dedans as preposition: both literally before an interior,

20 The sitter was not Monsieur. On Coypel’s few portraits, including one of the Regent, on which he was working at the time of his death, see Garnier 1989 (as in note 18), p. 31, p. 36, p. 69, p. 70, p. 109 and p. 145. 21 Garnier 1989 (as in note 18), p. 259, fig. 118, present whereabouts unknown.

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and dynamically, a directed movement over time or ‘into’. That is to say, it was absolutely not a place. Charles-Antoine grew up at the Louvre; it was to all intents and purposes his ancestral home. When writing Charles-Antoine’s obituary, Jean-Baptiste Massé was moved to remember the time when he had entered the studio of the miniaturist and enameller Louis de Châtillon as an apprentice in 1701, and the close and lifelong friendship he soon struck up with Charles-Antoine, five doors down, in the enclosed world of the logements.22 Though Massé was older by some four years, Coypel was the elder in belonging, in the right to call the Louvre his own. The so-called Louvre logements were accommodations distributed over several stories located beneath the famous galerie du bord de l’eau or grande galerie built by Henri IV along the embankment of the Seine to link the Louvre to Catherine de Medici’s Tuilleries palace. A plan with a section of the logements, drawn up by the architect François d’Orbay (fig. 5) in the early 1690s, records both the distribution and the allocation of the logements. From a cellar on the courtyard or roadside, the logements rose through a ground floor and a first floor with a mezzanine to a grand second floor; some lodgers appear also to have had access to the roof-space above Louis Métezeau and Jacques Androuet II du Cerceau’s gallery, although the exact points of access remain obscure. Most unusually, from 1711, the Coypels enjoyed the privilege of a double logement, double in width that is, encompassing two window bays into the courtyard and onto the Seine: gratification for their service, one after the other, in the role of Keeper of the King’s Cabinet of prints and drawings.23 Though lodgings were early assigned to artists and craftsmen in this wing of the Louvre, it was nevertheless primarily conceived and built as an extension of the royal apartments, that is, with the gallery, the ultimate space of display or parade, first in mind. Thus, while in Israël Silvestre’s view of the galerie from the northwest it is just possible to discern the shop-front entrances to the ateliers, in Jean Marot’s view (fig. 6) of the river elevation (the direction of the gallery’s orientation) we see depicted an imposing two-and-a-half story façade consisting of a rusticated ground floor, a mezzanine and a first floor with pedimented bays alternating with niches, a façade in short, behind which it is virtually impossible to imagine that artisanal workshops and bourgeois domestic accommodations were actually sheltered.24 Over a century later, Sébastien Mercier noted, not without irony, the contrast between the “majesty” of the

22 Jean-Baptiste Massé, Lettre de M. Massé, Peintre du roi et conseiller en son Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, à M. le Présiedent Haudiqué, Exécuteur testamentaire de feu Coypel, Ecuyer. Premier peintre du Roi, in: Mercure de France (August 1752), pp. 147–148. 23 Germain Brice acknowledged as much in his description of the ateliers at the Louvre. See Description de la ville de Paris et de tout ce qu’elle contient de plus remarquable, 9th ed., 4 vols., Paris: Le Mercier, 1752, vol. 1: p. 168. 24 From the so-called Grand Marot, published ca. 1660; a new edition entitled L’Architecture françoise ou recueil des plans, elevations, coupes et pofiles des églises, palais, hôtels et maisons particulières


 Katie Scott

Fig. 5 a/b: François d’Orbay, Plan of the Grande Galerie and Logements, 1692, pen, ink, gray wash, yellow and pink watercolor over graphite, 0.277 × 2.168 cm (Louvre, Album II, folio 42).

Parade’s End: On Charles-Antoine Coypel’s Bed and the Origins of Inwardness 


Louvre and the impossible quest for commodité or comfort that it imposed on those Academicians lucky enough to live there.25 He noted that they were forced to build “a kind of timber house in these vast enclosed grounds”, or, to put it differently, private houses within the king’s parade. Close looking at the d’Orbay’s floor plan (fig. 5) of the gallery reveals a record, drawn more hesitatingly in pencil, of precisely this improvised interior architecture: staircases and curtain walls erected to divide and articulate the space allocated into serviceable rooms. Though there were certain fixed features—flues, access-points, drains, etc.—each logement offered its own manipulation of the disposable space: the entrance to Henry Bidault’s logement, that is, Charles-Antoine’s maternal grandfather’s, was on the right, leading through, past a front room on the left to a staircase behind. By contrast Charles-André Boulle’s logement opened on the left with the staircase straight ahead, the main room with its chimneypiece to the right, and a smaller

de Paris, was published by Jean Mariette in 1727. See A. Mauban, Jean Marot, architecte et graveur parisien, Paris: Les Éditions d’art et d’histoire, 1944, pp. 77–98, p. 82. 25 Sébastien Mercier, Tableau de Paris, 6 vols., Amsterdam, 1783–1789, vol. 5: pp. 208–209.


 Katie Scott

Fig. 6: Jean Marot, Grande Galerie, River Elevation, Detail of the Eastern Section from the Pavillon de la Lanterne to the Petite Galerie, in Grand Marot, ca. 1660s (British Library, Maps* 16220.[6]).

room at the rear. For a third variation: Charles Vigarany retained the full width of the bay, dividing the space laterally and positioning the stair in front in the place occupied chez Boulle by the chimneypiece, and chez Bidault by the corridor. From 1708 all such interior alterations, modifications and repairs were carried out at the expense of the logés.26 The remodeling of the 1711 Coypel logement was very likely an even greater undertaking since it involved merging two independent though adjacent living spaces; at the time of Charles-Antoine Coypel’s death the accommodation comprised some fifteen rooms in all, including two galleries.27 No comparable plan survives, however inventories drawn up after the deaths of Antoine in 1722 and of Charles-Antoine thirty years later enable a schematic reconstruction of layouts by extrapolation from the contents listed in rooms from cellar to attic.28 Following in the footsteps of Maître Doyen, Charles-Antoine’s notary, we proceed from the antechamber on the ground floor, with services including the kitchen, arranged behind, up the stairs to Charles-

26 On the history of the logements see Jules-Joseph Guiffrey, Logements d’artistes au Louvre, in: Nouvelles archives de l’art français (1873) pp. 1–120. 27 Lefrançois 1994 (as in note 5), p. 42. 28 IAD, 25/09/1752 (as in note 7).

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Antoine’s bedroom on the first floor facing northwest into the courtyard and flanked on both sides by garderobes or closets. Then follow less accessible spaces, first in the mezzanine and thereafter on the second floor: his library and his cabinet. Silver and table linen were stored in cupboards on the second floor but it is unlikely that the room so furnished was used for dining; no doubt the antechamber on the ground floor doubled up as a dining room as was often the custom in the seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century hôtels. This was not the distribution that Charles-Antoine inherited. According to Antoine’s inventory the kitchen occupied the whole of the ground floor in 1722; the first floor accommodated together a dining room, a salon, and the elder Coypel’s cabinet. The bedrooms, meanwhile, were furthest from the entrance: up on the second floor. The removal of the bedchamber to the first floor after 1722, and the retreat of the society rooms—salon, cabinet—to the second, strongly argues for its function as the principle space of reception in Charles-Antoine’s lodgings, a space befitting a nobleman and Academician conscious of the symbols of rank and complacent about his entitlement to them: in 1721 the Mercure de France, the court’s newspaper, reported that Charles-Antoine had received the son of the Ambassador of the Sublime Port of the Ottoman Empire at his logement; the previous year the Coypels were honored by a visit from the ten-year-old Louis XV; and on his father’s death, Charles-Antoine came into his father’s offices of Keeper of the King’s Cabinet and First Painter to the House of Orléans.29 Charles-Antoine’s redistribution made an axis of the floors, it imposed the continuity of ceremonial movement on the discontinuity of architectural levels, thereby transforming the space of the logement into what was, to all intents and purposes, a vertical version of the enfilade, the distinguishing feature of architectural planning in royal and aristocratic houses.30 Moreover, the ceremonial or ritual function of the space of the palace, indeed at the Louvre, assumed enhanced significance in Coypel’s logement because there its meaning was self-consciously appropriated and its forms materially modified, reshaped and redisplayed. The château, especially the Grand Gallery, provided the already written, a marked canvas, literally a pre-position, within which Charles-Antoine negotiated and enclosed his own place. Coypel’s bed (fig. 1 and fig. 2). Placed in the depth of the room, opposite the windows giving onto the courtyard, it must have been a magnificent piece of furniture, most likely the principle ornament of the room, characteristics that, according to Antoine Furetière, defined such a chambre as “de parade”.31 Moreover, the trompe

29 See respectively, Mercure de France (June–July 1721) p. 129; Mercure de France (May 1720) p. 169. 30 On the enfilade see Robin Middleton, Enfilade. The Spatial Sequence in French Hôtels of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, in: Daidalos 42 (1991), pp. 84–95; Scott 1995 (as in note 9), pp. 106–109; Gady 2008 (as in note 9), p. 76. 31 Antoine Furetière, Dictionnaire universel, 4 vols., The Hague: Pierre Husson, Thomas Johnson, Jean Swart, Jean van Duren, Charles Le Viers and Veuve van Dole, 1727, vol. 3: ad. voc. “Lit de parade”; see also vol. 1: ad. voc. “Chambre”.


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l’œil window in the painting inside the bed served to recreate in Charles-Antoine’s bedchamber the uncanny illusion of the double aspect commanded by the grand Bourbon Galerie above. Indeed, such an allusion may partially explain CharlesAntoine’s rejection of conventional and thematically appropriate subject matter for his bedroom in favor of an iconography that proposed the space as a place not only of wakefulness—note that fictively speaking the painted window faced southeast; the side from which morning light would really have entered the room—but also of significant action and meaningful decoration. Not Abraham Bosse’s domestic genre scenes therefore, but Jean Le Pautre’s alcove ‘histories’—his extraordinary and inventive sets of designs for state beds—provide, I suggest, the best means to reconstruct the social and artistic character of Coypel’s scheme.32 A particularly distinctive feature of Le Pautre’s eleven sets of designs, produced between circa 1650 and circa 1680, was the dramatization of furniture by means of space, light and narrative.33 His alcoves are the opposite of Gaston Bachelard’s “corners”, that is, not secluded spaces (though set apart), not immobile (though sometimes still), nor yet symbols of solitude and imagination (though manifestly inventive),34 but a public stage for ostentatious display and dramatic dialogue: comic and tragic. On a formal level, the classical grandeur of Le Pautre’s decorative settings is consistent with the architecture of the Louvre, and specific designs, such as the fourth plate of the second set (fig. 7), appear even to propose bedroom plans that, by their double prospect, their palatial proportions and their implicit gallery form, anticipate the fictive spatial and architectural narratives created by Coypel’s bed. More importantly, however, Le Pautre’s designs make explicit the theatrical character of the ancien-régime bedroom: frontispieces of some of the sets depict a proscenium arch through which the viewer observes the bed in the background, its curtains drawn aside, repeating the raised curtains framing the arch in the foreground.35 In plate 2 of Grands alcôves à la Romaine, ou à la royale (fig. 8), the action of the figure to the immediate left of the bed, raising the curtain on Cato’s suicide conflates bed and stage curtains. Whether the design represents Cato’s death or a dramatic performance of it

32 Generally Bosse’s genre scenes have been considered historically reliable evidence of domestic life in seventeenth-century France. See Peter Thornton, Seventeenth-Century Interior Decoration in England, France and Holland, New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1978, figs 1–4, artist not identified but illustrating “France and Aristocratic Fashion”, pp. 7–24; Peter Thornton, Authentic Décor. The Domestic Interior 1620–1920, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1984, figs. 26, 27, 28 and p. 34; Roger Chartier (ed.), History of Private Life. Passions of the Renaissance, trans. by Arthur Goldhammer, Cambridge, MA and London: Belknap, 1989, pp. 194, 229. 33 On the sets see Maxime Préaud, Jean Lepautre, 1618–1682, in: Inventaire du fonds français. Graveurs du XVIIe siècle, vols. 11–12, Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, 1993–1999, vol. 12: nos. 1267–1338. 34 Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. by Maria Jolas, Boston: Beacon Press, 1994, pp. 136– 147. 35 See Préaud 1999 (as in note 34), 2: nos. 1282, 1290, 1291, 1306, 1309, 1311, 1312, 1321, 1325 and 1335.

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Fig. 7: Jean Lepautre, Alcôves, Second Set, plate 4, Bed-Alcove Giving onto a Palace Terrace, Paris, Bibliotheque des Arts décoratifs, Ed 42, p. 63 (Préaud: no 1276.4).

is thereby rendered ambiguous. The interpenetration of theatre and monde in elite, ancien-régime culture was such that Rica, a Persian in Paris at the end of Louis XIV’s reign, was, in Montesquieu’s famous Lettres persannes (1721), quite unable to distinguish between acts acted out on stage, social performances conducted in theatre loges, and rites of sociability executed in the “privacy” of hôtels.36 The bed was, it seems, never just a convenience of everyday life. In Le Pautre’s engravings it serves to index the principle figure, and its grandeur calls forth, produces (necessarily it would almost seem), correspondingly great actions and occasions. The movement of these events, or the scenario, is underlined in The Death of Cato by the unstructured, tent-like form of the bed hangings; the flexible, flowing matrix of the woven textile here standing in closer relation to narrative than the rigid, solid and permanent architecture of the alcove. The hybrid nature of the depiction—part pattern and part history—has the effect of transforming both the design and the moral exemplum into

36 Charles-Louis de Secondat de Montesquieu, Lettres persannes, Amsterdam: P. Brunel, 1721, letter 28. See also E.J. Hundert and Paul Nelles, Liberty and Theatrical Space in Montesquieu’s Political Theory: The Poetics of Public Life in the Persian Letters, in: Political Theory 17.2 (1989) pp. 223–246.


 Katie Scott

Fig. 8: Jean Lepautre, Grands and Alcôves, ou à la Royale, 2nd plate, The Death of Cato, Paris, Bibliotheque des Arts decoratifs, Ed 42, p. 21 (Préaud: no. 1304.2).

a representation, that is to say, of rendering the performance theatrical: even suicide is paraded. If, according to Furetière, parade is a “display of that which is most beautiful, a show of one’s ornaments, one’s magnificence”, and more specifically a lit de parade, was a bed of such magnificence that it was customarily erected in a room “where generally one does not sleep”, Le Pautre’s prints demonstrate that such a parade of things was not consumption merely made conspicuous, but objects re-purposed as props for the performance: a performance of nobility.37 The contents of Coypel’s bedroom listed at his death include, in addition to the bed, a banquette and eleven armchairs, various small tables to support cups and saucers, a games’ table and several tobacco jars, furnishings that confirm the location and disposition of the room as the prime place

37 Furetière 1727 (as in note 31), 3: ad. voc. “Parade”: “Etalage de ce qu’il y a de beau; montre de ses ornemens, de sa magnificence; le Seigneur a fait une fête, il a mis tout son argentterie en parade sur son buffet, tous ses plus beaux meubles de parade.”

Parade’s End: On Charles-Antoine Coypel’s Bed and the Origins of Inwardness 


of reception.38 Massé remembered Coypel’s exceptional sociability as a young man, noting with admiration that he moved easily between the best social circles and the professional world of artists and craftsmen. The Palais Royal had been his playroom as well as the Louvre logements, and while he had grown up with the miniaturist, he had been raised with the duc de Chartres.39 Likewise, Pierre-Jean Mariette thought the number of Coypel’s “distinguished” friends worthy of note; included in that total and of especially close acquaintance were the marquis de Calvières and the comte de Caylus.40 Giles Delpierre, in making a case for Coypel as a “noble artiste” rather than an “artiste noble”, that is an artist noble in the literal, social sense of the word, has drawn attention to the painter’s pursuit of painting in what he construes as the non-professional, amateur mode of the gentleman. Coypel’s comic genre paintings and his Don Quixotte series for the Gobelins were mirror images, Delpierre argues, of Caylus’s œuvres badines.41 However, Charles-Antoine’s own interpretation of painting’s nobility identifies it not only with such playful and privileged genres of work but in social relations for which the interior served as both the setting and the artistic objective. In the life of his father, written in the 1740s, Coypel fils presents the interior as a potentially creative space in between the exalted patron and the painter, for the happening of grand decoration. At Choisy, the Palais Royal and Versailles, that is, throughout Antoine Coypel’s long career, his art was occasioned, his son relates, by intense and protracted social intercourse with members of the elite. The exchange of ideas, the stimulation of their honnête conversation, the contribution of their aristocratic bodies (used sometimes as models), their hands (Orléans helped “sketch”) and the reward of their “caresses” (not money) inspired and ennobled Antoine’s depictions of Phaeton, the Assembly of the Gods and God the Father in Glory.42 The interior, Antoine’s life suggested, staged the combined and mutually reinforcing performance of artistic and social nobility. Artistic identity was constructed and defined, that is also to say, in relation to the social: “I perform, distinguish and know myself in relation to others, therefore I am”, and not Painting’s variation on the cogito, “I imagine, therefore I am.” We can only speculate about what the decoration of Charles-Antoine’s bedroom may have owed to a similarly generative social context. After the return of the court to Versailles in 1723, Coypel fils was recruited to decorate the hôtel du Grand Maître where he worked alongside François Lemoyne and Jean-François de Troy to paint

38 IAD, 25/09/1752 (as in note 7). 39 Massé 1752 (as in note 22), p. 148. 40 Philippe de Chennevières, Anatole de Montaiglon (eds.), Pierre-Jean Mariette, Abecedario de P.-J. Mariette, 6 vols., Paris: J.-B. Dumoulin, 1851–1860, vol. 2: p. 30. 41 Giles Delpierre, Charles Coypel et le comte de Caylus: de l’artiste noble au noble artiste, in: Licorne 23 (1992), pp. 85–93. 42 Coypel 1752 (as in note 19), pp. 1–41.


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overdoors for the duc de Bourbon’s bedchamber.43 Shortly thereafter Coypel himself appears to have commissioned a pair of decorative works from his former companions in art, small ovals depicting allegories of painting (Lemoyne) and sculpture (De Troy). While they cannot be placed with certainty in the bedroom,44 we can note the complementary nature of the subject matter and tentatively propose that artists and connoisseurs as well as aristocrats were among those whom the seat furniture aimed to make comfortable and who, very possibly, informed as well as contemplated the decoration of the draped and painted bed. Allegory, as a form of history painting, occupied the highest rank in the hierarchy of genres. It was painting in a form that eighteenth-century aristocratic politeness, or honnêteté, is said to have disavowed as too learned both in form and in content.45 However, Coypel’s Genius Awakened by Painting is neither enigmatical nor difficult. The attributes of Genius and Painting, the flaming brow and the palette, were commonplaces of Renaissance symbolism.46 Moreover the story of art unfolded by this allegory is one of the clear, unequivocal distinction of the artist from all things manual, mechanical, in sum ignoble: not Painting (always matter and practice, in part at least) inspired by Genius but Genius (the universal faculty of rationality) drawn in this instance and at this moment towards Painting, as indeed the opening couplets of Antoine Coypel’s Epistle to My Son (1708) claimed was the case, for all

43 Lefrançois 1994 (as in note 5), pp.  45, 64, 83 and 51. On payment for the painting see Fernand Engerand, Inventaire des tableaux commandés et achetés par la direction des bâtiments du roi (1709– 1792), Paris: E. Leroux, 1910, p. 127. On this scheme, see Jean-Luc Bordeaux, La commande royale de 1724 pour l’hôtel du Grand-Maître à Versailles, in: Gazette des beaux-arts (1984) pp. 113–126; Bruno Pons, De Paris à Versailles (1699–1736): Les sculpteurs ornemanistes parisiens et l’art décorative des bâtiments du roi, Strasbourg: Association les publications près les Universités de Strasbourg, 1986, pp. 131–132. 44 In 1752 they were listed among the pictures in Coypel’s inventory, IAD, 25/09/1752 (as in note 7) and were not therefore by that time part of the logement’s decoration: no. 85 “Deux ovales de Messirs De Troy et Lemoyne”. On De Troy’s Sculpture, see Christophe Leribault, Jean-François de Troy (1679– 1752), Paris: Arthena, Association pour la diffusion de l’histoire de l’art, 2002, p. 161; on Lemoyne’s Painting, see Jean-Luc Bordeaux, François Le Moyne and His Generation (1688–1737), Neuilly-surSeine: Arthena, 1984, p. 61. 45 On honnêteté and the image of the artist, see Mary Vidal, Watteau’s Painted Conversation, New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1992, pp.  143–171. See also Roger de Piles, Cours de peinture par principes (1708), Paris: Gallimard, 1989, pp. 39–40. 46 See César Ripa, Iconologie, ou les principales choses qui peuvent tomber dans la pensée touchant les vices et les vertues, trans. by Jean Baudouin and illustrated by Jacques de Brie, Paris: M. Guillemot, 1643, LXVIII: “Génie”, p. 88. See also Charles Perrault’s Cabinet des beaux-arts, ou recueil d’estampes gravées d’après les tableaux d’un plafond ou les beaux-arts sont représentés, Paris: G. Edelinck, 1690, had featured a figure of Genius, winged, adolescent and flaming, niched to the left of the cabinet’s door and widely known through reproductive engraving. See also the text, pp. 4, 5–6.

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true artists.47 The treatment of the figures, Genius especially, conforms to the highest aesthetic ideals embodied, according to the Epistle, by Raphael: “Sage sans être froid, & simple sans bassesse, / Grand sans paroître outré, toujours plein de noblesse.”48 But his potentially daunting noble simplicity and calm grandeur is relieved by more immediate and viscerally pleasing pictorial effects in the rest of the picture. Imitation to the point of trompe l’œil was commended by the art theorist Roger de Piles as one of the surest ways of attracting and satisfying the attention and curiosity of the viewer.49 He cited as case in point Rembrandt’s picture of a servant girl at a window;50 more relevant here was perhaps the architecturally framed di sotto in sù illusionism perfected by Coypel père for ceiling decoration, in which celestial bodies variously rise, fall and float in opened-up, cloud filled skies. In counterpoint to the instant optical gratification provided by Painting’s surprise arrival here through the dawning window, Coypel fils painted an abundance of drapery to occupy and flatter the eye more slowly. His father had commended drapery to his son as the playground of good taste; in the glossed edition of the Épître à mon fils later addressed to all the Académie’s students, the elder Coypel went further and proposed it as a synecdoche of painting: invention and imitation in radical guise, free, because drapery has no prescribed form, no given lines, no conventional color.51 A little learning might supplement the viewer’s enjoyment of the graceful ways in which Painting’s robes alternately wrap and float free from her body by reminding her that the colors, gray and green-gold, are among those intermediate and mutable hues that traditionally symbolize the scope of nature’s palette, but such knowledge was not indispensable to understanding and admiring the tout ensemble. Coypel’s allegory, like his bed, was, you could say, an allegory in appearance only, or discursively de parade. The argument for Painting Awakening Genius as allegory-lite, the better to accommodate an honnête performance of noblesse, has been largely a negative one, one of lack. To put the case more positively, we can note that trompe l’œil and drapery, or illusionism and decoration, have this in common: an attachment to surface, to the picture plane. The “S” line of Painting’s floating, folding, falling shawl comes from behind the figure to weave her into the surface of the canvas like some gigantic ornament (fig. 9). Consequently, though Coypel depicts a bed—the dimpled surface of pillow and mattress are distinctly painted, down to the tufts that via jiffies hold the stuffing

47 Antoine Coypel, Discours prononcés dans les conférences de l’Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, Paris: Jacques Collombat, 1721, preface (un-paginated); “Epître”, lines 1–4; gloss, pp. 1–4. 48 Ibid.: “Conventional without being cold, and plain without being poor / Great without appearing grandiose, always steeped in nobility.” 49 de Piles 1989 (as in note 45), pp. 8–9. 50 Ibid., p. 11. Coypel at one time painted a copy of an Ostade trompe l’œil picture of a woman at a window which both replicated the illusion of the window and the illusion of Ostade. See Mariette 1753 (as in note 8), p. 26, lot 113. 51 Coypel 1721 (as in note 47), pp. 115–132.


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in place—and an event particular to it, that is to say that his representation plays on the object bed, it does not draw us into the fiction of Painting’s stirring arrival and Genius’s startled response. Because, if trompe l’œil ultimately disabuses us of its illusion, making the viewer acutely aware that her eyes have deceived her and that she is looking at a surface not a space, ornament inhibits the formation of the illusion in the first place by drawing attention to the object decorated. By making us thus vividly aware of the falsity of the painting’s pictorial fiction, illusion and ornament lessen the vivacity with which we can imagine it to be true: that in the semi-conscious moment between sleeping and waking Genius has a vision of Painting. Seventeenth-century art theory defined genius as innate not acquired; but, for all that, genius was not construed as interior.52 According to de Piles it was a movement of the mind; it required a complement towards which it might direct itself. Among the many similes he uses to describe genius, the most striking, in the present context, is that genius is like “the string of a musical instrument which emits no sound unless struck.”53 Genius was thus closer to motivation or will than to imagination: “Genius is a light of the mind, which directs him to his goal by the easiest route.”54 The figure of Painting in Coypel’s bedhead is not therefore an image visible to Genius’s inner eye and to our imagining of his subjective thought, but an exterior object, a real thing, which rouses him to act. It positions the viewer thus not as a voyeur “overhearing” vocation; rather, it interpolates her as a witness to the artist’s calling made in public. Not a portrait, not, that is, a substitute for Coypel in his absence, the bed-picture was rather an extension of Coypel. Seen by others only on those occasions when the painter received company, it served him as a screen against the depth of which to concentrate and project his ideal self. Parade, in résumé and as I have been using it, is an orientation, a movement toward the exterior: it determined the way the distribution of the logement was brought to accord with the order of the façade of the galerie du bord de l’eau; it appropriated the domestic for the crucial task of constructing the public, that is, the socially sanctioned, identity of the artist; and it assigned to decoration as ‘scene’ the task of representing genius and painting in the language of allegory made noble and universal by divestment of pedantic erudition. Moreover, “exterior” is a leitmotif in Massé’s life of Charles-Antoine; not in the sense of ostentatious bearing (or “dehors avantageux”) but rather in terms of an “exterieur […] tranquille”, that is to say, a composed

52 On the concept of genius in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, see Kineret S. Jaffe, The Concept of Genius. Its Changing Role in Eighteenth-Century French Aesthetics, in: Journal of the History of Ideas 46.4 (1980), pp. 579–599. 53 Roger de Piles, L’idée du peintre parfait (1699), Paris: Le Promneur, 1993, p. 26. 54 Ibid., p. 24.

Parade’s End: On Charles-Antoine Coypel’s Bed and the Origins of Inwardness 


Fig. 9: Charles-Antoine Coypel, Allegorical Figure of Painting, ca. 1725, black, white and touches of red chalk on blue paper, 35.6 × 30.8 cm (Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Elisha Whittesley Collection).

appearance or façade, a social face, though Massé is keen to add that in Coypel’s case, it is alert and perspicacious also.55

3 No More Parades “If you want to know what goes on in my studio (cabinet) I will tell you…”, wrote Charles-Antoine Coypel to the recently appointed Directeur des bâtiments du roi, Philibert Orry, on February 8, 1739. I have not been out all winter, not even to pay calls. I spend my time deliciously, sometimes in studying nature, sometimes reading: books relevant to my art, and others good for holding me in that happy philosophy which reconciles me to the modesty of my situation. I wait quietly in this dear studio (cher cabinet) for some happy idea to come and seize me there so that I can convey it

55 Massé 1752 (as in note 22), pp. 152, 151.


 Katie Scott

to canvas and put it before your eyes. I take the liberty to beg you, Monseigneur, to find it acceptable that I work only as often as I am impelled by force of imagination. I cannot treat Painting otherwise.56

This account of life in the studio could scarcely be further removed from that reconstructed as proper to the bedroom: the cabinet is represented as a place of solitary seclusion; its antithesis is the paying and receiving of social calls. Milieu has become lieu, to borrow the opposition made famous by Pierre Nora.57 Coypel, the ancien rather than the courtier, makes the best of the constraints of his now de-ritualized environment, of “his modest situation”, one the polar opposite of parade. Moreover, to make a final point about the letter, imagination is monological not dialogical, that is, located in discourse with the self and not in conversational exchange with others. Is the letter evidence then that Genius and Painting, the work and its referents, had moved from the bed in the logement to a wall in the studio in the Cour Carré? If so what crisis had prompted destruction of the lit de parade and Painting’s flight? What catastrophe had provoked the collapse of Coypel’s performative self? Finally, how had inside apparently become interior? Answers to these questions depend not so much on place but on time and event. Thierry Lefrançois, author of the catalogue raisonné of Charles-Antoine’s œuvre dates the picture around 1730, largely on stylistic grounds. In certain knowledge of the bed’s destruction during Coypel’s lifetime and presuming that such an act was provoked by a crisis of meaning, of identity, and not of housekeeping, I want to propose on circumstantial evidence that Coypel’s bed with painted headboard was in fact made and installed in his bedroom several years earlier and that the 1730s mark the scene, rather, of Genius and Painting’s exile from the chambre de parade. Coypel died at the Louvre. At the time of his death his bedroom was hung with eight family pastel portraits, very likely of his own making.58 Bedchambers were often the location for such family hagiography and it seems not unlikely that such a hang

56 Antoine-Louis Lacordaire, Notice historique sur les manufactures impériales de tapisseries des Gobelins et de tapis de Savonnerie, Paris: Roret, J.-B. Dumoulin, 1853, p. 89. 57 Pierre Nora, Between Memory and History. Les Lieux de Mémoire, in: Representations 26 (1989) pp. 7–24. We can note that in the definition of “chambre” in the second edition of the Dictionnaire universel françois et latin, 5 vols., Trévoux: Florentin De Laune, 1721, vol. 1: p. 1601 reference to the bedroom as a setting for social congregation was excised; in its stead bedroom was defined as a place to treasure and display one’s most precious possessions. 58 IAD 28/09/1752 (as in note 7): “A l’egard de huit portraits tans d’hommes que de femmes tous de famille peint en pastelle et dans leur differentes bordures ovales de bois doré tous garnie de glaces… pour mémoire.” See Lefrançois 1994 (as in note 5), pp. 69–70 for a discussion of Charles-Antoine’s portraiture. See also Neil Jeffares, Charles Coypel, in: Dictionary of pastelliest before 1800 on line, (accessed January 27, 2015). Only an oval self-portrait in pastel survives at the Musée des beaux-arts, Orléans.

Parade’s End: On Charles-Antoine Coypel’s Bed and the Origins of Inwardness 


was of longstanding in this room. Pendant portraits of Coypel père and fils had been painted respectively by Hyacinthe Rigaud and Nicolas de Largillière and offer themselves as possible forerunners to the later oval pastels.59 In such company Genius Awakened by Painting spoke surely of aspiration, and of artistic beginnings. Antoine had died in 1722; Charles-Antoine, devastated, reacted by writing an elegy “by a son on the death of his father” in devoted emulation of his father’s epistle to his eldest son. In it he laments the mortal loss of his father and model, and, in an apostrophe to anguish and confusion, expresses his yearning to follow his father to the grave.60 But a break occurs in the last third of the poem. Lacrimosa gives way to a dialogue des morts; and imperatives uttered by Coypel’s shade echo those voiced earlier by the living father in his epistle, culminating in the closing injunction: Distingue toy, mon fils, dans cet art enchanteur, Qui d’un Prince éclairé m’attira la faveur; Montre pour tes devoirs une ardeur toujours vive, Ne pleur plus ma mort, fais qu’en toi je revive.61

Genius Awakened by Painting is a work that seems to respond to the lyric of his father’s imagined voice and marks the moment in the mid- to late 1720s when Coypel the younger began to take hold of his artistic heritage, exhibiting at the Salon for the first time in 1725 and in his turn finding favor with his Prince:62 he was largely responsible for the decoration of the queen’s new private apartments at Versailles.63 Allegory, like elegy, here opened up a space for retrospection to drive grief towards the visual articulation of the duty that paternal inheritance seemingly required. In 1727 Coypel’s prospects changed. In that year the duc d’Antin, the then Directeur des bâtiments du roi, organized a competition in order to select the painter to paint the ceiling of the Salon de Marbre, the last of the grand schemes in the grand apartement at Versailles and immediately adjacent to the chapel, scene of Antoine Coypel’s last late triumph. Coypel fils must surely have coveted this unique opportunity to resurrect his father in himself. He submitted Perseus Freeing Andromeda (1726–27, Louvre) (fig. 10) whose composition and figures draw more and less conspicuously on

59 On the Rigaud portrait, now lost, see Garnier 1989 (as in note 18), “Iconographie”, no. 5. On the Largillière see Lefrançois 1994 (as in note 5), “Iconographie”, no. I.11. 60 Charles-Antoine Coypel, Élégie d’un fils sur la mort de son père, in: Mercure de France (June 1722) pp. 46–49 and p. 48. 61 Ibid., p. 49: “My son, make a name for yourself in this captivating art / Which brought me favour from a Prince; / Be always ardent and lively in your studies; / Grieve for me no longer; make me live again in you.” 62 On his participation at the Salon of 1725 Georges Wildenstein, Le Salon de 1725, compte rendu pas le Mercure de France, Paris: Société de l’histoire de l’art français, 1924, pp. 47–48. 63 Charles-Anoine’s commissions for the queen occupied for most of the decade between 1728–1738. See Lefrançois 1994 (as in note 5), pp. 80, 81, 175, 176, 177 and p. 178.


 Katie Scott

Fig. 10: Charles-Antoine Coypel, Perseus and Andromeda, oil on canvas, 1726–27 (Musée du Louvre).

the great decorators of the seventeenth century: on Annibale Carracci at the Franese Gallery and Peter Paul Rubens at the Luxembourg.64 The work was acquired for the royal collection by d’Antin but, despite its high decorative credentials, specifically, its low viewpoint and conspicuous skyscape, it did not secure Coypel the ceiling commission. This was given to François Lemoyne; his acclaimed Apotheosis of Hercules was unveiled a decade later, in 1736.65 It is, I think, difficult to account for Genius Awakened by Painting as following rather than preceding Perseus Freeing Andromeda.

64 See Colin Bailey, The Loves of the Gods. Mythological Painting from Watteau to David, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 23 May–2 Aug 1992, no 32. Bailey notes Charles-Antoine’s debt to Carracci and Domenichino’s treatment of the same subject on the ceiling of the Farnese gallery, known to the painter either from painted copies in Paris or from Jacques Belly reproductive prints. Rubens’s Neiriads who serve as general models for Coypel’s were more immediately observable in the decoration of the Luxembourg palace. 65 The Apothéose d’ Hercules et les chemins qui conduisent les héros à l’immortalité had been the subject of Coypel’s proposed decoration of the Grand Salon at Saint-Cloud, discontinued at the Regent’s death in 1723. Coypel had exhibited an oil sketch for the ceiling (now in a private collection) at the Salon of 1725 and Louis Surugue engraved and published a print reproducing the whole proposed scheme. The central motif of Hercules in his chariot rising to Olympus is common to both Coypel’s and Lemoyne’s later treatment of the subject.

Parade’s End: On Charles-Antoine Coypel’s Bed and the Origins of Inwardness 


There were other disappointments. His childhood friend the duc de Chartres, having become duc d’Orléans in 1723 failed to reproduce the terms of the relationship that had bound the men’s two fathers. On the contrary, Louis d’Orléans withdrew from the Palais Royal to a mansion near the Church of Saint Geneviève, and not before having attempted to destroy on grounds of immodesty some of the most remarkable paintings in his father, the Regent’s collection: the Correggio Leda and Danaë.66 The days when the Regent came to watch his father paint in the studio, when a coachand-four was sent in thanks for the decoration of the Galerie d’Enée together with the funds to maintain them, and when prospects were bright for a bold, heroic decorative scheme for the grand salon at Saint Cloud, were past.67 There would be no more parades. At the Bâtiments too, the world was changing. Commissions to complete the decoration of the grand apartement left unfinished at Louis XIV’s death and d’Antin’s grandiose ambitions notwithstanding, the early patronage of Louis XV’s reign is remarkable rather for its choice of modestly conceived imagery depicting country and pastoral pursuits.68 In the decade following the 1727 competition it was the animal painter Jean-Baptiste Oudry, and not any of the competing history painters, whose star was obviously rising at court. In March 1726 Oudry had been invited to exhibit the contents of his entire studio at Versailles;69 two years later he was ordered to follow the royal hunt after which he painted Stag Hunt in the Forest of Saint-Germain (circa 1730, Musée des Augustins, Toulouse) securing thereby a commission for a set of Chasses royales, in prestige certainly equal, if not superior, to Lemoyne’s Apotheosis of Hercules. Many of Oudry’s hunting pictures—the overdoors for Compiègne and Marly in the 1720s, the studies of hunting trophies for Versailles in the 1740s—were intended moreover for the king’s hunting lodges and his petits apartements; they were not components of his gloire. Coypel’s letter to Orry continues: I want to try and make good things for you, and good things (bonnes choses) are not made at any moment. I pity those who think they are, or who are obliged to create every day, and who find themselves in the unfortunate necessity of promising beauty on a given day, like one promises a

66 See, Le Palais Royal, exhibition catalogue, Musée Carnavalet, Paris, 9 May–4 Sept. 1988, Paris, 1988, pp. 99–100 esp. p. 30. 67 On the Saint-Cloud commission see Lefrançois 1994 (as in note 5), p. 47. 68 For example, see the commissions for scenes of country and pastoral pursuits from Nicolas Lancret, initiated by duc d’Antin and fully exploited by Orry and discussed in Mary Tavener Holmes, Nicolas Lancret 1690–1743, exhibition catalogue, New York, Frick Colletion: Harry N. Abrams, 1991, p. 45, pp.  10–11. See also Xavier Salmon, Versailles: Les chasses exotiques de Louis XV, exhibition catalogue, Amiens, Musée des beaux-arts: RMN, 1995–1996. 69 See Mercure de France (March 1726), “Supplement”, pp. 627–630. On Sunday the 10th 1726 Oudry transported 26 paintings to Versailles. They were displayed in the Grands appartements to the king and queen once in the morning and again in the afternoon with the court. In December 1725 Oudry had also been granted a logement at the Louvre.


 Katie Scott

suit of clothes. If you permit me, Monseigneur, finally to tell you what I think of Painting, I adore her as an activity (une occupation); I detest her as a profession.70

Only the reference to dress strikes an original note in this otherwise rather conventional articulation of art’s liberal and amateur status. The antithesis artist–tailor does not, it seems to me, completely exhaust the range of signification in ‘suit of clothes’. If clothes were of primary importance in the performance of identity, they were also items of fashion and luxury, the very things that not only undermined the condition of art but also put at risk the language of social distinction.71 Taking into account the offices held by Orry, first Controlleur-général des finances and only later Directeur des bâtiments du roi, it seems not impossible that Coypel intended to remind Orry that art was not manufacture or trade, not a potential source of state revenue. Specific reference to sartorial fashion as art’s other, implicitly mustered the arguments of the humanist discourse on art against cultural values turned commercial by recent fiscal policy. If I am guilty of over-interpreting “suit of clothes”, of casting it as an emblem of social as well artistic de-stabilization, there is no denying that according to Coypel’s letter the liberal ideal of painting as a noble art fit for a gentleman was no longer, in his view, widely shared. Unable to find a social order, a community, with which to identify himself, Coypel retreated. As Lefrançois has already noted, between 1736 and 1743 Coypel absented himself completely from the Académie. All that remained to him, apparently, was the possibility of individual honor, individual integrity, individual satisfaction, individual peace. He ended his letter: This confession (that he could adore Painting only as a calling) which I take the liberty of communicating, compels you, all the more, not to let me get away with anything. One should be less forgiving towards he who is only occupied in the hope of producing beauty than towards them who are compelled to work to acquire the necessary.72

Coypel was certainly pitiless towards himself. In March 1745 at the end of a conférence delivered at the Académie, his first since 1730, on the life of his father, Coypel fils confessed his father’s indulgence towards his son, natural but unwarranted, and requested permission from the assembled company, permission to withdraw his morceau de réception, Jason and Medea (fig. 11) submitted in 1715, which he now recognized as unworthy to hang among the masterpieces in the Académie’s rooms at the

70 Lacordaire 1854 (as in note 56). 71 Scott 1995 (as in note 9), pp. 222–232. 72 Lacordaire 1854 (as in note 56).

Parade’s End: On Charles-Antoine Coypel’s Bed and the Origins of Inwardness 


Fig. 11: Charles-Antoine Coypel, Jason and Medea, oil on canvas, 1715. Inv. GK I 3840. (Berlin, Schloss Charlottenburg).

Louvre.73 Where Chartres had seemingly leveled his Oedipal aggression at his father’s possessions, Coypel directed his at himself. The displacement from chambre de parade to atelier, interpreted here as involving the transformation of dedans into something like “interior”, was occasioned by Coypel’s withdrawal from a world, a monde, he judged no longer ordered by aristocratic values, one seemingly without parts for the ‘noble artiste’, which he took himself to be. Instead of the Louvre logements, the Académie’s apartment, especially its Salon carré, was, by midcentury, the prime site for parades of artistic identity. The outcome of these new public exhibitions was not confirmation of the established order; rather, they invited challenge. Status was subject to competition. By this account, the bed-picture was the unwitting victim of social rupture. It took refuge in the studio, which by, or at least with, its arrival emerged as a circum-positional inside, a place of consolation.

73 See Procès Verbaux de l’Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, 17 vols., Paris: J. Baur, 1875– 1892, vol. 6: p. 37 and Lefrançois 1994 (as in note 5), pp. 113, 118, p. 7.


 Katie Scott

4 Ô Painting It is, of course, both simplistic and crudely reductive to argue that the intertwined fates of Painting Awakening Genius and the early modern interior were exclusively determined by biographical and historical events: by the burden of hereditary title and privilege in a regime where ancien roles and distinctions were compromised daily by the early modern state’s fiscal needs and commercial ambitions. What of the painting’s role in the bed’s undoing? Or, to direct the question at progressively wider horizons, how might it have contributed to the transformation of the chambre, the logement, the Louvre, from milieux de mémoire, in which social rituals were lived, into lieux de mémoire,74 places where parade was represented, that is, where it was merely a matter of form? Might it not have exercised a kind of agency, that is, activated a discursive event with precisely destructive consequences? The account of the work’s reception has to this point reconstructed the position of Coypel’s ideal invités standing or seated in the parterre in front of the alcove, facing the painter, an admiring audience to whom the offset bed appeared as an attribute of their host’s artistic and social persona. But the picture was to the painter not only an extension of his body and the forcing, in the horticultural sense, of his image; it was also an exterior object. As such what effect did it have on him? How might he have experienced it from or in the bed? The depicted mattress and cushions proposed continuity between the fictive and the actual stuffs of the bed, the discrete reference to an oriental Other in the indienne patterned border notwithstanding. Moreover, Genius’s body faces out; it is virtually flat against the picture plane and trespasses on the space of the sleeper abed. Only Genius’s attention turns away. Narcissus-like, Genius thus poses for the body in the bed as his own mirror image. Putting aside for a moment the crucial role assigned in Lacanian psychoanalysis to the mirror in the formation of subjectivity, we can note that in the cabinet of Coypel’s rival, Lemoyne, hung until his death that painter’s rendering of the Ovidian myth (fig. 12), serving no doubt as an allegory of the Origin of Painting.75 If the un-aware image of the blond shepherd produced by reflection spoke most beguilingly of painting-as-mimesis, the dusky, ringing landscape that surrounds him invoked time’s passage. To the extent that reflection has thus far been a matter of interpretation in the analysis of Coypel’s picture-bed, it has featured likewise in a temporal sense: in “looking back”, looking, that is, across time not space. It was noted in Coypel fils’s recollections of his father in poetry and prose, and in his later re-scripting of his own life by substitution of a new morceau de réception the better to honor his accession to the Académie, that by that gesture, what he shall have been was made smoothly adequate to what he was in 1745, and what he was in the process

74 Nora 1989 (see note 57). 75 See Bordeaux 1984 (as in note 46), p. 72.

Parade’s End: On Charles-Antoine Coypel’s Bed and the Origins of Inwardness 


Fig. 12: François Lemoyne, Narcissus, ca. 1725–28, oil on canvas, 56.5 × 105.5 cm (Paris, Musée du Louvre, RF 1983–78).

of becoming—its twenty-first Directeur.76 Of these “reflections”, the elegy is arguably the most important to the concept of the interior because it is concerned with feeling, specifically with the feeling of loss that simultaneously creates a clearing around the bereaved and hollows her out inside: he, in this case, is momentarily lost to the world, as his father is ever lost to him. The attempt to fill or breach that void is articulated by apostrophe—Coypel’s “Ô mon père, ô mon maître”—a figure of speech that, as Jonathan Culler observes, draws attention to the situation or context of communication for lack of specific content; as a sign, “Ô” is closer to punctuation, to a point of emphasis, than to a word.77 Coypel, as already remarked, narrates the voicing of his plaintive “Ô” alone in his father’s place. His cry is thus “overheard”, not “heard”, to borrow a distinction famously made of lyric by John Stuart Mill, because in pretending to talk to someone, his dead father, the poet–painter necessarily turns his back on his readers. In dramatizing the subject’s apostrophic turn, the trope not only creates private space, instituting a kind of internal dialogism with the father; it also engenders self-awareness. Pondered in bed as a scenario, rather than read from afar as allegory, the mood of Coypel’s painting may have become optative, its discourse shifting perhaps into the vocative: “Ô Painting”.

76 The term for this in narrative theory is “retroactive continuity”, meaning that history runs backwards, from the future into the past. 77 Jonathan Culler, Apostrophe, in: Diacritics, 7.4 (1977) pp. 59–69


 Katie Scott

To propose a reading of Painting Awakening Genius in the vocative is to suggest that Coypel in bed identified with Genius and evoked an epiphany from his, Genius’s, place. Apostrophe transforms narrative time into space by interpolating its objects in the now.78 Unlike the now of trompe l’œil that pleased and impressed in parade, that dramatized the event of viewing and by deception momentarily imposed on the depicted fleshly body of Painting the illusion of real time (the time of sequence and causality, specifically of arrival), the now of apostrophe addresses its interlocutors (the abstract, symbolic figure of Painting) as potential presences in a suspended present. In apostrophe, elegiac reflection, or looking back, becomes “looking at”: not only at Painting, but at Genius too. Reflection across space is, of course, the more familiar paradigm of subjectivity’s double structure. At a critical stage it provides him (in this case) with a unified, coherent and thus idealized image of himself to replace his experience of inner turbulence and chaos.79 The “jubilant” moment of self-consciousness depends, however, on distance: on a split between the perceiving subject and the object of perception, which is overcome and resolved by the process of identification. In a Lacanian reading of the Académie, or academic male nude, upon which Coypel’s figure of Genius, and, incidentally, Lemoyne’s Narcissus, are undeniably based, Jonathan Enderfield has explored the operation of distance in the representation of the whole body and in the imagination of the subject.80 He notes that the whole body is only perceived and grasped at a certain distance. Close-up, the body blurs and fragments into parts. Moreover, near, it is no longer possible to behold the body, or its representation, as the body of another, for in parts we are all the same; it is the composition of the whole that marks out our individuality. What Enderfield exposes is the contingency of the Academic male nude’s authority. Quilting point of the discourses on art and nobility, it held the ideological order of the ancien régime together. And yet the permanence suggested by the condensation of pictorial conventions and social and political discourses invariably threatens to unravel, literally in the case of Genius Awakened by Painting. Close comparison of the painting and the sketch (figs. 1 and 2) reveals a double and contradictory process of completion and finalization.81 On the one hand, later Genius in oil is a more self-sufficient and forceful figure: he grows and matures physically relative to Painting and he is detached against the window and from the linens and upholstery of the bed. Moreover, he is alert, active. All earlier marks of physical vulnerability and of insufficiencies of consciousness

78 Ibid., pp. 66–68. 79 I am drawing of course on Jacques Lacan’s essay The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience, in: Jacques Lacan. Ecrits – A Selection, trans. by Alan Sheridan, London: Routledge, 1977, pp. 1–8. 80 John Elderfield, The Language of the Body. Drawings by Pierre-Paul Proud’hon, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996, pp. 53–91. 81 My warmest thanks to Satish Padyar for helping me to focus on this point and for referring me to Lacan’s point de caption to develop the argument that follows.

Parade’s End: On Charles-Antoine Coypel’s Bed and the Origins of Inwardness 


manifested in the chalk preparation are deleted or repressed. But against these strategies of reinforcement, the stability of the figure’s staging begins, on the other hand, to slip. Anchored to the bed in the drawing, in the painting Genius looks ready to spill from cushions whose own fixity is, ironically, deep-buttoned and secure. According to Lacan, point de caption in the psychoanalytic sense stabilizes the symbolic field and prevents the subject’s slide into psychosis. The ideal male nude fulfilled that purpose in the ancien régime, but only under certain physical and ideological conditions: when held up by unequivocal respect at a distance, that is to say, by parade. Up-close, and its value disturbed by the leveling forces of money, the illusion of wholeness was exposed for what it was, an illusion. As a coda we can note that, according to Culler, apostrophe is liable to cause embarrassment because it draws attention to the pretensions of art and artist to realize the real.82 And we can ask, finally, whether looking at the painting in bed Coypel may not have fancied he heard from behind the pulled bed-curtains a “titter”, and in that pricking instant, felt a gap opening between his genius and the imago whose identity he thus begins to doubt.83 What about the interior in all this? We have said that the body up-close, like the theatre as metaphor of life, leads the subject not into the imaginary but back to the real, to incoherence and fragmentation; in Coypel’s case to awareness of artistic failure. It is, on reflection, thus significant that removed to the studio, the picture took its place among all the other unframed and incomplete works: bit-studies of heads, hands and feet, unfulfilled projects and failures, Medea included.84 Grammatically speaking, we can therefore think of the threat of dissolution afforded by the depicted body viewed near-to, inside the bed, as an instance of inter-positionality, where the preposition dedans pierces the complement (e.g.,‘coup sur coup’). To the degree that this is the case, the interior emerged in the eighteenth century not so much in gratification of bodily and psychic needs newly felt, to demand, that is, for particularly sized and especially purposed rooms in which to eat, sleep, bathe, sulk, etc., but from what Pierre Nora describes as a “de-ritualization” of everyday life. Coypel’s bedchamber at the Louvre became interior when the customs of parade that constituted its publicity and articulated his noble and artistic distinctions appeared, instead, ridiculous. Merely glimpsed as an unwanted possibility by the scion Coypel, the interior and interiority, I suggest, found early form, nevertheless, in his redecorated and, after 1727, refurnished chambre because memory of a former ancestral way of life was turning self-conscious, that is, historical.

82 Culler 1977 (as in note 77) p. 63. 83 On apostrophe and laughter, see ibid., p. 59. 84 IAD LXXVI/337 (as in note 7): among other items, 19 studies of heads for his altarpiece for the Oratoire in Paris, 4 other heads including one of Medusa (in a black frame), 94 “têtes, mains, pieds” including 2 “têtes de philosophes”, countless copies, 21 “ébauches &esquisses”, La Peinture qui réveilles de génie and Medea met au feu le palais (unframed).

Mimi Hellman

Staging Retreat: Designs for Bathing in Eighteenth-Century France* A bath is never a matter of indifference; its advantages derive from the manner of taking it. (Nicolas Le Camus de Mézières, The Genius of Architecture; or the Analogy of that Art with our Sensations, 1780)1

The eighteenth-century French interior plays a key role in a well-established narrative about emerging conceptions of modern domesticity and selfhood in Euro-American culture. In both scholarly and popular versions, this account focuses on how the spatial and material aspects of the home increasingly emphasized seclusion, comfort, and introspection. For example, hallways diverted circulation away from living spaces, exclusive cabinets encouraged retreat, capacious seating invited relaxation, and desks concealed possessions in hidden compartments.2 Such developments are considered signs of a new Enlightenment understanding of identity as a function of inner thoughts and feelings rather than a theatrical persona crafted through statusconscious display. This, in turn, seems to anticipate some of the central preoccupations of bourgeois subjectivity. Although nineteenth- and twentieth-century interiors could frame globalized consumption and performative self-fashioning, the mythology of the modern home privileges privacy, comfort, and authentic selfhood.3

* For stimulating questions and insights, I am grateful to Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, Beate Söntgen, and participants in the 2012 Berlin conference on interiors and interiority. Translations are my own unless otherwise noted. 1 Nicolas Le Camus de Mézières, The Genius of Architecture; or, the Analogy of that Art with our Sensations, trans. David Britt, Santa Monica: The Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1992, p. 125. 2 See Monique Eleb-Vidal, Anne Lebarre-Blanchard, Architectures de la vie privée. Maisons et mentalités XVIIe-XIXe Siècles, Brussels: Archives d’Architecture Moderne, 1989, pp. 39–72; Annik Pardailhé-Galabrun, The Birth of Intimacy. Privacy and Domestic Life in Early Modern Paris, trans. Jocelyn Phelps, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991; Carolyn Sargenson, Looking at Furniture Inside Out. Strategies of Secrecy and Security in Eighteenth-Century Furniture, in: Dena Goodman, Kathryn Norberg (eds.), Furnishing the Eighteenth Century. What Furniture Can Tell Us about the European and American Past, New York, NY / Abingdon: Routledge, 2007, pp. 205–236. A recent popular formulation is Joan DeJean, The Age of Comfort. When Paris Discovered Casual—and the Modern Home Began, New York, NY: Bloomsbury, 2009. For a historian’s challenge to the narrative of inwardness, see Dror Wahrman The Making of the Modern Self. Identity and Culture in EighteenthCentury England, New Haven, CT / London: Yale University Press, 2004, including his coda on France (pp. 312–21). 3 See Charles Rice, The Emergence of the Interior. Architecture, Modernity, Domesticity, New York, NY / Abingdon: Routledge, 2007.


 Mimi Hellman

Bathing figures prominently in this paradigmatic history. Discovering protomodernity in the eighteenth-century bath means identifying cleanliness as a central aim. It means defining bathing as an individualized ritual undertaken in spatially segregated rooms characterized by innovative technology and functional efficiency. Some interpreters regard this as cultural advancement while others discern troubling efforts to discipline and differentiate social bodies.4 But both perspectives rely on a teleological framework, and this presents a vexing methodological challenge. While significant intimations of modernity can be discerned in some eighteenth-century attitudes and practices, the effort to trace them can overlook certain historically specific preoccupations. This essay seeks to denaturalize the eighteenth-century bath. Focusing on France, it explores ‘designs’ in a double sense: the mutually informing relationship between the material settings and the psychosocial concerns that shaped bathing as a concept and an embodied experience. I will argue that images, spaces, and objects played active roles in negotiating an activity that was both valorizing and problematic, both introverted and extroverted. Investigating the bath yields insights about how interiors constructed interiority in a world very different from our own.

1 Tensions of the bath Ideas about domestic bathing circulated in part through visual images, treatises on architecture and furniture design, and even novels.5 While these representations varied and did not necessarily match actual practices, their rhetoric condensed complex attitudes toward the prospect of soaking the body in water. Consider, for instance, a print by Sigmund Freudeberg from a series depicting a day in the life of a

4 Foundational accounts for the European context are Jean-Pierre Goubert, The Conquest of Water. The Advent of Health in the Industrial Age, trans. Andrew Wilson, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989; Georges Vigarello, Concepts of Cleanliness. Changing Attitudes in France since the Middle Ages, trans. Jean Birrell, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. For North America, Kathleen M. Brown, Foul Bodies. Cleanliness in Early America, New Haven, CT / London: Yale University Press, 2009. The development of the indoor water closet is also part of this narrative. 5 For example, a painting by Jean-Baptiste Pater (Detroit Institute of Arts) of ca. 1736 engraved by Louis Surugue; a plan and decorative scheme in Jacques-François Blondel, De la distribution des maisons de plaisance, et de la décoration des édifices en general (1737), 2 vols., reprinted by Farnborough: Gregg Press, 1967, vol. 1, pp. 71–75, vol. 2, pp. 129–33; tub designs in André-Jacob Roubo, L’Art du menuisier (1769–75), 4 vols., reprinted by Paris: Leonce Laget, 1976, vol. 3, pp. 660–661, plate 240; and in the novella Jean-François Bastide, The Little House (1758), trans. Rodolphe el-Khoury, New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996, pp. 80–82.

Staging Retreat: Designs for Bathing in Eighteenth-Century France 


fashionable woman (fig. 1).6 Its composition turns on a number of formal and conceptual tensions. On one hand, certain elements convey a sense of intimacy. The bather’s body is shielded several times over by a folding screen, a curtained niche, a chemise and head scarf, and the embrace of a tub lined with sheets. A maid enters bearing a letter and a cup of chocolate that both allude to the bather’s inner state. The sealed missive, held to the maid’s lips in an eroticized gesture of secrecy, suggests amorous impulses. Chocolate, an exotic luxury commodity, was considered nutritious in itself but potentially dangerous when aromatic seasonings—such as vanilla, cinnamon, or orange flower water—disrupted internal balances. The print thus conjures two equally uncertain internal effects: the joy or pangs of love and the sustaining or disruptive impact of a delectable drink. A captioned dialogue clarifies the role of chocolate and draws further attention to the protagonist’s condition.7 Asked which item she wishes to receive first, Madame replies that the heart (le coeur) is far weaker and more delicate than the chest (la poitrine). Her witticism—with ‘heart’ and ‘chest’ paralleling ‘letter’ and ‘chocolate’— juxtaposes two registers of bodily experience. ‘Heart’ invokes affective yearnings that might be satisfied by a lover’s words, while the more physiological term ‘chest’ refers to a circulatory or respiratory weakness that might be countered by a dose of chocolate in its simpler, safer form. Both the travails of love and maladies of the chest were markers of privilege, for they signaled a physical, mental, and emotional sensitivity that distinguished elites from unfeeling commoners. The caption casts the picture as a negotiation of internal vulnerability, with the delicate lady choosing feeling over flesh. Other elements, however, present bathing as a titillating spectacle. The curtained tub functions not only as an enclosure, but also as a pedestal and frame. A mirror doubles the woman’s presence as an aesthetic object; her torso in its slipping chemise turns enticingly toward the viewer. The loosely laced bodice sliding from a nearby stool draws further attention to her body, while the stool’s splayed legs imply an analogous parting of unseen thighs. Indeed, the composition is full of sexual allusions: the excited lapdog, the sealed letter, the labial folds of the curtain and cast-off garment, Cupid’s bow and torch crossed beneath the caption.8 These cues ultimately collapse the distinction between heart and chest, implying that the woman’s weakness is itself due to erotic turbulence. Even as the scenario conjures inner states, its theatrical composition stages sensation for voyeuristic pleasure.

6 The following analysis builds upon Mimi Hellman, Of Water and Chocolate, in: Gastronomica. The Journal of Food and Culture 4 (2004), pp. 9–11. 7 The caption reads: “De la Lettre ou du Chocolat / Que prefére Madame? Ah ma chére Justine, / J’ai le Coeur bien plus délicat / Plus foible infiniment, hélas! Que la poitrine.” 8 On the appeal of such visual innuendo for eighteenth-century viewers, see Mary D. Sheriff, Fragonard. Art and Eroticism, Chicago, IL / London: The University of Chicago Press, 1990, pp. 95–113.


 Mimi Hellman

Fig. 1: Antoine Louis Romanet after Sigmund Freudeberg, Le Bain, from Monument de costume physique et moral de la fin du dix-huitième siècle, etching and engraving, 1774.

Staging Retreat: Designs for Bathing in Eighteenth-Century France 


Yet for all its bodily preoccupations, the image remains reticent about the act it purports to depict. The bather occupies only one quadrant of a visual field where decorative features and a prominent second figure also invite scrutiny. The tub is partly obscured by shading and overlapping forms, and its resemblance to a daybed (duchesse) de-emphasizes its actual function. Beyond the hint of a water line near the tub’s foot, the picture lacks any explicit references to the meeting of water and skin. Freudeberg shows no wet surfaces, no soaping or toweling, no moist curls clinging to the bather’s neck—just a subliminal suggestion of liquidity in the abundance of shimmering, flowing fabric.9 Although the woman speaks of an inward state, her gesture, gaze, and declaration are more extroverted than absorptive. Her body is no more exposed than those of contemporaneous portraits or toilette scenes, and erotically understated compared with the nude goddesses—often Venuses or Dianas—that dominated bathing iconography. Indeed, despite the popularity of genre scenes during this period, including many centered on the dressing table, relatively few depicted baths in fashionable European interiors. The most favored settings were less linked to domestic referents: picturesque riverbanks and gardens, Olympian palaces, exotic harems.10 In other words, Freudeberg’s interior both cultivates and resists interiority. The bather is tucked away yet on display, preoccupied with both inward sensation and outward communication. Luxurious material trappings simultaneously frame immersion as a desirable activity and mute its somatic implications. These pictorial tensions become more meaningful when considered in relation to the role of bathing in elite domestic life and ideas about how and why one should go about it. Freudeberg’s elegant lady, it turns out, engages in an unusual ritual that was thought to involve as many dangers as benefits. In eighteenth-century France, being wet all over was neither a naturalized daily experience nor central to conceptions of beauty and cleanliness. As Georges Vigarello has shown, the socially desirable body was produced largely through practices that

9 This understatement becomes even more evident when Freudeberg’s pictorial choices are compared with the tropes of domestic bathing in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century art. While many of the later images also present voyeuristic views of female bodies, their solitary subjects, tightly focused compositions, and minimal material trappings suggest much more introverted states. See Georgina Downey, Bathrooms. Plumbing the Canon. The Bathtub Nudes of Alfred Stevens, Edgar Degas and Pierre Bonnard Reconsidered, in: Georgina Downey (ed.), Domestic Interiors. Representing Homes from the Victorians to the Moderns, London: Bloomsbury, 2013, pp. 111–128. 10 For the mythological turn, see Steven Z. Levine, To See or Not to See. The Myth of Diana and Actaeon in the Eighteenth Century, in: Colin B. Bailey (ed.), The Loves of the Gods. Mythological Painting from Watteau to David, exhibition catalogue, Kimbell Museum of Art, Fort Worth, 1992, pp. 73–95; Philip Stewart, Engraven Desire. Eros, Image and Text in the French Eighteenth Century, Durham, NC / London: Duke University Press, 1992, pp. 133–73. The same preference for fantastical settings informed bathing scenes in eighteenth-century literature.


 Mimi Hellman

did not involve water, such as wiping the face and hands; applying cosmetics and perfumes; and wearing white underclothes, collars, and cuffs.11 Water-based grooming, if undertaken at all, generally consisted of washing only certain portions of the body with the aid of jugs, basins, and bidets—objects that could be artfully designed luxury wares in themselves. Interest in immersion bathing began to increase around midcentury but remained unusual even among the affluent. Bathtubs were found in as few as ten percent of elite households by 1750 and no more than forty percent by 1800. Specialized bathing spaces were particularly rare; most tubs were portable items for occasional use in bedchambers or dressing rooms.12 Prescriptive accounts of bathing appeared in numerous medical and cosmetic treatises, especially after the 1740s, and codified ideas that also circulated through consumers’ encounters with doctors, perfumers, and hairdressers. Authors advocated bathing for various purposes, including health management (both preventive and therapeutic), cleanliness, beautification, and pleasure.13 The medium could be hot or cold water (fresh, sea, or mineral), milk, oil, or even wine. Since daily hygiene was not a principal motive, duration and frequency varied considerably. One treatise suggested an hour for regular baths and two to three hours for periodic ones, while another offered weekly, biweekly, or monthly regimens or an annual stint of eight to ten consecutive days.14 Some discouraged bathing during cold months unless it was medically necessary.15 Concerns for dirt, odor, and contagion, if voiced at all, received no more emphasis than other aspects of the skin, notably smoothness, whiteness, brightness, and an absence of blemishes or wrinkles. Soaking and rinsing were mentioned more often than scrubbing. Recipe collections offered only a few bath additives and soaps among hundreds of preparations (toilet waters, oils, creams, powders) for use on the face and hands. And all such enhancements were proposed for beautifica-

11 Vigarello 1988 (as in note 4), pp. 17–20, pp. 48–89. 12 Daniel Roche, A History of Everyday Things. The Birth of Consumption in France, 1600–1800, trans. Brian Pearce, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 163. Roche estimates that in Paris in 1789, there were approximately 1,000 bathtubs in elite residences, another 100–200 available for hire, and 300 in public bathhouses (ibid., p. 157). 13 The following account is based on prevalent themes in five sources published between the 1740s and 1770s: Déjean, Traité des odeurs, Paris: Veuve Savoye, 1772, pp. 467–469; Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 17 vols., Paris: Briasson, 1751–65, vol. 2, pp. 15–21; Jean Goulin, Le Médecin des dames, ou L’art de les conserver en santé, Paris: Vincent, 1771, pp. 317–323; Le Begue de Presle, Le Conservateur de la santé, ou avis sur les dangers qu’il importe à chacun d’éviter, pour se conserver en bonne santé & prolonger sa vie, The Hague: Didot, 1763, pp. 341–347; Planque (ed.), Bibliothèque choisie de medicine, tirée des ouvrages périodiques, tant François qu’étranger, 8 vols., Paris: D’Houry, 1749, vol. 2, pp. 587–595. Planque compiles numerous sources published earlier in the century. 14 Goulin 1771 (as in note 13), p. 320; Déjean 1772 (as in note 13), p. 467. 15 The Encyclopédie 1751–65 (as in note 13) considered winter baths necessary only for medical reasons (p. 16); Goulin 1771 (as in note 13) recommended avoiding them altogether (p. 318).

Staging Retreat: Designs for Bathing in Eighteenth-Century France 


tion or therapeutic purposes far more often than for cleanliness. Bath soap constituted a minor sector of an industry that produced mostly strong cleansers for laundry and other housekeeping tasks.16 Bathing was inseparable from a particular understanding of corporeality. According to most experts, the four humors governed physiology and the skin was a highly permeable membrane through which fluids passed easily in both directions.17 Just as perspiration leaked out through the pores, water could enter through these openings and alter internal processes. Texts vividly described the process of bodily invasion. Water “insinuates itself”; it “slips in and infiltrates”. It “reaches after some time to the inside of the body, it mixes with the blood […] [and] enables the blood to shed harmful parts”.18 The effects of this boundary crossing depended on whether a bath’s composition properly addressed one’s physical condition. Hot water softened and opened; it was recommended to “dissipate superfluous humors […] unblock closed passages, strip rusted springs”. Cold water calmed and restored elasticity; it was used to “refresh the mass of blood, moisten flesh and render it more supple”. Liquid properties could be enhanced by additives. Soothing ingredients were good to “relax and sweeten”, strong ones to “reinvigorate or fortify”.19 Bodies could be made more recep-

16 Among the several dozen recipes in a beauty guide of 1760, only two were for baths: a concoction of honey, salt, and alum dissolved in watered asses’ milk, and a sachet filled with ground nuts and roots used to infuse a three-hour soak. Both could be scented with rose petals, toilet water, or aromatic oil. The bather was meant to rub her body with the sachet, but its purpose was beautification, not cleansing. See Bruzen de La Martinière, L’Art de conserver la santé, par l’école de Salerne…Augmenté d’un traité sur la conservation de la beauté des dames, & de plusieurs autres secrets utiles & agréables, Paris: Compagnie des Libraires, 1760, pp. 159–160. Déjean devoted only four pages to soap recipes, out of some three hundred for other preparations, and they were not specifically for bathing. He offered just two bath concoctions and praised them for whitening and scenting as well as cleansing (as in note 13, pp. 310–14, pp. 468–69). Another lengthy guide provided just two general and two foot baths plus eight multi-purpose soaps: Toilette de Flore, ou Essai sur les plantes & les fleurs qui peuvent server d’ornement aux dames, Paris, 1771, pp. 63–65, pp. 203–207. The body soaps described in a manufacturing treatise differed markedly from the strong substances made household use: Duhamel du Monceau, L’art du savonnier, Paris, 1774, pp. 55–58. 17 During the course of the eighteenth century, the notion of an open body regulated by humors began to shift to that of a sealed body regulated by neural activity, but the new model did not become paradigmatic until the nineteenth century. See William Coleman, Health and Hygiene in The Encyclopédie. A Medical Doctrine for the Bourgeoisie, in: Journal of the History of Medicine 29 (1974) pp. 399–421; Dorinda Outram, The Body and the French Revolution. Sex, Class and Political Culture, New Haven, CT / London: Yale University Press, 1989, pp. 41–67; Vigarello 1988 (as in note 4). 18 It “s’insinuer”; it “se glissent & se filtrent.” Planque 1749 (as in note 13), p. 594. It “parvenue après un certain tems jusqu’à l’intérieur du corps, elle se mêle avec le sang…met le sang en état de se dépouiller des parties nuisibles”. Encyclopédie 1751–65 (as in note 13), p. 20. 19 Hot water “dissiper les humeurs superflües…déboucher les passages fermés, dérouiller les resorts”; cold “raffraîchir la masse du sang, pour humecter les chairs, & les render plus souples”; soothing additives “de relâcher & d’adoucir”; strong ones “de réfoudre, ou de fortifier”. Planque 1749 (as in note 13), p. 593, p. 590, p. 588.


 Mimi Hellman

tive by undergoing a preliminary bloodletting or enema, avoiding food and exertion, and following the bath with a period of bed rest. Bathing supposedly treated a wide range of ailments, including renal and gastrointestinal problems, smallpox, headache, vertigo, insomnia, and hysteria. But the risks were at least as great as the advantages. It was not advised for those whose natural permeability was heightened by extreme youth or age, congestion, fever, menstruation, or pregnancy.20 People also were cautioned to avoid extreme temperatures, harsh soap, and rough towels.21 Worse, one could fall asleep and drown or suffocate in a poorly ventilated room due to fumes from a water heater.22 Certain tactics enabled bathers to control the force of permeation. Total immersion could be avoided: one might soak only the lower half of the body or even just the feet. Exposing the entire skin to hot water was especially unwise because this agitated the blood and caused “lassitude, headache, weakness, [and] hemorrhage”.23 Given these many concerns, the use of garments and tub linens (as in fig. 1) can be seen not simply as gestures of comfort or modesty, but also as the introduction of symbolic barriers, secondary skins to temper liquid invasion.24 In short, bathing entailed numerous choices and encouraged a high degree of corporeal awareness that may well have been laced with anxiety. It turned on an effort to transform the susceptible body in some way, yet the desired effect could not be guaranteed. This uncertainty emerged quite poignantly in some bathers’ correspondence. In 1741, for example, the Swedish ambassador to the court of Louis XV complained to his wife that although he had bathed for three hours every morning for the past three months, his heart palpitations and tremors had not subsided.25 In the 1760s, the salonnière Louise d’Epinay reported to a friend that baths taken to treat a

20 Planque 1749 (as in note 13), pp. 591–92, p. 595. In general, bathing was considered especially risky for women. 21 Le Begue de Presle 1763 (as in note 13), pp. 341–347. 22 Goulin 1771 (as in note 13), pp. 320–322. 23 “Des lassitudes, des douleurs de tête, la foiblesse, des hémorrhagies”. Le Begue de Presle 1763 (as in note 13), p. 346. 24 This practice is difficult to document, but I suspect that it was widespread. A gradual shift toward bathing naked is suggested by the fact that a bather is described as “ordinarily nude” in the French Academy’s dictionary of 1762 but not in the edition of 1694. University of Chicago, ARTFL Project, Dictionnaires d’autrefois, (accessed December 19, 2013). The Encyclopédie 1751–65 (as in note 13) compromised, stating that one bathed nude and then describing quilted linens and pillows as standard tub accessories (p. 15). 25 Gunnar von Proschwitz (ed.), Tableaux de Paris et de la cour de France, 1739–1742. Lettres Inédites de Carl Gustaf, Comte de Tessin, Paris: Jean Touzot, 1983, p. 216. Tessin described his symptoms in a letter to the Swedish court architect Carl Hårleman (ibid., p. 223).

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gastrointestinal ailment—one regime of four successive days and another lasting a whole night—had only made her feel weaker.26 The conceptual and practical instability of bathing opens up further dimensions of Freudeberg’s print. The protective yet objectifying decoration, the woman’s inward and outward impulses, and the understated role of water can all be seen as pictorial strategies that negotiate an equivocal subject. The image theatricalizes corporeal susceptibility through an elaborate set and an active heroine engaged in witty banter. The scene ostensibly depicts “The Bath”, yet multiple features draw attention away from this act. I want to argue that actual baths—even if their designs differed—were equally complex modes of representation. A closer analysis of their material, temporal, and social aspects reveals a historically specific register of subjectivity that might be called performative interiority.

2 Managing permeation Bathing was a highly mediated activity that mobilized costly resources and diverted a household’s normal daily routines. Water itself was a privileged substance. Few residences had indoor plumbing and water supplies were limited, often polluted, and in demand for numerous domestic tasks.27 Water from a river, well, or municipal pump was generally collected by servants or obtained for a fee from carriers, stored in limited-capacity cisterns, heated on a kitchen stove, and transported to living quarters located far from service areas. In most cases, buckets or jugs were used to fill a tub and adjust water temperature. Some bathing rooms featured special equipment—such as a portable immersion heater, a built-in brazier beneath the tub, or taps bringing hot water from a reservoir in an adjacent room—but these devices still required maintenance. Compounded additives for bathwater, whether medicinal or purely pleasurable, were also luxury commodities. And it was no small matter to possess tub linens that were finely woven, bleached, then repeatedly washed and pressed.28 The prolonged process of bathing required personal assistance at every stage. In addition to managing the water’s temperature and composition, servants remained nearby to help with undressing and re-dressing, adjust protective curtains and

26 Louise Florence Pétronille Tardieu d’Esclavelles, marquise d’Epinay, Correspondence I. 1769–1770, Paris: Desjonquères, 1992, p. 99. 27 Pardailhé-Galabrun 1991 (as in note 2), pp. 130–44; Roche 2000 (as in note 12), pp. 135–65. Roche estimates that “one cubic metre [of water] cost three or four days of wage-paid labour” (p. 157). 28 For the laborious laundering process, usually done outside the home, see Supplément à l’Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 4 vols., Amsterdam: M. M. Rey, 1776, vol. 1, pp. 906–908; Colin B. Bailey, Jean-Baptiste Greuze. The Laundress, Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Trust, 2000, pp. 46–69.


 Mimi Hellman

screens, and administer treatments from preparatory enemas to restorative refreshments. This lavish attention reinforced corporeal susceptibility, as both a vivid personal experience and a phenomenon made visible in space and time. Apart from birth, severe illness, and death, no domestic routine, including the daily ritual of the toilette, involved such elaborate, sustained attention to the elite body. This was no solitary ritual of cleanliness, but rather an exercise in orchestrating a host of material variables, interactions, and sensations. At once fragile and powerful—powerful because fragile—the bather demonstrated agency as a consumer and household authority. Other aspects further articulated the bather’s place in a social matrix. Tubs that resembled seat furniture (as in fig. 1) aligned it with the look and feel of other leisure activities. Some models had covers that, in addition to retaining heat, provided surfaces for reading or letter writing.29 An attendant might provide not just practical assistance but also diverting companionship. Louis XV’s Swedish ambassador, for example, had a member of his staff read to him and was distracted from his ailments by the man’s struggles with French pronunciation.30 Bathing also could inform the development of intellectual networks. The tubercular salonnière Julie de Lespinasse attended to correspondence during lengthy immersions, a habit that became especially convivial when her close friend, the philosophe Jean Le Rond d’Alembert, recorded her dictation and incorporated his own asides. In a letter to the scientist Nicolas de Condorcet, apparently another avid bather, they asked whether he did so because he was born under the sign of Pisces, then playfully warned him not to soak while reading d’Alembert’s book on the mechanics of wind because “winds stir up tempests when one is on the water, and even more so when one is in it.”31 Bathing could even be a shared experience in suites equipped for two users. Jacques-François Blondel featured a scheme with twin tubs in his 1737 treatise on country houses (fig. 2) and provided two beds in the adjacent room. As in Freudeberg’s print, the arrangement both protected and theatricalized bodies by cradling them in alcoves surmounted by canopies. The architect explained that “two people can keep one another company and amuse one another in their solitude.”32 Another

29 For a survey of tub designs, see Nicole de Reyniès, Le Mobilier domestique: vocabulaire typologique, 2 vols., Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1987, vol. 2, pp. 690–707. 30 Proschwitz 1983 (as in note 25), p. 252. 31 Charles Henry (ed.), Julie de Lespinasse. Lettres inédites à Condorcet, à d’Alembert, à Guibert, au comte de Crillon, reprinted by Geneva: Slatkine Reprints, 1971, pp. 45–47, pp. 48–50, pp. 96–98. “les vents excitent des tempêtes quand on est sur l’eau et, à plus forte raison, quand on est dedans” (p. 46, emphasis in original). The book in question is d’Alembert’s Réflexions sur la cause des vents (1747). On Lespinasse’s corporeal and epistolary self-fashioning, see Felicia B. Sturzer, Love and Disease. The Contaminated Letters of Julie de Lespinasse, in: SVEC 8 (2008), pp. 3–16. 32 “Deux personnes puissant s’y tenir compagnie & s’amuser reciproquement dans leur solitude.” Blondel 1967 (as in note 2), p. 73.

Staging Retreat: Designs for Bathing in Eighteenth-Century France 


Fig. 2: Jacques-François Blondel, Elevation of Bathing Room, from De la distribution des maisons de plaisance, et de la décoration des édifices en général, 1737, engraving, detail.

account noted that co-bathing was “quite common […] baths ordinarily being taken in company when one is in good health”.33 (The example of Julie de Lespinasse, however, indicates that even illness did not necessarily preclude sociability.) Blondel’s paradoxical notion of shared solitude encapsulates the bath’s psychosocial complexity.

33 “Assez d’usage…ces bains se prenant ordinairement de compagnie, lorsqu’on est en santé.” Encyclopédie 1751–65 (as in note 13), p. 20, emphasis in original.


 Mimi Hellman

Co-bathing exteriorized interiority. It framed the potentially destabilizing experiences of one body in relation to those of another, encouraging awareness of somatic effects but dividing this attention between self and other. The possibility of introspection was countered by display and interaction. This dynamic would have been especially pronounced in rooms with mirrors, which pictorialized both bodies—along with all the objects and assistants needed to care for them—as part of the decorative scheme. Watery penetration thus played out amid expressions of material means, domestic authority, and sociability. A bath valorized the body by both emphasizing its vulnerability and redirecting attention to external stimuli. Taking this point a step further, I would like to suggest that bathing enabled a level of engagement with design that was quite unusual in the eighteenth-century interior. In most social situations, one was expected to move about and focus on other people, not on pictures or furnishings. Codes of elite conduct inhibited close attention to the environment: sitting for too long in one spot or staring at the décor was associated with the poor manners of ignorant provincials and self-promoting parvenus.34 During a bath, however, factors like physical immobility, prolonged duration, and exclusive companionship could support a kind of leisurely seeing that was impossible in more formal social settings. Recommendations for bathing room design often emphasized the opportunity for innovation. One account noted that because these spaces were less codified than other parts of the interior, “an architect of genius may give free reign to his imagination” as long as his schemes were “arranged with taste and discernment”.35 In a treatise of 1780, Nicolas Le Camus de Mézières announced that “this is the moment for the Artist to display all his talents and make known the extent of his Art.” Informed by sensationalist philosophy’s claim that perceptual experience directly shaped thought, he called for features that offset the risk of lassitude: “The sense of idleness that accompanies the bath calls for objects of distraction. Melancholy thoughts intrude; the mind must be diverted.”36 Creative approaches abounded not only in theory but also in actual interiors, where they were conditioned by multiple factors including the patron’s wealth and taste and the residence’s location, layout, and function.37

34 Mimi Hellman, Furniture, Sociability, and the Work of Leisure in Eighteenth-Century France, in: Eighteenth-Century Studies 32 (1999), pp. 415–445. 35 “Un Architecte qui a du génie, peut doner carriere à son imagination”; “ajusté avec goût & discernement”. Encyclopédie 1751–65 (as in note 13), p. 20. 36 Le Camus de Mézières 1992 (as in note 1), p. 123, p. 124. His ideal bathing room is painted to resemble a trellised pavilion, complete with real or artificial trees, live birds in cages, water trickling from pipes in the walls, and mirrors to reiterate the sense of immersion in a garden paradise. To soothe the bather after such stimulation, the adjacent bedchamber should feature dim light, pale colors, minimal ornament, and a bed in a protective niche. 37 Bathing took place in compact suites tucked into urban townhouses, expansive quarters in country houses occupied during the summer; and pavilions set in gardens. For a range of examples, see Dominique Massoumie, L’Usage, l’espace et le décor du bain, in: Daniel Rabreau (ed.), Paris, Capitale

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To suggest the range of possibilities, I would like to consider three examples designed for Parisian hôtels during the second half of the century. Through different means, they all framed bathing with aesthetic, intellectual, and social diversions. They also engaged what Linda Nochlin has called “the visceral eye”: a culturally constructed way of regarding representations of bathing that is rooted in viewers’ own bodily experiences. Nochlin observes that “all eyes are located not merely in bodies but in historically specific bodies and can thus be viewed within a history of representation and a history of practices.”38 It follows, of course, that no attempt to characterize historical seeing can escape the interpreter’s own presentism. But it is important to at least consider how, before the naturalization of bathing, the design and reception of its spaces may have been informed by a sense of corporeal susceptibility.

3 Modes of diversion The first example is the residence of Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, marquise de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV and active patron of the arts.39 When she purchased the house in 1753 it already contained an elegant, two-room bathing suite with running water, but evidently this was insufficient. A plan of 1766 documents a renovation by Jean de Lassurance and Ange-Jacques Gabriel (fig. 3). Although Pompadour substantially expanded the quarters for sleeping, grooming, and privatized entertaining that were adjacent to her formal state bedchamber (in the plan’s upper left quadrant), bathing retained its original location in a wing near the stables on the opposite side of the house (upper right quadrant). The architects increased privacy and convenience by prefacing the tub room with two new antechambers and incorporating additional storage and service areas. They also turned the bedchamber into a more expansive

des arts sous Louis XV. Peinture, sculpture, architecture, fêtes, iconographie, Bordeaux: William Blake & Co., 1997, pp. 197–210; Rachel Perry, François-Joseph Belanger’s Bath-House at the Hôtel de Brancas, in: Architectural History 44 (2001), pp. 377–385. 38 Linda Nochlin, Bathers, Bodies, Beauty. The Visceral Eye, Cambridge, MA / London: Harvard University Press, 2006, p. 15. 39 The building was constructed by Armand Claude Mollet in 1718–20 for the aristocratic d’Evreux family. Pompadour’s renovations were begun by Jean de Lassurance and continued after his death by Ange-Jacques Gabriel. See Jean Coural, Le Palais de l’Elysée. Histoire et Décor, Paris: Délégation à l’action artistique de la ville de Paris, 1994, pp. 7–29; Xavier Salmon (ed.), Madame de Pompadour et les arts, exhibition catalogue, Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, Paris, 2002, pp. 124–127. The furnishings are documented in: Jean Cordey, Inventaire des biens de Madame de Pompadour rédigé après son décès, Paris: La Société des Bibliophiles François, 1939, pp. 22–23, p. 39. For Pompadour’s self-fashioning through interior design, including another bathing space at the château de Bellevue, see Katie Scott, Framing Ambition. The Interior Politics of Madame de Pompadour, in: Art History 28 (2005), pp. 248–290.


 Mimi Hellman

Fig. 3: Ange-Jacques Gabriel, Plan of Hôtel de Pompadour, Paris, drawing, 1766.

octagon with an axial view of a garden parterre, enhancing the rest and recovery so necessary after a destabilizing soak.40 But the fact that they did not relocate the suite closer to Pompadour’s living quarters suggests that bathing was not a daily routine. Despite the remote location, several design strategies linked bathing with social experience. Because one reached the suite by traversing several public spaces, intimacy was defined in relation to formality. And although the sense of scale changed markedly upon entering the first narrow antechamber of an area that (due to the entresol above) was less than half the height of the interior’s grandest rooms, the

40 Compare the original plan reproduced in Coural 1994 (as in note 39), p. 9.

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direction of movement paralleled the principal enfilade overlooking the garden. This aligned a bather’s motion and view of the outdoors with the dynamics of more overtly formal settings. In addition, the suite’s decoration featured standard markers of social space: wood and stucco paneling punctuated by mirrors and overdoors; sets of matching, seasonal upholstery; porcelain arrayed on mantelpieces.41 A marbletopped buffet could have been used for preparing refreshments, and a small writing desk stood ready for correspondence. There was only one tub but enough seating for a few attendants or even a close friend or two.42 Several elements at once sheltered and theatricalized the bather’s body. The painted copper tub was surmounted by a canopy of embroidered, fringed cotton exchanged in summer for more airy yellow batiste.43 In the bedchamber, twin niches backed by large mirrors held a curtained bed and a cushioned daybed, both with gilded frames and crimson, gold-edged upholstery that in summer probably became a sheer, embroidered mousseline lined with rose taffeta.44 Additional mirrors were mounted above the fireplace and on four doors leading to storage spaces; more curtains set off the doors, windows, and daybed niche. In this arena of multiple framing devices and dazzling reflections, subjecthood was inseparable from objecthood. Design cast the bather as both a sensate being and an artful image. Certain objects seem especially calculated to define Pompadour’s social persona. A pair of custom-made, gilt bronze firedogs in one of the two main rooms depicted swans alighting among rocks and reeds.45 These luxurious hearth ornaments offered a clever play on the meeting of fire and water, as well as an erotically charged icono-

41 This type of wall decoration was presented as standard for bathing rooms in Encyclopédie 1751­–65 (as in note 13), p. 20. The subject matter of Pompadour’s overdoors is not known. For sets of paintings, furniture, and porcelain as conventional elements of social spaces, see Mimi Hellman, The Joy of Sets. The Uses of Seriality in the French Interior, in: Goodman, Norberg 2007 (as in note 2), pp. 129–153. 42 There was a banquette in each antechamber; two chairs and two stools in the bathing room; a daybed, two chairs, and a stool in the bedchamber; another banquette and an armchair in a tiny “boudoir”, and another chair in a passageway. Cordey 1939 (as in note 39), pp. 22–23. 43 When Pompadour died in April, the heavy winter upholstery at her Paris residence had not yet been exchanged for the lighter summer version. The batiste set, inventoried in a storage space, is part of a group of textiles that corresponds exactly to items in the bathing room. Cordey 1939 (as in note 39), p. 13, no. 109. 44 Cordey 1939 (as in note 39), p. 12, no. 105. This match is less certain because the bed in storage is described somewhat differently than the one in the bedchamber, but the other textiles in the lot match those in the room. 45 They were purchased from the luxury merchant Lazare Duvaux in 1755 for a bathing room at an unspecified residence; see Louis Courajod (ed.), Livre-journal de Lazare Duvaux, marchand-bijoutier ordinaire du roy, 2 vols., reprinted by Paris: F. de Nobele, 1965, vol. 2, p. 239, no. 2116 (April 9, 1755). They may have been the examples sold at Christie’s in 2000. See LotDetailsPrintable.aspx?intObjectID=1896118 (accessed August 6, 2013). They do not appear in the hôtel inventory and, according to the Christie’s catalogue, were later owned by one of Pompadour’s ladies-in-waiting; perhaps they were gifted before the marquise’s death.


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graphic compliment that associated Pompadour with both the beauty of Venus and Jupiter’s guise in his conquest of Leda. The selection of costly porcelain also demonstrated sophistication. In the bathing room, an antique vase mounted in gilt bronze, probably an Asian import, joined a pair of cobalt blue Sèvres potpourri jars painted with birds and two candelabra supported by sculpted birds.46 The bedchamber boasted an even more remarkable group of seven matching Sèvres objects dominated by rich pink and green glazes. They could be used as candle holders, potpourri containers, or vases for cut flowers or forced bulbs; five featured vignettes of ‘Chinese’ women and children (fig. 4).47 Pompadour was an avid porcelain collector and displayed dozens of pieces throughout the hôtel, but these examples engaged their setting in particularly resonant ways. Whether or not the vases and potpourri containers were actually used, they invoked the fragrance of flowers, herbs, and spices. In the elite olfactory imagination, these materials were essential not simply for beautification, but also for vanquishing disagreeable odors associated with illness, inferior status, and the banality of everyday life.48 Such links may have carried heightened meaning in this setting, for Pompadour suffered from numerous ailments and probably bathed at least in part to assuage her symptoms.49 A repetitive invocation of salubrious scent conferred fortifying prestige on a body compromised by both illness and immersion. Moreover, the juxtaposition of imported and French pieces celebrated the achievements of Sèvres at a time when many European producers were competing to replicate and surpass technologies long known in Asia. Sèvres was undergoing critical changes around the time of Pompadour’s renovation, notably a shift to exclusive royal ownership, a proliferation of innovative designs, and a program to encourage purchases by courtiers.50 By displaying some of the manufactory’s most varied, complex, and limited-quantity pieces, the king’s mistress turned an intimate space into a frame for patriotic tastemaking. The inclusion of chinoiserie was also a sug-

46 Cordey 1939 (as in note 39), p. 39. The potpourri jars may have been the model illustrated in Salmon 2002 (as in note 39), pp. 434­–435. 47 Cordey 1939 (as in note 39), p. 39. Most of the set survives; it included two wall lights, two candelabra (now lost), two vases for potpourri or bulb forcing, and another potpourri container shaped like a ship. Some elements are illustrated in Salmon 2002 (as in note 39), pp. 443­–449. It had been purchased for the enormous sum of 2,400 livres; see Pierre Ennès, Essai de reconstitution d’une garniture de madame de Pompadour, in: Journal of the Walters Art Gallery 42/43 (1984­–85), pp. 70–82. 48 Alain Corbin, The Foul and the Fragrant. Odor and the French Social Imagination, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986, pp. 22–85. 49 According to Elise Goodman-Soellner, Pompadour’s maladies included “migraines, fevers, choking seizures, palpitations of the heart”; see her Boucher’s ‘Madame de Pompadour at her Toilette,’ in: Simiolus 17 (1987), p. 41. 50 The manufactory moved from Vincennes to Sèvres in 1756 and was fully supported by royal patronage after 1759. See Pierre Ennès, De Vincennes à Sèvres, l’année 1756, Paris: Réunion des Musées nationaux, 2006; Svend Eriksen, Geoffrey de Bellaigue, Sèvres Porcelain. Vincennes and Sèvres 1740– 1800, London / Boston, MA: Faber and Faber, 1987.

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Fig. 4: Sèvres Manufactory, Potpourri and Bulb Forcing Vase, Porcelain, ca. 1760.

gestive rhetorical move. It was considered appropriate for bathing rooms, seemingly because its levity was appealing in intimate spaces.51 But as Katie Scott has shown, this idiom encouraged a sense of cultural superiority in European consumers by inviting curious, amused, sometimes mocking responses to foreign motifs and styles.52 The porcelain display thus made a doubly nationalistic claim, inviting viewers to celebrate a royal agenda and define themselves in relation to Asian otherness. This, in turn, shaped both Pompadour’s social persona and her self-perception in a space of corporeal instability. Whatever the effects of immersion, objects affirmed her agency as a discerning consumer, champion of royal causes, and civilized European body. Decoration shaped identity through very different strategies in an environment designed for the hôtel of Anne-Léon de Montmorency, a duke and marshal who was married to one of Marie-Antoinette’s ladies-in-waiting. Constructed during a renova-

51 Encyclopédie 1751–65 (as in note 13), p. 20. The idiom was used in many decorative media and contexts; for Sèvres’s contribution see Tamara Préaud, Sèvres, La Chine et les ‘chinoiseries’ au XVIIIe siècle, in: The Journal of the Walters Art Gallery 47 (1989), pp. 39–52. 52 Katie Scott, Playing Games with Otherness. Watteau’s Chinese Cabinet at the Château de Muette, in: Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 64 (2003), pp. 189–247.


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tion of the 1750s and likely redecorated in the 1770s or 1780s, it was described at length in a 1787 guidebook aimed at amateurs and foreign visitors.53 The nature of the source is noteworthy, for it turned the scheme into a widely disseminated spectacle even if few readers were allowed to see it in person. The bathing room contained two tubs and was flanked by a large cabinet and a dining room, the latter decorated to resemble a garden pavilion and overlooking an actual garden. An adjacent space contained the family archive, and paintings of battles in the cabinet celebrated ancestral military achievements. More extensive and overtly social than Pompadour’s ensemble, this one integrated bathing into a highly developed vehicle for hospitality, leisure, and dynastic prestige. It also demonstrated the patron’s discernment as a collector of natural history, a fashionable arena for elite self-fashioning. Glass-fronted armoires lining the walls of both bathing room and cabinet contained dozens of stuffed birds and a number of animals arranged by the person responsible for the king’s own collection.54 This must have been an extraordinary sight, for ornithology was a new field and the craft of taxidermy was still struggling for success.55 The guidebook urged admiration for the specimens’ “varied attitudes suited to their characters”, and they seem to have been organized to highlight diversity and encourage comparison: differently marked and colored plumage, males and females, creatures from domestic barnyards and French

53 Thiéry, Guide des Amateurs, et des etrangers voyageurs à Paris, ou description raisonnée de cette Ville, de sa Banlieu, & de tout ce qu’elles contiennent de remarquable, 2 vols., Paris: Hardouin & Gattey, 1787, vol. 1, pp. 448–453. The hôtel was designed by Lassurance in 1704 for a newly ennobled patron and acquired by the Montmorency-Luxembourg family in the 1720s. Antoine Matthieu Le Carpentier renovated it during the 1750s, and in the 1770s Pierre Rousseau designed a ‘Chinese’ pavilion for the garden. I posit a redecoration of the 1770s or 1780s because, as noted below, the scheme devised for the bathing suite involved technological innovations that were just beginning to emerge during the second half of the century. I have not been able to locate any plans or elevations of the rooms discussed here. See Michel Courtier and Louis Sanchez, Hôtel de Montmorency-Luxembourg, http:// (accessed December 19, 2013). 54 The guidebook credited a painter named Desmoulins; Thiéry 1787 (as in note 53), p. 452. For elite collecting, see Yves Laissus, Les cabinets d’histoire naturelle, in: René Taton (ed.), Enseignement et diffusion des sciences en France au XVIIIe siècle, Paris: Hermann, 1964, pp. 659–712; Katie Whitaker, The Culture of Curiosity, in: Nicholas Jardine et al. (ed.), Cultures of Natural History, Cambridge, MA / New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 75–90. For broadly framed explorations of the fascination with preserved animals, see Rachel Poliquin, The Breathless Zoo. Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing, University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2012. 55 Scientists avidly debated the issue of how to best preserve organic specimens and often guarded their secrets closely. The use of arsenic, known to be poisonous but an effective means of preventing decay, did not become standard until the early nineteenth century. See Paul Lawrence Farber, The Development of Taxidermy and the History of Ornithology, in: Isis 68 (1977), pp. 550–566; and his Discovering Birds: The Emergence of Ornithology as a Scientific Discipline, 1760–1860, Baltimore, MD / London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

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colonies, predators and prey.56 Some were posed in naturalistic vignettes, such as cocks fighting over a hen, while others referred to well-known myths and fables. Visitors encountered a panther with the attributes of Bacchus and doves with those of Venus, as well as the fox who tricked a crow into releasing a morsel of cheese by disingenuously praising its voice and convincing it to sing. The two bathtubs flanked a case full of birds and were surmounted by vitrines containing a swan, a heron, and a goose. This range of subjects and conceptual categories made the space conducive to many kinds of discovery and social exchange. Scientific and philosophical discussion might arise among guests familiar with the ambitious Natural History of George-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon, or with the longstanding debate over whether animals had souls.57 There was also potential for witty gossip based on avian colloquialisms. A proud person, for example, was said to be “vain as a peacock”; a stupid one was “a real lout” (literally, “a real bittern”); and a culminating creative act was a “swan song”.58 The presence of at least one animal fable could have inspired metaphorical readings throughout the suite, even if other tableaux were not explicitly narrative. Fables were considered both entertaining and instructive, pleasurable vehicles for reflections on personal character and social conduct.59 The stuffed heron, for instance, might recall Aesop’s account of a heron that disdained small fish until hunger forced it to settle for one meager snail. This warning against haughtiness and greed extended further in Jean de La Fontaine’s version, which linked the heron’s plight to that of a proud woman whose search for a perfect man reduced her to a miserable spinster willing to marry anyone at all.60 In other words, the animal array encouraged both the extro-

56 “des attitudes varies & analogues à leurs characters”; Thiéry 1787 (as in note 53), p. 450. 57 Buffon’s work was published in thirty-six volumes between 1749 and 1789 and is available at http:// (accessed December 19, 2013). For an example of how philosophical debate could shape the representation and viewing of animals, see Sarah R. Cohen, Chardin’s Fur. Painting, Materialism, and the Question of Animal Soul, in: Eighteenth-Century Studies 38 (2004), pp. 39–61. 58 “glorieux comme un paon”; “un vrai butor”; “chant de cygnet”. Dictionnaire de l’Académie française, 4th ed. (1762), University of Chicago, ARTFL Project (as in note 24). 59 Fables were used as decorative motifs on many types of objects, from wall paneling to chair covers to teacups. For a typical explanation of the value of fables, see the introduction to Bellegarde, Les fables d’Esope phrygien, avec celles de Philelphe. Traduction nouvelle enrichie de discourse moraux & historiques, 2 vols., Utrecht: Jaques de Poolsum, 1752, vol. 1, no page. For the porous boundary between this literary genre and natural history, see Louise E. Robbins, Elephant Slaves and Pampered Parrots. Exotic Animals in Eighteenth-Century France, Baltimore, MD / London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002, pp. 177–185. For another perspective on sociable engagement with animal ‘nature’, see Sarah R. Cohen, Animal Performance in Oudry’s Illustrations to the Fables of La Fontaine, in: Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 39 (2010), pp. 35–76. 60 Jean de La Fontaine, The heron and the maiden, see leheronlafille (accessed December 19, 2013).


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verted pleasures of sociability and inward contemplation of one’s own qualities and values. The associative potential would have been even more provocative if bathing actually took place here. Ensconced in the twin tubs, bathers became more than knowing observers of the natural world or implicit referents for anthropocentric messages. They became a part of the spectacle, additional specimens posed for display. The juxtaposition not only invited further attention to animal and human ‘nature’, but also celebrated artifice. The guidebook praised the collection for being at once lifelike and artful, and the latter quality must have been particularly astounding to people who rarely encountered accomplished taxidermy and had limited access to live exotic creatures. Installing bathers in close proximity to magically preserved animals cast them as analogously compelling aesthetic objects. This move seems especially charged in relation to the psychology of bathing. Immersion softened physiological boundaries and intensified somatic processes; it rendered the body more creaturely. Taxidermy reconstituted bodies and turned them into rationalized, aestheticized sites of discernment. By setting up a dialogue between these two operations, the Montmorency scheme provocatively engaged the bath’s transformative capacity. Virtuoso artifacts became both foils for the exercise of social agency and emblems of a corporeal stability that permeable humans could never quite achieve. Corporeal interplay took yet another turn in my final example, also described in the 1787 guidebook: an underground space at the hôtel de Besenval, home of the prominent military official, favored courtier, and noted art collector Pierre-Victor de Besenval de Brünstatt, known as the baron de Besenval.61 This “delicious” sanctum (fig. 5), designed in 1782 by Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart and decorated with sculpture by Clodion, produced an orchestrated sequence of effects through the neoclassical style known as “le genre antique”. 62 An inscription near the entrance identified the patron, architect, sculptor, and mason, an unusual gesture that urged visitors to admire the design’s ingenuity. One began in a vestibule, descended a curving staircase, crossed an antechamber, and entered a room that combined severity and sensuality. Water shimmered in a large oval basin sunk into the floor; fountains flanked a life-size reclining nymph presiding over more flowing water. Columns and pilasters

61 On the baron’s self-fashioning as an art collector in a 1791 portrait by Henri-Pierre Danloux, see Colin B. Bailey et. al. (eds.), The Age of Watteau, Chardin and Fragonard. Masterpieces of French Genre Painting, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 2003, pp. 334–335. 62 Thiéry 1787 (as in note 53), vol. 2, pp. 579–580. The hôtel itself was designed in 1704 by Pierre-Alexis Delamaire. For the bathing suite, see Anne L. Poulet, Guilhem Scherf, Clodion 1738–1814, exhibition catalogue, Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1992, pp. 228–251, pp. 377–378; Béatrice de Rochebouët, Nymphée de l’Hôtel Chanac de Pompadour, in: Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart 1739–1813, exhibition catalogue, Musée Carnavalet, Paris, 1986, pp. 85–90.

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Fig. 5: Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart, Elevation of Bathing Room, Hôtel de Besenval, Paris, drawing, 1782.

Fig. 6: Clodion, Venus, Cupid, Leda, and Jupiter, Pierre de Tonnerre Stone, 1782.

framed pendant reliefs of mythological scenes set by a river and depicting amorous subjects that viewers were well prepared to recognize. In one (fig. 6), Venus restrained Cupid’s attempts to recover his bow from two nymphs while Leda hesitated over the advances of Jupiter disguised as a swan. In the other (fig. 7/ Plate 2), Syrinx escaped the clutches of horned, goat-legged Pan just before a metamorphosis turned her into reeds. The figural rhythms continued with satyrs and bacchantes dancing around the 


 Mimi Hellman

Fig. 7: Clodion, Pan and Syrinx, Pierre de Tonnerre Stone, 1782.

bellies of four large vases set into niches. In another bid for admiration, the compositions referred artfully to numerous iconographic precedents.63 One of Brongniart’s preparatory drawings shows elegantly upholstered chairs and sofas along the walls, indicating that the space was conceived for social gatherings.64 A visitor’s experience would have registered not just visually, but also spatially, temporally, and somatically. The antechamber and staircase heightened anticipation. The main room must have been cool, damp, and filled with the sound of running water. Depending upon the use of candles in this windowless sanctum, it might have been difficult to see the sculpture clearly. Yet even if low or angled lighting suppressed details, it would have enhanced the sense of eroticism. The life-size nymph in particular, as well as the figures in the large panels whose heads and limbs stood out in high relief, must have appeared to quiver as candlelight danced on their curves. In this inventive space, the self-awareness that always informed the navigation of interiors became an exceptionally stimulating multi-sensory encounter. Mythological nudes were often featured in decorative schemes, but the representation of bathing in a room where actual immersion was possible, if not necessarily practiced, was especially provocative. Even more explicitly than the Pompadour and Montmorency examples, this one addressed the “visceral eye”. Because the large reliefs were aligned with the pool and featured figures projecting from shallow pictorial fields, they linked the riverside drama with real space. On one hand, this invested viewers with a sense of aesthetic and erotic mastery, not only over alluring female

63 All of the sculptural elements are now at the Musée du Louvre except for the reclining nymph, which is lost but documented by drawings, reproductions, and an early twentieth-century photograph. Clodion’s references included a wall painting discovered at Herculaneum, an illustrated edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, paintings by Correggio and Nicolas Poussin, and François Girardon’s relief sculpture of bathers in the gardens of Versailles. See Poulet, Scherf 1992 (as in note 62), pp. 234–236. 64 See Poulet, Scherf 1992 (as in note 62), p. 248.

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bodies but also over the half-animal otherness of Pan and the frolicking satyrs on the vases. It also invited playful identification, rhetorically casting the room’s occupants as desirable nymphs or libidinous lovers. At the same time, Clodion’s image of bathing posited a radical fiction. It surrounded visitors with a reiterative spectacle of unbound flesh, open poses, clearly defined contours, and smooth skins, in a pastoral setting unencumbered by material trappings. The sculpted bodies barely interacted with the water, which was rendered as a swath of shallow, almost motionless liquid that gently enclosed their lower limbs. Given the supposed risks of bathing, this was a poignant fantasy of corporeal freedom and integrity. Even metamorphosis—a trope of physical instability—was cast not as dissolution, but in terms of power and resistance: it turned Jupiter into a compelling suitor and saved Syrinx from attack. Imagine elegantly dressed visitors chatting in armchairs, or a few friends in chemises restoring humoral balances in the pool. The mythological ambience did not simply amuse and valorize; it presented a vision of compelling yet unattainable difference.

4 Staging retreat It should now be clear that bathing in eighteenth-century France bore little resemblance to modern rituals of solitary escape and personal hygiene. Those who undertook this still unusual, psychologically fraught activity retreated to exclusive spaces where, paradoxically, they became the stars of artfully staged performances. Bathing positioned elite bodies as simultaneously vulnerable and authoritative, introverted and extroverted, subjects and objects. Imaginative settings elicited self-defining demonstrations of status, knowledge, and sociability. Living bodies considered prone to instability were diverted by artfully wrought exotic bodies that seemed immune to danger. To underscore how modern values have tended to shape our understanding of historical practice, I would like to conclude by considering the ways in which two contemporary films reimagine the eighteenth-century bath. Both use the activity as a vehicle for defining personal character. The plot of Valmont, Milos Forman’s 1989 adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos’s 1782 novel Les Liaisons dangereuses, turns on a wager in which the scheming marquise de Merteuil promises sexual favors to the libertine vicomte de Valmont if he deflowers her ex-lover’s impressionable fiancée and then seduces a virtuous married woman. The anti-heroine’s most unlikable moment occurs when she receives Valmont in her lavishly decorated bedroom, ensconced in a chair-like tub similar to that of Freudeberg’s print (fig. 1). The vicomte announces that he has won the wager, becomes furious when she refuses to take him seriously, and retaliates by upsetting the tub and leaving her humiliated in a puddle on the floor. The scene is at once voyeuristic and moralistic. Close-ups of the smirking marquise


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invite viewers to simultaneously relish her body in its wet chemise and condemn the aristocratic decadence it represents. In contrast, two bathing scenes in Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film Marie Antoinette generate sympathy for the young queen’s despair in the face of relentless court intrigue and the royal couple’s failure to produce an heir. Most of the heroine’s quarters are sumptuously decorated, but her bathing room is pointedly stark. In an almost empty space, she huddles alone and miserable in a large, white marble tub with no embellishing features. Although the camera peers intrusively over her shoulder and down into her face, the set and acting yield a sense of solitary introspection. Rather than objectifying the woman’s body and exposing her moral failings, this bath claims to reject artifice and release true inner feelings. While their moods and character assessments differ, the two films share a basic premise: an inverse correlation between material pleasures and psychological depth. The vindictive marquise luxuriates in her bath but is incapable of introspection or empathy. The victimized queen looks very uncomfortable but has a valid emotional life. These are profoundly modern visions of ancien régime France as a world where highly decorated interiors could not produce interiority, and authentic selfhood could be accessed only through a rejection of superficial material and social concerns. What is at stake in the popular—and sometimes scholarly—attachment to this binary understanding of how design shaped subjectivity in the eighteenth century? More work is needed to understand the construction of this view and the disciplinary and sociopolitical interests it may serve. We also might pay more attention to the corporeal anxieties and extroverted impulses of modern bathing. Contemporary design magazines often feature luxuriously furnished, mirrored spaces where rituals of cleanliness seem to become performative. A recent exhibition devoted to the theme of bathing in contemporary art wonderfully captures this possibility with a title that gives a forcefully imperative cast to the idea of spatial and psychological inwardness: Intimacy!65 The formulation would work well as a label for the eighteenth-century bath that opened this discussion (fig. 1). And so, although I have argued for the alterity of the past and the importance of historically specific analysis, I want to end with a call for innovative interpretative exchange between past and present, as well as across the boundaries that often separate popular, academic, and artistic practices. Ultimately, that is what will help us to denaturalize assumptions and define preoccupations that we had not noticed before—in the unfamiliar spaces of eighteenth-century interiors and in our own equally strange material world.

65 Burkhard Leismann, Martina Padberg (eds.), Intimacy! Bathing in Art, exhibition catalogue, Kunstmuseum Ahlen, 2010.

Johannes Grave

Living with Pictures: Goethe’s Interiors* I Pictures—like other objects—undoubtedly shape an interior, lending expression to un­equivocal individuality. Not infrequently, the choice and arrangement of diverse depictions articulate preferences and personal taste, whether intended to follow conventions or purposefully to thwart them. Yet, pictures do not just serve to display an individual aesthetic attitude. More importantly, they can become crystallization points for personal memories within an interior décor. Not every picture in a living space figures as an aesthetic confession; however, memories almost unavoidably attach themselves to them. This applies not only to pictures representing persons or events from the life of their owner or even to ones made at specific biographical instances. Any picture that becomes a part of an interior and therefore of a living space can potentially become charged with memories. It may, for instance, lead one to think back on experiences that took place in that room or else to recall the day it gained entry to that room. When an interior becomes a locus that shapes and displays its inhabitant’s self-understanding, pictures play a not insignificant part—irrespective of whether their selection and arrangement was intentional or relied solely on chance. By displaying something that is not there itself or, at any rate, is present only in altered, dated form, pictures open the interior out to an exterior at the same time. They connect it with times and places that reach beyond the here-and-now of the immediate environment and thereby contribute essentially toward the subject’s ability to mark and express personal individuality—purposefully or subconsciously—in that interior. Comparable to doors and windows, pictures act together with other objects as sluices or thresholds to the outer world, so to speak. Their ambivalent nature within an interior also arises from this: They are essentially involved in the interior’s constitution and design precisely by such external references and their charges of reminiscences. At the same time, they can cause disruptions or irritation, if aspects about them that question the integrity of the interior become conspicuous. Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki added such a picture in his ironic depiction of an Evening Gathering at Reverend Bocquet’s (fig. 1).1 The portrait of a clergyman, shown in a corner of the room on

* Translated by Ann M. Hentschel, Stuttgart. – An earlier version of this article was published in German: Erstarrung im Bild oder verlebendigende “Erinnerungs-Erbauung”? Goethe und das Bild im Interieur, in: Frauke Berndt and Daniel Fulda (eds.), Die Sachen der Aufklärung. Beiträge zur DGEJJahrestagung 2010 in Halle a. d. Saale, Hamburg: Meiner, 2012, pp. 402–412. 1 See Andreas Beyer (ed.), Geschichte der bildenden Kunst in Deutschland, vol. 6: Klassik und Romantik, Munich: Prestel, 2006, p. 458 (with further references there).


 Johannes Grave

Fig. 1: Nikolaus Daniel Chodowiecki, An Evening Gathering at Reverend Bocquet’s (from the Travel Diary from Berlin to Danzig), 1773.

the left, initially merely appears to be a conventional requisite of a Protestant pastor’s parlor. By having its gaze ostentatiously directed at the viewer, however, the portrait breaks the confidentiality of the closed circle of diners and hints at how pictures can broaden out an interior’s safe retreat by unsettling external references. The painting is most disturbing when it seems to leap out of the general context of the interior décor and attract attention to itself. Such moments make pictures resemble involuntary memories that suddenly appear and trespass the bounds of the habitual and familiar. In a like manner, the intentional reminder of a beloved person or a special event can be attended by an uncontrolled, visually animated working of the memory. Living with images in our interiors, as self-evident as it may seem to us, is therefore not entirely unproblematic. In the following, some aspects of the ambivalence of the image in interior design are sketched, taking Goethe as an example. We shall examine, in particular, how the reminder function of pictures interrelates with their incorporation into interiors.

II Images have special importance among objects serving to secure and support the memory. Pictures seem to distinguish themselves for their powerful effectiveness and reliability. They can set before one’s eyes things long since past as if they were present. The value of the image for the memory accordingly has often been duly praised. Leon 

Living with Pictures: Goethe’s Interiors 


Battista Alberti’s treatise on painting already clearly expressed this, raising the significance of a portrait. To Alberti a picture’s performance is not limited to “making the absent present”. It can rather even represent the deceased so vividly that their “features […] somehow” seem to “lead a longer life”.2 Almost as if in remote echo of Alberti’s remark, Goethe writes in his novel Elective Affinities (Wahlverwandtschaften): Many a memorial and reminder draws the distant and departed closer to us. None shares the importance of a picture. There is something charming about the engagement with a beloved picture, even if it is dissimilar, just as sometimes there is something charming about bickering with a friend. One feels in a pleasant way twain and yet unsplittable.3

These scant lines imply a picture’s special potential, also addressing the problems and dangers of image-aided reminiscence and recollection. Careful reading of the brief reflection, an excerpt out of “Ottilie’s diary”, reveals how the picture assumes sinister power over its viewers: It is not just looked at but becomes party to a “conversation”. The picture attracts strong emotions and is itself even “beloved”. Spatial proximity alone is what counts. The consideration that pictorial representation can simultaneously evoke awareness of spatial or temporal distance from the depicted object is, however, blanked out. The revalorization of the image into a quasi-human subject, as implied by Ottilie’s words, signals a basic issue of the novel: the misconstrual of a picture, its false recognition as the depicted thing itself. It is brought so strongly to life that its action switches over to mortifying effect. Ottilie’s thoughts about the picture did not just happen to gain entry into the text. The novel Elective Affinities develops in manifold and devastating ways the fascination with depictions as well as their hazards, which the novel’s protagonists increasingly have to contend with. The novel presents in ever-new constellations how pictures that dissimulate their own status as images not only cause partial deception and confusion but ultimately profoundly determine and contaminate the perception of

2 “Itaque vultus defunctorum per picturam quodammodo vitam praelongam degunt.” In: Leon Battista Alberti, Das Standbild. Die Malkunst. Grundlagen der Malerei, ed. by Oskar Bätschmann and Christoph Schäublin, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2000, p. 235. 3 “Es gibt mancherlei Denkmale und Merkzeichen, die uns Entfernte und Abgeschiedene näher bringen. Keins ist von der Bedeutung des Bildes. Die Unterhaltung mit einem geliebten Bilde, selbst wenn es unähnlich ist, hat was Reizendes, wie es manchmal etwas Reizendes hat, sich mit einem Freunde streiten. Man fühlt auf eine angenehme Weise, daß man zu zweien ist und doch nicht auseinander kann.” In: Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Sämtliche Werke nach Epochen seines Schaffens. Münchner Ausgabe, ed. by Karl Richter in collaboration with Herbert G. Göpfert, Norbert Miller, Gerhard Sauder and Edith Zehm, 20 in 32 vols., Munich: Carl Hanser, 1985–1998, vol. 9, p. 410. All German citations are translated by Ann M. Hentschel.


 Johannes Grave

reality in general. As numerous studies on Elective Affinities have shown,4 the convergence of image and reality bodes more than the possibility of allowing the pictorially represented to seem alive. It can also have the consequence that the living freezes ‘picture-like’, because it is crowded out and replaced by the picture. The simulacrum does not just rob the image of its pictorialness but threatens to affect reality beyond the image. Goethe had treated the risk of mortification through pictures in a literary work already ten years previously. The short story “The Collector and His Circle” (Der Sammler und die Seinigen) exposes more powerfully than the later Elective Affinities the problems inherent in depictions at the site in which they unfold with particular poignancy: in the interior, in the everyday living space of the middle-class bourgeois. This novella links the picture issue particularly closely with memorization practices.5 Composed of letters, the novella not only revolves around the issue of art collecting and viewing. It repeatedly confronts the reader with the question: What does it mean to live with pictures and works of art that are simultaneously conceived as souvenirs? Out of a total of eight letters addressed to the editor of the periodical Propyläen by a collector physician and his acquaintances, the first three letters are devoted to the history of the collection that the physician had inherited and continued to maintain. After mentioning his grandfather, he describes his father as having exhibited “a decisive fondness for just one particular kind of artwork”, namely, for the “accurate emulation of natural things”.6 Driven by a desire for lasting, imperishable possessions, he initially had birds, flowers, butterflies, and shells illustrated true to nature, before mainly commissioning portraits of family members. It is notable that the father rejects any timeless idealization of the depicted persons and finally has his family portrayed with things out of their daily lives. His daughter’s portrait proves, among other things, that signs of transience could thereby creep into the picture. The seemingly incidental accessories, a peach and carnations, are added, which upon closer reading prove to be classical vanitas themes.

4 See David E. Wellbery, Die Wahlverwandtschaften (1809). Desorganisation symbolischer Ordnungen, in: Paul Michael Lützeler, James E. McLeod (eds.), Goethes Erzählwerk. Interpretationen, Stuttgart: Reclam, 1985, pp. 291–318; Fritz Breithaupt, Jenseits der Bilder. Goethes Politik der Wahrnehmung, Freiburg: Rombach, 2000; Claudia Öhlschläger, “Kunstgriffe” oder Poiesis der Mortifikation. Zur Aporie des erfüllten Augenblicks in Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften, in: Gabriele Brandstetter (ed.), Erzählen und Wissen. Paradigmen und Aporien ihrer Inszenierung in Goethes Wahlverwandtschaften, Freiburg: Rombach, 2003, pp. 187–203; Barbara Naumann, Bilderdämmerung. Bildkritik im Roman, Basel: Schwabe, 2012. 5 See also Carrie Asman, Kunstkammer als Kommunikationsspiel. Goethe inszeniert eine Sammlung, in: Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Der Sammler und die Seinigen, ed. by Carrie Asman, Dresden: Verlag der Kunst, 1997, pp. 119–177. 6 Goethe 1985–1998, (as in note 3), vol. 6.2, p. 79.

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The involvement of pictures in desire and death is expressed more strongly still in another rather unusual painting.7 The collector’s father proposes to his son-in-law, an artist,8 the idea of a trompe-l’œil painting supposed to lend permanence to the living likeness of himself and his wife: In the upper room, where the best portraits hang and which is actually the last in the row of rooms, you may perhaps have noticed a door that seems to continue on; yet it is blind, and if one had otherwise opened it, a rather more startling than amusing object would have been revealed. My father, arm-in-arm with my mother, appeared to be stepping out; and the reality which partly the circumstances, partly the artfulness called forth was startling. He was depicted attired as he would usually be when returning home from a social dinner engagement. The picture was painted at that place, for that place, with every care, the figures held perspectivally accurately from a particular standpoint, and the clothes done with the greatest punctiliousness to most striking effect. In order that the light fall on it properly from the side, a window had to be moved and everything set to make the deception complete.9

The effort spent on this illusionistic picture is astonishing. A window is repositioned to perfect the picture’s effect. The real structural circumstances must conform to the painting, which is allowed to interfere with reality, the family’s living space. Yet the double illusion, the coupling of fake door and trompe-l’œil painting, proved insidious. The father’s desire aimed at the conservation of the living in the picture; yet this painting itself is overtaken by its own, entirely tangible transience. The perishability of the depicted figure, supposed to be halted by fixation onto a pictorial medium, moves over to the materiality of the representation:

7 The fictitious painting in Goethe’s novella seems to be inspired by a family portrait of Johann Heinrich Tischbein the Elder which was famous for its illusive representation of the painter’s domestic home; for further references see Johannes Grave, Natur und Kunst, Illusion und Bildbewusstsein. Zu einigen Bildern in Goethes Beiträgen für die Propyläen, in: Daniel Ehrmann, Norbert Christian Wolf (eds.), Klassizismus in Aktion. Goethes ‘Propyläen’ und das Kunstprogramm der Weimarer Klassik, Wien: Böhlau, 2015 (in prep.). 8 This marital tie between painter and daughter expresses a further problematic entanglement between depiction and desire. By incorporation of picture production within the family, the boundary between reality and the world of images must almost compellingly become more fragile. 9 “In dem obern Zimmer, wo die besten Portraite hängen und welches eigentlich das letzte in der Reihe der Zimmer ist, haben Sie vielleicht eine Türe bemerkt, die noch weiter zu führen scheint, allein sie ist blind, und wenn man sie sonst eröffnete, zeigte sich ein mehr überraschender als erfreulicher Gegenstand. Mein Vater trat mit meiner Mutter am Arme gleichsam heraus und erschreckte durch die Wirklichkeit, welche teils durch die Umstände, teils durch die Kunst hervorgebracht war; Er war abgebildet, wie er, gewöhnlich gekleidet, von einem Gastmahl, aus einer Gesellschaft, nach Hause kam. Das Bild ward an dem Orte, zu dem Orte, mit aller Sorgfalt gemalt, die Figuren aus einem gewissen Standpunkte genau perspektivisch gehalten und die Kleidungen, mit der größten Sorgfalt, zum entschiedensten Effekte gebracht. Damit das Licht von der Seite gehörig einfiele, ward ein Fenster verrückt und alles so gestellt, daß die Täuschung vollkommen werden mußte.” In: Goethe 1985­–1998 (as in note 3), vol. 6.2, p. 83.


 Johannes Grave

But unfortunately a work of art that had approximated reality as closely as possible, too soon also experienced the fates of the real. The blind frame with the canvas was affixed to the inner door paneling and thereby subject to the influences of a damp wall, which acted the more heftily, as the closed door kept out all air; and thus, after a hard winter during which the room had not been opened, father and mother were found totally destroyed, which depressed us all the more, since we had already lost them before to death.10

Even linguistic details reveal the far-reaching contamination of reality by the illusionistic image regime: The discussion is not about a ruined picture or a moldy canvas. Instead it reads: “father and mother” were found “totally destroyed”. As if the illusionistic portraits behind the blind door weren’t enough, the collector’s father later carries his passion for natural and deceptive representation to the extreme. He has a life mask taken of himself by an elaborate procedure; it is used to make a life-size wax figure that is given a particularly natural complexion, a “real wig”, and a “damask dressing gown”. But the thus-created “phantom” seems to be so upsetting to the collector-physician that he hides it behind a curtain “that I didn’t dare to draw aside before you”.11 Initially serving to suppress the precocities of tran­ sience, the pictures themselves then had to be stifled because their obtrusive permanence made one feel more acutely than ever that life has an end. The images and pictorial practices described in the first letters of the novella stand in a remarkable relationship to the cultivation of familial remembrance. The increasingly elaborately crafted portraits seem to be wholly dedicated to the purpose of preserving the memory of the family and its individual members. Upon closer consideration, however, the images prove to be a means of circumventing the work of retrospection, which would have to imply an awareness of the temporal breach with the recollection. The boundary-blurring between image and reality still aims at portraying the subjects as if they were present—not in order to remember them as absent or deceased, but in order to maintain the pretense of their presence. It seems inescapable that this strategy of memory avoidance should ultimately collapse. The attempt to evade temporality and transience by pictures and the presence attributable to them must fail. As a result, the painter, part of the family by marriage, is led after the death of his wife to almost manic production of still lifes composed of ensembles in endless variation of the everyday objects of the departed. “Only capable of seeing the

10 “Leider hat aber ein Kunstwerk, das sich der Wirklichkeit möglichst näherte, auch gar bald die Schicksale des Wirklichen erfahren. Der Blendrahm mit der Leinwand war in die Türbekleidung befestigt und so den Einflüssen einer feuchten Mauer ausgesetzt, die um so heftiger wirkten als die verschloßne Türe alle Luft abhielt, und so fand man nach einem strengen Winter, in welchem das Zimmer nicht eröffnet worden war, Vater und Mutter völlig zerstört, worüber wir uns um so mehr betrübten, als wir sie schon vorher durch den Tod verloren hatten.” Ibid. 11 Ibid., p. 84.

Living with Pictures: Goethe’s Interiors 


present”12 and of painting it, he fixates his recollection on what the dead have left behind and is unable to reach closure.

III A fundamental contradiction seems to exist between the critical eye that Goethe casts on images in his literary works and his own furnishing practice in the Goethehaus: Superficially, nothing in the so-called “Haus am Frauenplan” indicates that its resident had thought in a critical way about the power that images can exert over their viewers and their perceptions of reality. The Goethehaus rather presents a multifarious selection of depictions. As “a pantheon full of pictures and statues”, as Jean Paul wrote, it captivates not just by the abundance of artworks but also by their staging, begging respect. Jean Paul’s report about his visit with Goethe in June 1796 conveys an impression of how the picture program in the stairwell, in particular, could tune a guest’s mood in a doubtful way: “[…] a chilling anxiety presses the breast—at last, the god steps forward, cold, unisyllabic, unaccented. Says Knebel, for inst., ‘the French are entering Rome.’ ‘Hm!’, says the god.”13 What the Haus am Frauenplan offered to the visitor did not serve exclusively to foster memories. Nevertheless, it was always also connected with practices of reminiscence. The plaster casts, paintings, drawings, prints, majolicas, and other ornamental pieces of the Goethehaus should not, by any means, be conceived foremost or, indeed, even exclusively as a scholarly program of select masterpieces of classical art that would raise the owner of the house, as it were, to Olympic heights.14 The abundance of images used for the décor was not just richer and more varied than many an iconographic interpretation would suggest, but also most profoundly con-

12 Ibid. 13 “ein Pantheon vol[l] Bilder und Statuen […] eine Kühle der Angst presset die Brust - endlich trit[t] der Gott her, kalt, einsylbig, ohne Akzent. Sagt Knebel z. B., die Franzosen ziehen in Rom ein. ‚Hm!‘ sagt der Gott.” In: Eduard Berend (ed.), Jean Pauls Sämtliche Werke. Historisch-kritische Ausgabe, pt. III, vol. 2: Briefe 1794–1797, Berlin: De Gruyter, 1958, p. 210. 14 See Christa Lichtenstern, Jupiter – Dionysos – Eros/Thanatos. Goethes symbolische Bildprogramme im Haus am Frauenplan, in: Goethe-Jahrbuch 112 (1995), pp. 343–360; Doris Strack, Omnia vincit amor: Heinrich Meyers Supraporten in Goethes Wohnhaus, in: Goethe-Jahrbuch 116 (1999), pp. 365–389; Jörg Traeger, Goethes Vergötterung. Von der Kunstsammlung zum Dichterkult, in: Markus Bertsch, Johannes Grave (eds.), Räume der Kunst. Blicke auf Goethes Sammlungen, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2005, pp. 172–215. For an overview of the Goethehaus furnishings and further literature, see Johannes Grave, Goethes Kunstsammlungen und die künstlerische Ausstattung des Goethehauses, in: Andreas Beyer, Ernst Osterkamp (eds.), Goethe-Handbuch Supplemente, vol. 3: Kunst, Stuttgart: Metzler, 2011, pp. 46–83.


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nected with Goethe’s cultivation of remembrance. In his autobiographical Poetry and Truth (Dichtung und Wahrheit), Goethe claims, entirely in this sense, “gladly to recall by all I possess how I obtained it, from whom I received it, whether it be by gift, exchange, or purchase, or in any other way. It has become my custom to do due justice when showing my collections, by thinking of the persons through whose mediation I obtained the individual item, indeed of the occasion, the accident, the farthest motive and contribution by which things that are dear and valuable to me became mine.”15 Each item of the collections as well as of the furnishings in a personal living environment exhibits in this way a time index that links the object with the biography of its owner. The recollection of the giver or mediator of every single object (of art) does not exhaust itself in nostalgic retrospective. It can, moreover, lead to a ‘representification’ and revival that at first glance recalls the false pictorial practices of the Elective Affinities or the novella The Collector and His Circle: “That which surrounds us comes to life, in that we see it in mental, fond, genetic correlation; and by recollection of past states, momentary existence is heightened and enriched, the donors of the gifts rise repeatedly before one’s faculty of imagination, one connects a pleasant memory with their likeness, making ingratitude impossible and occasional reciprocation easy and desirable.”16 Only on the face of it does Goethe’s description of the practice of ‘representification’ manifest parallels to that questionable utilization of portraits he examined in the novella The Collector and His Circle. Goethe’s treatment of the things around himself respects the temporal distance from the giver or intermediary and for that reason can become a basis for a culture of remembrance properly speaking. The act of recalling things to the present does not level the grade with the past but sets the past and present into correlation. Goethe explicitly speaks of the involvement of the powers of the imagination and the “depiction” (Bild) of the memory that is evoked by engagement with the objects. His thing-based and image-based culture of remembrance is

15 “Diesem zu begegnen, gewöhnte ich mich zuvörderst, bei allem was ich besitze, mich gern zu erinnern, wie ich dazu gelangt, von wem ich es erhalten, es sei durch Geschenk, Tausch oder Kauf, oder auf irgend eine andre Art. Ich habe mich gewöhnt, beim Vorzeigen meiner Sammlungen der Personen zu gedenken, durch deren Vermittelung ich das Einzelne erhielt, ja der Gelegenheit, dem Zufall, der entferntesten Veranlassung und Mitwirkung, wodurch mir Dinge geworden, die mir lieb und wert sind, Gerechtigkeit widerfahren zu lassen.” Goethe 1985–1998 (as in note 3), vol. 16, pp. 443–444. 16 “Das was uns umgibt erhält dadurch ein Leben, wir sehen es in geistiger, liebevoller, genetischer Verknüpfung, und durch das Vergegenwärtigen vergangener Zustände wird das augenblickliche Dasein erhöht und bereichert, die Urheber der Gaben steigen wiederholt vor der Einbildungskraft hervor, man verknüpft mit ihrem Bilde eine angenehme Erinnerung, macht sich den Undank unmöglich und ein gelegentliches Erwidern leicht und wünschenswert.” Ibid., p. 444.

Living with Pictures: Goethe’s Interiors 


Fig. 2: Weimar, Goethehaus, stairwell with plaster casts of a satyr, a greyhound and the Praying Boy.

also characterized by an awareness of the image’s specific status and precisely not by a denial of the pictorial medium, as had been the approach with the trompe-l’oeil in the novella The Collector and His Circle. Goethe certainly did not want to tame the affective power of the image completely; this is shown exemplarily in the directed gazes of some sculptures in the entrance area of the Haus am Frauenplan (fig. 2). The Greyhound and the Praying Boy not only stand for antique sculpture. They introduce, at the same time, references within the space, in that they draw attention to a direction not yet within the visitor’s view: they turn ostentatiously, indeed, in the case of the greyhound, even in surprise, toward the first landing and therefore in a direction from which one would expect the master of the house to appear. Nonetheless, these are not wax figures striking the visitor in such a disturbing, uncanny way as do the life-sized portraits discussed in the novella The Collector and His Circle. This example of the sculptures in the stairwell suggests the basic tendency of Goethe’s ‘picture policy’: Goethe seeks ways to establish relations between the depictions and their environments that extend beyond iconographic and symbolic references. Simultaneously, however, he tries throughout, in principle, to 


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maintain the distance between image and viewer and hence an image-consciousness (Bildbewusstsein in the sense of Edmund Husserl). Another look inside the novella The Collector and His Circle can help define more precisely the practices by which Goethe seeks to respond to the dangers inherent in the image: This novella is not merely a confrontation that problematically blurs the boundaries between image and reality. It sketches, at the same time, the path to a visual practice that avoids the problem of a petrifying reflection of pictures. For, along its own apparently contingent course, the text develops a treatment of works of art that allows their sensible, performative, and social potentials to emerge. The novella The Collector and His Circle may not describe the ideal figure of the art collector or viewer, nor end in unequivocal principles, norms, or prohibitions. However, its meandering structure of open dialog is a plea to let the plurality of collected artworks speak and the polyphony of their diverse viewers be heard.17 In this sense, no final ideal state of the collection is aimed at in the text. Interest—above all, in the first few letters—is rather directed at their variable yet steady development as well as—in the later letters—at the continual revision of the collected artworks in the sensorial experience of the viewers. A comparable argument can be made for Goethe’s own picture practice. In his attempt to maintain critical distance from the image without robbing it entirely of its potentials, he fell back on a whole cluster of strategies: By contextualizing the individual work within numerous images and taking conscious recourse to reproductions, such as plaster casts or engravings whose own characteristic materiality is not denied, Goethe sought to relativize the image and purposefully lift its aura.18 Entirely in this vein, he repeatedly made not just minor modifications to the décor of the rooms he lived in, but even trenchant ones. Comparatively simple and flexible fixtures, such as glass cases and reusable picture frames, permitted him to alter the dispositions of display and collection pieces at any time. Furthermore, by including the reception of images in performative processes and in social life, a firm ascription of meanings and a fetishization of the pictures and ornaments are prevented.19 And finally, each image was integrated within temporal and historical contexts: On the one hand, it was ordered within a morphologically conceived history of art;20 and, on the other hand, it was referenced within the collector’s biography.

17 See Johannes Grave, Der “ideale Kunstkörper”. Johann Wolfgang Goethe als Sammler von Druckgraphiken und Zeichnungen, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2006, pp. 355­–362, 424–430. 18 See Grave 2006 (as in note 17); Johannes Grave, Ideal and History. Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s Collection of Prints and Drawings, in: Artibus et historiae 53 (2006), pp. 175–186. 19 On the material, performative, and social aspects of the furnishings of the Goethehaus, see most recently Sebastian Böhmer, Christiane Holm, Veronika Spinner, Thorsten Valk (eds.), Weimarer Klassik. Kultur des Sinnlichen, exhibition catalog, Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2012. 20 On this see Grave 2006 (as in note 17), pp. 396–416; and Grave 2006 (as in note 18).

Living with Pictures: Goethe’s Interiors 


During the final two decades of his life, Goethe conceived the décor of his Haus am Frauenplatz increasingly as part of a comprehensive retrospection. This finds expression in such autobiographical works as the Italian Journey (Italienische Reise), the diaries and notebooks (Tag- und Jahreshefte), as well as the notebooks “on morphology” (Hefte zur Morphologie). But it was also materialized in his personal environment. Regarding this process Goethe made the famous remark about seeming “more and more historical” to himself.21 His diary notes, letters, and other sources allow one to gather how strongly the composition of the Italian Journey was interwoven with the viewing of pieces from his own collections. Thus it is not surprising that Goethe was particularly pleased about plaster casts of works from antiquity that he had once purchased during his period in Rome without in the end being able to take them with him to Weimar in 1788.22 In a letter to Carl Friedrich Zelter, Goethe spoke in May 1828, regarding a new plaster cast of the Antinous Mondragone (fig. 3), of the “great memory-edification”23 that the work afforded him. At first glance, this cast seems lifeless and cold, but it refers not only to a long-since-elapsed epoch of art but also to his own biography and earlier art experiences in Italy. Goethe accordingly did not write in his letter to Zelter about the artistic significance of this classical bust but concentrated exclusively on the remembrance work it stimulated: “I had, in anticipation of the same, in order to lend the more weight to the day and hour, begun to dictate the tale of my second stay in Rome.”24 Against this backdrop, the plaster cast of the Medusa Rondanini (fig. 4) must have also been extremely welcome to Goethe. He had already possessed a cast of it in Rome, having described it thoroughly in correspondence. When the Bavarian King Ludwig has sent one cast to Weimar, the myth of Medusa flips over into its opposite for Goethe: “Before me stands a long-yearned-for work of art from a mythical primordial age. I raise my eyes and gaze at the most ominous figure. The Medusa head, otherwise

21 Goethe to Wilhelm von Humboldt, December 1, 1831: “[…] I gladly admit that at my advanced age everything is becoming more and more historical to me: it is all one to me whether happening in times past, in faraway realms, or at a moment in close spatial proximity to me; yes, I seem to myself more and more historical.” (“[…] so gesteh ich gern daß in meinen hohen Jahren mir alles mehr und mehr historisch wird: ob etwas in der vergangenen Zeit, in fernen Reichen oder mir ganz nah räumlich im Augenblicke vorgeht, ist ganz eins, ja ich erscheine mir selbst immer mehr und mehr geschichtlich […].”) Goethes Werke, herausgegeben im Auftrage der Großherzogin Sophie von Sachsen. Pts. I–V, Weimar: Böhlau, 1887–1919, pt. IV, vol. 49, p. 165. 22 See Jörg Traeger, Zur Rolle der Gipsabgüsse in Goethes Italienischer Reise, in: Hildegard Wiegel (ed.), Italiensehnsucht. Kunsthistorische Aspekte eines Topos, Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2004, pp. 45–57; Gabriella Catalano, Musei invisibili. Idea e forma della collezione nell’opera di Goethe, Rome: Artemide, 2007, pp. 67–112. 23 “große Erinnerungs-Erbauung,” in: Goethe 1887–1919 (as in note 21), pt. IV, vol. 44, p. 101 (letter to Zelter, May 21, 1828). 24 “Ich hatte in Erwartung desselben, um Tag und Stunde noch mehr zu belasten, das Mährchen meines zweyten Aufenthalts in Rom zu dictiren angefangen.” In: Ibid.


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Fig. 3: Weimar, Goethehaus, yellow room with plaster cast of Antinous Mondragone.

from accursed effects fearsome, seems to me wholesome and salutary […].”25 And to Zelter he spoke of a “countenance that by no means petrified but supremely and splendidly invigorated the artistic sense.”26 By situating his plaster casts of antique sculptures within an autobiographical relationship—partly going against established iconographic codes—hence connecting the works of art relatively directly with his own reality in life, Goethe seems initially to have left himself at the mercy of a similarly accursed dynamic of projections as he had so unsparingly portrayed in the Elective Affinities. However, not without reason does he speak to Zelter of the “artistic sense” revitalized by the Medusa Rondanini. In all biographical reminiscences, each

25 “Vor mir aber steht ein langersehntes, einer mythischen Urzeit angehöriges Kunstwerck. Ich richte die Augen auf und schaue die ahnungsvollste Gestalt. Das Medusenhaupt, sonst wegen unseliger Wirkungen furchtbar, erscheint mir wohltätig und heilsam […].” In: Goethe 1887–1919 (as in note 21), pt. IV, vol. 40, p. 195 (draft of a letter to Ludwig I of Bavaria, Nov. 1825). 26 “Anblick, der keineswegs versteinerte sondern den Kunstsinn höchlich und herrlich belebte.” In: Ibid., p. 256 (letter to Zelter dated Jan. 21, 1826).

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Fig. 4: Weimar, Goethehaus, plaster cast of the Medusa Rondanini.

image remained for Goethe embedded in an encompassing frame of art history that forestalled any individual work from becoming a fetish. Consequently, the former location of the Medusa seems downright emblematic: Different from what the current position of this cast (in the so-called yellow room) would suggest, during Goethe’s lifetime the Medusa head found its place on the repository for folders of drawings, engravings, etchings, and woodcuts. The sculpture with its disturbing depiction thus implicitly referred back to an abundant assortment of other depictions. The fetish or idol of a single fascinating stare was set against the plurality of numerous pictures of the collections, which as representations were not to be mistaken for the relevant depicted subjects. 


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The examples of the Antinous Mondragone and the Medusa can illustrate that Goethe purposefully integrated depictions and objects of art in his culture of remembrance and in doing so certainly did try to recall and revive observation without, however, running the risk of weakening the boundary between image and reality. Even with works of art that were connected in a special way with key moments of his own biography, Goethe stayed aware of their pictorialness, the material difference between original and reproduction, as well as the temporal distance between the remembered moment and the time of the memory.

Stefanie Diekmann

Scenes from the Dressing Room: Theatrical Interiors in Fiction Film 1 Cinema and the Backstage The film history of theater and theatrical space remains yet to be told, but if anyone ever took the trouble to write it, it would be a long history indeed, stretching from the works of early cinema to those of contemporary film. Ever since D. W. Griffith’s A Drunkard’s Reformation (US 1909) in which the protagonist is exposed to a classical treatment of chastising and reeducation through theatrical examples, to recent productions like Richard Eyre’s Stage Beauty (UK 2004), Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi’s Actrices (F 2006), Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles (US 2008), or the recent adaptation Venus à la fourrure (F 2013) by Roman Polanski, the theater has been a recurrent setting in both American and European cinema.1 If the cinema’s long-term fascination with the theater is already an interesting phenomenon, this applies even more to the observation that cinematic renderings of the theater and of theatrical topography show a certain preference for the backstage, which plays an essential part in many narratives about theater work and theater actors. As a matter of fact, most films about the theater seem less interested in showing what is happening on stage, before the eyes of a fictional theater audience, than in exploring (or rather inventing, presenting, unfolding, displaying) the goings-on backstage that are hidden from the theater audience but not from the cinematic spectator whose gaze extends to any scene or setting that is accessible to the film camera. The following article will explore some aspects of backstage imagery in fiction film, and, more specifically, some aspects of cinema’s fascination with the dressing room. Within the realm of the backstage, which figures both literally and figuratively as the ‘inner world’ of the theater, the dressing room constitutes a space in its own right: an interior par excellence, twice removed from the eyes of the spectator in the stalls and conceptualized as a highly sheltered space. Not only is it located behind the scenes and, like other parts of the backstage (offices, workshops, storage rooms, etc.),

1 For an extended, if incomplete, list of films about the theater (i.e., theater auditions, theater rehearsals, theater productions, theater actors, and their audiences) see the “Select Filmography” in Robert Knopf (ed.) Theater and Film. A Comparative Anthology, New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 2005, pp. 407–418; Marco Pierarrd’s list “Films about theater” on Mubi (https://mubi. com/lists/films-about-theater--2; accessed January 20, 2014); and the appendix “Filmverzeichnis” in my book Backstage – Konstellationen von Theater und Kino, Berlin: Kadmos, 2013, pp. 249–253.


 Stefanie Diekmann

closed to the theater-going public, it is also closed to the majority of a much smaller group of theater artists and workers who pass freely back and forth through the stage entrance. According to the cinema (and not just the cinema but plays about the backstage as well),2 the dressing room is the most secluded, the most inaccessible, and therefore the most interior place within theatrical topography—a most attractive place as well, especially when it comes to voyeuristic pleasures and insight into the hidden secrets of the theater, show business, and their protagonists.

2 The Country Girl George Seaton’s The Country Girl (US 1954) is certainly not a high point in the history of films about the theater, but it is as good an example as any to explain how the dressing room is depicted in backstage cinema. To be more precise, the quality of The Country Girl lies precisely in its being a middle-brow film with a rather generic plot—and an equally generic idea of how and where interiority can be located within the theatrical sphere of make-believe. The story is simple, yet it has all the ingredients of the average backstage narrative: A Broadway production, two months of rehearsals, a tryout week in Boston, and a premiere in New York.3 A tough producer (Anthony Ross) and an ambitious director (William Holden) who fight each other over control of the show. A leading man (Bing Crosby), resurrected from the status of has-been, with serious stage fright, an alcohol problem, and a guilty secret in his past. The leading man’s long-suffering wife (Grace Kelly) who knows all about her husband’s secrets and hovers in the dressing room throughout rehearsals to keep him out of harm. Rising tensions between the director and the producer, the director and the wife, the wife and the husband-actor, the husband-actor and his better self. The guilty secret raises its head again as does the alcohol problem; the leading-man proves to be unreliable and unstable; the show almost goes bust during the final days of rehearsals, and, of course, nobody knows if the curtain will really go up on opening night. (The fact that it goes up, and to a very

2 Two famous examples: Ronald Harwood’s, The Dresser, in which the dressing room door is defended furiously against various attempts by the stage manager, the leading lady, the ingénue, etc., to break through that barrier and make contact with the leading man inside. (Ronald Harwood, The Collected Plays of Ronald Harwood, London / Boston, MA: Faber and Faber, 1993, pp. 63–137.) And Michael Frayn, Noises Off, in which a famous shift in perspective takes the audience backstage for all of the second act, but never into the dressing rooms where the actors of the play-within-the-play prepare for their stage performance. (Michael Frayn, Noises Off. A Play in Three Acts,, New York, NY: Anchor Books, 1982.) 3 Most theater films linearize the repetitive circle of work and life in the theater by starting their narrative with the audition or the early rehearsals and by ending it with the premiere. John Cassavetes’s Opening Night is a famous example, Abdellatif Kechiche’s L’Esquive a more recent one.

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successful performance, is just as predictable as the fifteen or so film minutes of crisis before.) Within its tale of guilt, deceit, and redemption, The Country Girl contains three scenes in the leading-man’s dressing room: One near the end, in which the long-suffering wife is urged to confess her true feelings and leave her husband for the man she loves. One earlier, in which the leading man is urged to confess his guilt and face his responsibilities both on stage and off. And, before these two confrontations centered on confession and truthfulness, a rather extended scene in the middle of the film, in which the conflicts between director, actor, and wife come to a climax and the dressing room is transformed into a stage in its own right, where voices are raised, tensions are acted out, entrances follow upon exits and exits upon entrances, and a whole drama takes place unbeknownst to the other actors of the show, not to mention the spectators in the theater auditorium.

3 Approach Like all good dramas (or dramatic encounters), this one begins with an entrance, in this case through the stage doors and the dressing room door. And like all entrances backstage, it makes a point before the drama has even started, a point which is as much about access and the rules of engagement behind the scenes as it is about secrecy and the very exclusive status of the encounter which is going to take place before the eyes of the film audience (fig. 1). The first shot shows the corridor in front of the dressing rooms. The director enters from the right, through a swing door that connects the corridor and the room behind the outer stage entrance. He passes a large sign that reads Important: No Visitors Allowed in Dressing Rooms, moves on toward the foreground of the shot and then, after a cut, enters the dressing room through the open door. In the long film history

Fig. 1: “No Visitors Allowed in Dressing Rooms”: What may be true for some of the film’s characters is not true for the film camera.


 Stefanie Diekmann

of backstage appearances, this easy traverse made by Holden’s theater director—from one door to the next and right into the dressing room—must be seen as a rare exception to an omnipresent rule which demands that most visitors are either denied access to the backstage altogether (see the luckless fans in Cassavetes’s Opening Night, Pedro Almodóvar’s Todo sobre mi madre, Stephan Frears’s Mrs. Henderson Presents and many more) or granted access only after an extended period of waiting and pleading. Hollywood films of the 1940s and 1950s have been particularly inventive in staging the barriers and passage points encountered by those whose curiosity and enthusiasm push them toward the stage door (and, if possible, into the world that lies behind it).4 In To Be or Not to Be (US 1942), Ernst Lubitsch puts an amorous Lieutenant through a whole protocol of courtship (flowers, billets doux, public humiliation), only to obtain an invitation to the dressing room that can easily be revoked. In All About Eve (US 1950), J. L. Mankiewicz’s heroine has waited many nights at the back of the theater building (“six nights a week—for weeks”, it says in the film script)5 before she is finally taken through the stage entrance and to the dressing room door, only to be reduced to the state of waiting again while somebody else goes in to check if visitors are welcome inside. In George Cukor’s The Actress (US 1950), the ingénue makes fast progress toward her first backstage encounter but is just as quickly sent outside again when her first audition does not go as expected. And in Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life (US 1959), it is a very literal breakthrough that takes the aspiring actress through the barrier between the waiting room and the theater agent’s office, and then into her first engagement and a seat in the dressing room. What these examples show is that most film characters experience the backstage as a space of limited and difficult access and admission. They also show that while these limits are experienced by many film characters and by the average theatergoer, they are not experienced by the average cinemagoer who is constantly enabled to observe the characters’ struggles both outside and inside the theater and who is taken wherever the film will lead: through the stage entrance, behind the scenes, into one dressing room and into the next, on stage and back behind the scenes, from the stalls to the front row and back into another dressing room, without encountering any of the barriers that are instead placed in front of the ingénues and enthusiasts onscreen.6

4 Another interesting example, slightly older, is Gregory LaCava’s film Stage Door (US 1937), in which a large group of innocent and not-so-innocent ingénues spends more than half of the film far removed from any stage or dressing-room door, waiting for their first engagement, before one of them gets the chance to pass on to the other side of those doors and from there on to the stage where all the others want to be as well. 5 Joseph L. Mankiewicz, All About Eve: a screenplay (based on the story by Mary Orr); Joseph L. Mankiewicz, More About All About Eve: a colloquy with Gary Carey. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1974, pp. 109–279, p. 123. 6 The movements described here can be found in various films about the theater, among them Topsy-Turvy by Mike Leigh (UK 1998) and The Phantom of the Opera by Joel Schumacher (US 2004).

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4 Gazes If these stories of access and exclusion are literally told in passing, i.e., as part of a larger story and en route to other plot developments, they nevertheless serve to establish a fundamental difference between two types of spectatorship—and between two types of perspectives, one theatrical and one cinematic, marked by the opposing qualities of static and mobile. Every time the mobility of cinematic perspective becomes evident onscreen—and every time it is played out against the far less mobile perspective that determines the spectator’s position in the theater—a film also enacts the dichotomy of static vs. mobile, fixed vs. flexible, by which the theatrical and the cinematic gaze have been differentiated for a long time: “Movies are regarded as advancing from theatrical stasis to cinematic fluidity, from theatrical artificiality to cinematic naturalness and immediacy.”7 As a matter of fact, there is no dichotomy that has been more important (and more decisive) for early film theory than the one just described. Starting with Dziga Vertov’s famous invective against the “laziness” and the “inefficiency” of the gaze from the theater stalls (“[…] how many people, starved for spectacles, are wearing away the seats of their pants in theaters?”)8 and moving on to Rudolf Arnheim’s enthusiastic description of travel between spaces and settings by way of montage (“[…] a moment ago, I may have been standing a hundred yards away …”)9, film theory of the 1920s and 1930s celebrates the mobility of the gaze and the dynamic conception of space, which is addressed both in Walter Benjamin’s famous “Work of Art” essay and in Erwin Panofsky’s résumé of film theory in the 1930s, Style and Medium in the Motion Pictures: “The spectator […] occupies a fixed seat, but only physically, not as the subject of an aesthetic experience. Aesthetically, he is in permanent motion, as his eye identifies itself with the lens of the camera, which permanently shifts in distance and direction.”10 Ever since the 1940s, the opposition of cinematic and theatrical spectatorship and the insistence that the filmic gaze should be considered superior due to its mobility has lost much of its importance for film theory. (In the early 1950s, André Bazin described a constant change of filmic perspectives or settings as one of many forms “in which the cinema proceeds to overcompensate by the ‘superiority’ of its

7 Susan Sontag, Film and Theatre, quoted in: Robert Knopf (ed.), Theatre and Film, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004, pp. 134–151, p. 135. 8 Dziga Vertov, The Resolution of the Council of Three, in: Annette Michelson (ed.) Kino-Eye. The Writings of Dziga Vertov, Berkeley, CA / Los Angeles, CA / London: University of California Press, 1984, pp. 13­–21, p. 19. 9 Rudolf Arnheim, Film as Art, Berkeley, CA / Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1957, p. 21. 10 Erwin Panofsky, Style and Medium in the Motion Pictures, in: Gerald Mast, Marshall Cohen (eds.), Film Theory and Criticism. Introductory Readings, Oxford / London: Oxford University Press, 1994, pp. 151­–169, p. 155.


 Stefanie Diekmann

Fig. 2: A rebuke for the producer: the successful reinstatement of spatial boundaries signals the successful reinstatement of the leading man’s confidence

technique”.)11 But it is also true that while film theory has moved on to other topics, film itself still reenacts the well-known dichotomy whenever it marks the backstage of the theater as a space where only a few characters are allowed to move as freely as the filmic gaze. In Seaton’s The Country Girl, freedom of movement is limited to the actor, his wife, the director, and to the producer who storms in and out of rooms and who clearly regards the theater as his very own sphere of control. However, it is the same producer who will stand corrected and rebuked at the end of the film when the leading man imposes new rules of behavior in his dressing room and who barely makes it out the dressing room door after the distribution of powers has been literally realigned. In films about the theater, how well characters maintain control over their rooms and how successfully they fend off all attempts to cross the threshold without permission is generally a good indication of their standing. (If they have their dressing room at all. If they do not, they have not yet reached the level of full individuation or solo status among the dramatis personae.) The reinstatement of Crosby’s leading man is thus confirmed when he reestablishes the spatial boundaries that have been ignored before (fig. 2). Of course, the scene of rebuke is witnessed by the film audience, just as the film audience will witness the conversation that follows the producer’s exit, the conversation that preceded the actor’s reinstatement, and a number of backstage encounters from which even some of the film’s protagonists are excluded. The “ideal position of intelligibility”, which David Bordwell has described as Hollywood cinema’s standard

11 André Bazin, Theater and Cinema – Part One, in: idem, What is Cinema?, Essays selected and trans. by Hugh Gray, Berkeley, CA / Los Angeles, CA / London: University of California Press, 1967, pp. 76­–94, p. 87.

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offer to its spectators,12 is implicitly competitive in most films about the backstage: played out against other perspectives and other gazes—most obviously against the gaze of those who are bound to their fixed seat and perspective in the theater auditorium.

5 Investigation Whatever happens backstage is supposedly better. The tagline for the Canadian TV series Slings & Arrows, “The real show happens backstage”,13 could also be used to describe more generally the filmic approach toward everything that goes on behind the scenes. To the cinema, the hidden spectacle is the secret spectacle, and, because it is secret, also the better one—more intense, more dramatic, more immediate as well— not only because the characters that are part of it seem to be oblivious of acting in front of an audience (which is never the case when they are on stage) but also because their drama seems to unfold without any or with very few witnesses. George Seaton’s The Country Girl illustrates this very well. While there is always a crowd in the auditorium of the Broadway theater when the fictional play The Land Outside is being performed, and while there is also a number of spectators present when the play is being rehearsed (in the stalls we see the director, the producer, the stage and wardrobe designers, various assistants, photographers, reporters, etc.), the encounters that take place on the other side remain largely unnoticed, and nobody but the protagonists and the film audience are present whenever big scenes are acted out in the dressing room (fig. 3). As I pointed out, there are three of these scenes, plus a number of confrontations in settings outside the theater (the actor’s apartment, a hotel room, a passageway behind the Boston theater where the production is being ‘tested’ before the New York opening). And the film presents the ongoing conflicts between the actor, his wife, and the director as a far more interesting and intriguing drama than the somewhat whimsical musical performed by the company. The musical has songs, choreography, cardboard houses, exits and entrances, and a few solos by the leading man. The backstage has tears, slaps, close-ups and breakdowns, confessions and closely guarded secrets slowly coming to light. “[W]hat is hidden is for us Westerners more ‘true’ than what is visible,” writes Roland Barthes.14

12 David Bordwell, Janet Staiger, Kristin Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema. Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960, New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1985, p. 54. 13 “Slings and Arrows”; IMDB, (accessed January 20, 2014). 14 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida. Reflections on Photography, trans. Richard Howard, New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 1981, p. 100.


 Stefanie Diekmann

Fig. 3: No audience or a very small audience: the backstage drama has a lot to do with the illusion of privacy.

As a matter of fact, the motif of hiding, present in all backstage drama, is literalized almost excessively in The Country Girl. “Stop putting on a front,” says Georgie, the wife, to her husband-actor Frank, shortly before their conflict reaches its first climax.15 But besides the “front” Frank puts up to hide his insecurity, stage fright, alcohol problem, etc., and besides the false stories he tells to hide the truth about his past and present guilt, the film also introduces a number of manifest hiding places: pockets and drawers, curtains with spaces and shelves behind them, boots where an extra bottle is kept in case the others are discovered and taken away. There is always an investigative streak in backstage drama, and these investigations have as their preferred targets those for whom “putting on a front” is sometimes a strategy but always a job description. By definition, stage actors are experts in masquerade and makebelieve, and according to films like The Country Girl, theatrical masquerade comes with a truth behind it waiting to be approached and uncovered. In The Country Girl, much of the investigation is carried out by the director trying to discover more about his leading man whom he does not know nearly as well as he thought. In other films, the investigation may be initiated by a professional or, more often, a self-appointed detective like Sir John Menier (Herbert Marshall) in Alfred Hitchcock’s Murder (UK 1930), Eve Gill (Jane Wyman) in Stage Fright (US 1950) by the same director, and Miss Jane Marple (Margaret Rutherford) in Murder Most Foul (UK 1960) by George Pollock. There are not as many detective stories in the history of backstage films as one might expect (you will find a much larger number of backstage narratives in crime fiction).16 But those that exist enhance the claim at the heart of all plots that prefer the world behind the scenes to that which is located on stage: that

15 George Seaton, The Country Girl, (US 1954); 1.02.54. 16 Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and Anne Perry have all written stories about the vices (crimes, schemes) that lurk offstage or behind the scenes; Marsh may even be called a writer who specialized in theaters as crime scenes and backstages as the settings of investigation.

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there is something more to be found behind every theater performance; that every theater stage (and theater actor) is a “front” shielding a more or less abysmal truth; that it is the cinema’s supposed business to reveal what the theater will not show out of its own accord.

6 Topology The stories of hide-and-seek, pretense and truth, public gaze and secret insight are not independent from the setting where they take place. As a matter of fact, they require a specific conceptualization of theatrical space and architecture based on the model of the théâtre à l’italienne: a closed space with a covered auditorium, and, more importantly, a three-partite topography of auditorium, stage, and backstage, a curtain which serves as a temporary screen to the stage, and a décor which serves to specify the time and place of the play but also to separate the stage from everything that surrounds it. (“It is precisely in virtue of this locus dramaticus that décor exists,” writes Bazin. “It serves in greater or less degree to set the place apart.”)17 The théâtre à l’italienne is essentially a place of divisions: between stalls and ranks, between ranks and boxes, between the auditorium and the stage (divided by the gilt proscenium arch, the ramp, the footlights, and the curtain) and between the stage and the backstage (divided by the backdrop, the décor, the wings). “The stage is the line which stands across the line of the optic pencil, tracing at once the point where it is brought to a stop, and the point of its ramifications.”18 Of course, the cinema is in love with the classical theater’s red and gold, its chandeliers, stucco, mirror walls, and plush seats.19 But its preference for traditional and anachronistic theater architecture is grounded in something deeper than surface aesthetics: the fact that it is only here, within the topology of front and back, seen and unseen, stage action and backstage activity, that the tales of investigation can be unfolded. If the Greek and the Elizabethan theater play but a small role in the film history of theater plots, this applies even more to modern theater spaces like the black box, the converted locations of contemporary theater (warehouses, workshops, garages), or the everyday settings of site-specific performance, i.e., all architecture which does not accommodate the basic divisions of the classical theater as it has been

17 André Bazin, Theater and Cinema – Part Two, quoted in: idem 1967 (as in note 10) pp. 95–124, p. 104. 18 Roland Barthes, Diderot, Brecht, Eisenstein, in: Roland Barthes, Image, Music, Text. Essays selected and translated by Stephen Heath, New York, NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1978, pp. 69–78, p. 69. 19 For a more extended discussion of the théatre à l’italienne see George Banu, Le rouge et or. Une poétique du théâtre à l’italienne, Paris: Flammarion, 1989.


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described by Bazin, Barthes, and others. However, there is probably no better illustration of the théâtre à l’italienne’s suggestive topology than a famous filmmaker’s description of his first visit to the theater. “I was positively hypnotized by the drop curtain, painted as an imitation of red and gold draperies,” writes Jean Renoir: “What dreadful mysteries lay behind it?”20 Dreadful mysteries: In The Country Girl, they are less terrible than elsewhere but still dreaded by the protagonist and still confined to the inner realms of a theater architecture which, although it comes without most of the red and gold which so fascinated young Renoir, still offers the basic divisions of curtain and décor, ramp and backdrop, and a stage which “stands across the line of the optic pencil” (Barthes). The Broadway theater where the rehearsals and the New York opening of The Land Outside, the play-within-the-film, take place, is only superficially different from the Baroque theater in Renoir’s own Le carrosse d’or (F 1952), the Boulevard du Temple theater in Marcel Carnés Les enfants du paradis (F 1943/45), or Warsaw’s National Theater in Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be Or Not to Be (US 1942): They all enable the film to reenact the detective work of looking and looking closer, of searching and finding, accessing the hiding places, and exposing whatever lies in the half-light that surrounds the illuminated stage. To this day, European cinema has maintained its preference for a more ‘conservative’ theater topography—and for an anachronistic imagery, often legitimated by historical settings: Paris in the 1940s in François Truffaut’s Le dernier metro (F 1980), London in the 1940s in Stephen Frears’s Mrs Henderson Presents, Paris in the seventeenth century in Véra Belmont’s Marquise (F 1997), London in the seventeenth century in Laurence Dunmore’s The Libertine (UK 2004) and Richard Eyre’s Stage Beauty (UK/US 2004), eighteenth-century France in Ettore Scola’s Il viaggio di Capitan Fracassa (I/F 1990), nineteenth-century London in Mike Leigh’s Topsy-Turvy (UK 1999) and Arnaud Desplechin’s Esther Kahn (F/UK 2000), and many more examples in recent film. However, even if a film director chooses to tell the story of a more contemporary theater production and its backstage secrets, contemporariness rarely extends to theatrical space itself—probably because both backstage and secrecy are harder to accommodate in the settings and spaces contemporary theater has preferred since the 1960s. (This has never been a problem for a film director like Jacques Rivette who, deeply fascinated by theater and secrecy alike, replaces the backstage with a general atmosphere of conspiracy and intrigue. But Rivette is a rare case, and in many films since the 1970s, the conceptualization of theatrical space is not so different from early works like Büchse der Pandora [G 1929], Der Blaue Engel [G 1929] or Applause [US 1929]).

20 Jean Renoir, Renoir, My Father, Boston, MA, 1961; quoted in: Leo Braudy, Jean Renoir. The World of His Films, New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 65.

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7 Confession If the historical setting is less present in American backstage films, the reason may well be that American theater is in itself anachronistic, at least the Broadway type of American theater, which is present in many works, from Gregory La Cava’s Stage Door (US 1937) to Louis Malle’s Vanya on 42nd Street (US 1994). To say that American filmmakers like their theater Broadway style means that they like the familiar topography and, if possible, the splendid architecture of traditional theater buildings but also the hierarchic order of star and supporting actors, the heterogeneous cast brought together for a specific production only, the short production spans, the pressure of time and the demand for success, and the overall competition for attention, money, audiences, and recognition that shapes so many films about success and failure on Broadway.21 The musical production in The Country Girl has all of these features, most notably the demands of success and the pressure on the leading man who does not quite know how to meet his director’s expectations. In a twist typical for many backstage dramas, the claims made on the main character in the fictitious show The Land Outside correspond to the demands made on the struggling actor: be a leader, put on a brave face, make them believe in you, and if you have managed to make them believe in you, do not disappoint them. In this rather simplistic form of “double plot”,22 the same conflict is acted out both on stage and backstage, with the decisive difference that the first enactment is presented as a public and the second as a very secret spectacle, confined to the inner realms of the theater and, mostly, the inner struggles of the protagonist. If you want to know what is inside (or: what goes on inside) go to the dressing room. The Country Girl follows this rule very strictly, not only by choosing the dressing room as the locale for confrontations between the protagonists but also by making it the locale for the grand scene of self-revelation. It is in the dressing room, not in his home (or: a hotel room, a bar, etc.) where the actor-protagonist is moved to the final confession of guilt that precedes his reinstatement as a stage artist. Released from a burden of make-believe that extends far beyond the stage, he will then, very predictably, move on to a successful performance and to a more sincere approach toward his

21 European and especially German subsidized theater, with its repertoire and established companies, works differently, both in reality and in film. The pressure is less acute, the time frames are different, and there are always several productions that run parallel to each other at the same theater while new ones are being rehearsed. 22 For a very concise explanation of Empson’s difficult concept of “double plot” see: Pamela McCallum, Figural Narrative and Plot Construction. Empson on Pastoral, in: Christopher Norris, Nigel Mapp (eds.), William Empson. The Critical Achievement. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, pp. 195–212.


 Stefanie Diekmann

life both in and outside the theater. However, this requires that he first be submitted to the filmic display of interiority in a well-established setting. There is perhaps no locale in film history, except the domestic interiors of melodrama, which serves more often as the backdrop for breakdowns, self-accusation, or displays of the ‘true self’ than the dressing room in backstage films. Terry Randall (Katherine Hepburn) confesses to ambition and superficiality in LaCava’s Stage Door (US 1937), Eve (Anne Baxter) reveals her true intentions in J.L. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve (US 1950), Marion (Catherine Deneuve) finally confesses her love for Bernard in Truffaut’s Le dernier metro (F 1980) just as Julia (Annette Benning) confesses her love for Tom in István Szabós’s Being Julia (UK/US 2004); Terry du Bois (John Sessions) confesses his homosexuality in Kenneth Branagh’s In the Bleak Midwinter (UK 1995); Henrik Höfgen (Klaus Maria Brandauer) displays his crazy fear and greed in Szabós’s Mephisto (G 1981); leading lady Marcelline (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) reveals her longing for motherhood in Actrices (F 2006); the cast of The Mikado show their small weaknesses and serious addictions in Mike Leigh’s Topsy-Turvy (UK 1998); and Frank Elgin (Bing Crosby), leading man and aging actor, confesses to being a bad father, a bad husband, and an alcoholic who uses his family as an excuse for his drinking problem.

8 Mirrors and Screens It may take a while but usually the confession will happen sooner or later, and more often than not, it happens in the dressing room and in front of the dressing room mirror (fig. 4 and 5). In this aspect, The Country Girl is no exception to the rule. As a matter of fact, the actor’s confessional monologue, delivered in a head-and-shoulder shot, is filmed almost from the position of the mirror itself, i.e., that corner of the room where the mirror has been placed in the preceding shots. The implicated witness of the confession, the first addressee of the actor’s self-description and self-accusation is thus the very same object that, until then, has served to support his attempts at make-believe and masquerade. The qualities of the dressing room mirror lie exactly in this ambivalence, or rather: this temporary ambiguity, which characterizes both the object itself and the locale in which it is placed. In many films about the theater (including Seaton’s), the dressing room is first presented as a setting of continuous playacting, of masquerade and pretense, different from the stage only in that the performance can be watched up close. After a while, however, the effects of playacting and masquerade wear thin, the “front” (Georgie to Frank) comes down, and the dressing room finds itself transformed into a showcase of hidden feelings and fears just as the dressing room mirror is transformed into a symbol of self-recognition and revelation. The ambiguity of place and object, room and mirror, which rarely lasts until the end of the film when the dressing room is converted into a special version of “inti

Scenes from the Dressing Room: Theatrical Interiors in Fiction Film 


Fig. 4 and 5: An actor confesses: the mirror is present to witness the shift from makebelieve to self-realization.

mate theater” where feelings are displayed at close range,23 has its third example in the folding screen. Like the mirror, the folding screen serves as a standard element among furnishings of the dressing room, and it represents the same duality of hide and seek, falsehood and truth, masquerade and exposure temporalized in all film narratives that work toward a moment of revelation behind the scenes. The fact that in The Country Girl the folding screen is absent from the very beginning indicates that the possibilities of putting up a front and taking refuge behind a façade are limited from the outset onwards. This film has a clear agenda, and even if the protagonist is allowed some time to go about his business of pretense and masquerade, the setting is already prepared for a scene of exposure to which putting up a front is but a prelude.

23 The aesthetics of “intimate theater” are spelled out in August Strindberg, Preface to Miss Julie, published by Joseph Seligmann, Stockholm, together with the play (1988), quoted in: Egil Törnqvist, Brigitta Steene (eds.), Strindberg on Drama and Theatre. A Source Book, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2008, pp. 62–72.


 Stefanie Diekmann

No matter how hard they try, they cannot hope to escape the law of exposure or the rules of engagement that demand that few stage actors (and actresses) will be lucky enough to leave a backstage film in one piece.24 The cinematic fascination with theatrical topography and the locale behind the scenes is closely linked to a conception of the theatrical subject that demands that behind every bright or radiant appearance lies a true self that is less attractive and sometimes downright contemptible. This is not how they appear on stage but it is usually how they will be shown in the realm of the backstage, shielded from the eyes in the stalls but never from the eyes in the cinema auditorium where another type of spectator awaits the display of interiority, acted out for the camera.

24 Some exceptions to the rule: Maria Tura (Carole Lombard) in Lubitsch’s To Be or Not To Be (US 1942), Camilla (Anna Magnani) in Renoir’s Le carrosse d’or (F 1953), Camille in Jacques Rivette’s Va savoir (F 2001).


Anselm Haverkamp

In/Doors: The Dialectic of Inside and Outside* As an entrance, I take the door: a formal feature of non-symbolic reference and value, which regulates in paintings the literal interior of a represented room’s relation to its presupposed outside, its spatial environment. The theoretically interesting point of this thematic device is the sharp split between its non-symbolic character and the thematizing role and descriptive force of its function. The thematization of function appears in the interieur to be curiously inbuilt into the function of representation. Let me therefore begin with some preliminary, general remarks in order to situate the interiority we find thematized in the interieur as genre of pictorial representation. The mode of a clearly marked pictorial function leads into the center of our theories and uses of pictures in general. The theory of images is complicated by the fact that the image as such, the pure image, does not exist. Where there are images, they develop and form, say, as imagination or formation. The much-celebrated ‘dialectic’ of the image, of model and copy—Ur-bild and Ab-bild in Gadamer’s distinction—amounts to an implicit orientation of the conception of the image (which therefore qualifies as a ‘negative dialectic’ in Adorno’s elaboration) in likenesses of, imaginings in, and formations to.1 The paradoxical constitution of the image, implied in the negative dialectics of its conception, renders the image, as the process and result of its formative forces, more an inner-image than an outer-image. It is the “conceptual tendency of (or within) seeing” itself, rather than the spellbound world driven into the outside (taken as an outside given), which asserts itself in the image.2 Historically—and, that is, not only in a purely ‘phenomenological reduction’—this inherent tendency, which might be re-described psycho-analytically as the ‘inclination of the drive’ [Triebhang] which forms part of a rhetorical process in whose movement (dynamics, kinetics) that which is reduced in phenomenological description proper becomes ‘historical’ in a new sense, which is to say: in its corruption through actual investments (cathexes), this tendency brings about what we call ‘history’, cuts it off, separates and isolates it, gives it a finite ‘gestalt’ or ‘character’. History in this sense is a residue of the splitting, and the image’s mode of comprehension is its only, decisive witness. It is thus in the discursive history of modernity, in which a “confusion of representation and sentiment” lets the images linger and persevere in a self-mis-understanding, most accu-

* Rewritten in English, adapted and expanded for the occasion from Figura cryptica. Theorie der literarischen Latenz, chapter 11: “Innenleben” (1998), Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2002. 1 Hans-Georg Gadamer, Wahrheit und Methode, Tübingen: Mohr, 1960, p. 135, see Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialektik, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1966, p. 138. 2 Gottfried Boehm, Bildsinn und Sinnesorgane, in: Neue Hefte für Philosophie 18/19 (1980), pp. 118– 132, p. 124.


 Anselm Haverkamp

rately analyzed by Louis Marin, of the false exteriority of outer-images.3 In short, the meaning and grammar of ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ is situated on different planes of being within a painting: of what it means when we say something is in a picture. The extent, to which the inner-image, as an outer-picture, presents a quasi-transcendental confusion with itself, becomes particularly obvious in the reception of the genuinely modern genre of interieurs, and accordingly, in a paradoxical countermove to this genre’s constitution, any ‘conceptual art’ was bound to become minimalistic. Minimal art, I mean to imply (if only in passing and ever so briefly), seems to offer the evacuated, naked space of former interiors. As an answer to this setting, the unavoidability of pictures that is celebrated in and as a turn or pictorial re-turn, has found its last blossoming in the installation-culture, on whose reverse side the withdrawal of images goes along, peacefully and in pre-established harmony, with a generalized withdrawal of history. The interieur, inner-image of outer passion, may have constituted the Cartesian cogito itself in view of the extended world, the res extensa outside of itself, as Wolfgang Kemp has suggested.4 The apparent complementarity of interieur and landscape proves this suspicion, even without having to take a firmer, generic form.

1 The mise-en-scène of Descartes’s cogito emblematizes the mutual interplay of interieur and landscape in a most convenient manner: the interieur grounds landscape as implicit reference—as in-plied, though excluded, focus. In landscape, the interieur finds the ‘supplement’ (as in Rousseau and Derrida) of its imaginary activity and reflects itself (its self, to be more precise) as the figura cryptica of its subject-constitution. Landscape, on the other hand, does not only, as field of reflection, pre-suppose the focal point of the organizing perspective but develops, step-bystep, the figure of its interiorizing force. Every landscape implies, even figures, to a certain degree the scheme of an un-painted interieur, in which a cogito encapsulates, “houses”, itself; thus Hegel’s metaphor for the self-interiorizing subjectivity. In the space of this house, Adorno found the bourgeois subject subjected to its nihilist state of existence. No wonder Edgar Allan Poe, in his satirical essay “The Philosophy of

3 Louis Marin, La critique du discours. Sur la logique de Port-Royal et les pensées de Pascal, Paris: Minuit, 1975, p. 200. 4 Wolfgang Kemp, Beziehungsbeispiele: Versuch einer Gattungspoetik des Interieurs, parallel essay to the first version of the present paper, in: Sabine Schulze (ed.), Innenleben. Die Kunst des Interieurs von Vermeer bis Kabakov, exhibition catalogue, Frankfurt am Main (Ostfildern, 1998), pp. 17–29, p. 19; reprinted in: Kilian Heck (ed.), Cornelia Jöchner, Kemp-Reader – Ausgewählte Schriften von Wolfgang Kemp, Munich / Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2006, pp. 123–138.

In/Doors: The Dialectic of Inside and Outside 


Furniture” had come, as a consequence of his devastating verdict on the American inability to furnish an interieur—“The Yankees alone are preposterous” is his harsh judgment—to the recommendation of a considerate use of landscapes in decoration, “chiefly landscapes of an imaginary cast”, as he put it (instead of the predominant heroic monumentalism of his day)—an imaginary cast, which would offer to the housed subject the mental opportunity of an imaginary jogging in the dimension of the available res extensae.5 In doors the interieur opens up onto the indeterminacy of outer spaces or it opens into the receding depths of further interiors. What one sees through doors is contingent cut-outs of unknown proximity and of unintuitable extension, a carefully staged contingency. Streets and landscapes would not, and could not, show through them, as they do from the secured distance of windows. In doors, thus, the interieur opens the door to itself, toward an inside that lies inside the realm of an outside without ever being absorbed in it. As the inside of a hollow body—technically, as it were, a most striking case of ‘iconic difference’ according to Gottfried Boehm—the interieur has as perspectival viewpoint a spectator gazing upon given conditions of visibility, conditions that the painter fulfills by looking into, or entering into the interior and thus producing the image cut-out. Undisturbed by this, the world lies in front of the doorsteps, in the contingency of an unmoved mover that has retreated into pure objectivity, visible only in the cut-up scraps that come into being through windows and doors. The whole of the world may lie in God’s hands or in the nature of things. But it does not lie in the interieur—all the less so, the more certain one is of the contingency of its de-centeredness. Naturally, the nature that reveals itself through doors and windows alike is historically firmly determined, bearing the traces of its discovery in the form of an intuition, whose splinters lie before the door as aspects of landscape.6 Within the city, nature bears the genuine features of public-oriented privacy, a thoroughly bourgeois ‘public sphere’.7 Looking out upon markets, places, streets, and landscapes, the interieur limits itself to itself; none of these ever enter the interieur but, on the contrary, they demand the better knowledge of those accustomed to stepping out of the house. And while the city maintains and consolidates its established borders, landscape loses itself in the infinite. Both of these—boundedness and infinite extent—remain outside, communicating discontinuously with the interior space in a ‘dialectic of dismemberment’ (Bachelard’s term) that lies within the limited or limitless outside spaces as the

5 Edgar Allan Poe, The Philosophy of Furniture (1840), Selected Writings, David Galloway (ed.), Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1967, pp. 414–420, p. 414, 419. 6 Joachim Ritter, Landschaft (1963), in: Subjektivität, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1974, on the priority of reception in landscape perception through the moment of its discovery. 7 Jürgen Habermas, Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit, Neuwied: Luchterhand, 1962; Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1974.


 Anselm Haverkamp

Fig. 1: Diego Velàzquez, Las Meninas, 1656, oil on canvas, 321 × 281 cm, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado.

inside of space.8 It is not clear how, or even that, this inside lies within the space, in which it comes to lie as something inner, in-side. Which is to say, it comes to lie in it in a metaphorical, almost Shakespearean fashion of ‘lying’. One might add, this

8 Gaston Bachelard, Poétique de l’espace, Paris: Gallimard, 1960, whose ‘dialectic’ is discussed more thoroughly in the second part of the present essay.

In/Doors: The Dialectic of Inside and Outside 


is a figure of an almost Wittgensteinian “lying as” (a “seeing as” in reverse), which pictures iconic difference in the confused state, which Bachelard calls ‘dialectic’. Marin’s “confusion of representation and sentiment”, thus, is the subject matter of Bachelard’s “dialectic of dismemberment”. The structure of the outside world does not enter the interieur under its own conditions. This is why landscape was declared to be unpolitical, and that is even correct insofar as it defies a concept of the political that presupposes the perspective of the exterior space and posits the latter as objective mode of givenness. A picture such as Velázquez’s court-image Las Meninas shows what the later interieur has not become and could not become: a political inner-space whose door, opened to the outside, doubtlessly posits, rather than merely presupposes: an outside world in the same perfect perspective as the inside. The king’s steward, who is standing in the door, opens the curtain upon an empty view, or simply lets the curtain fall down; he might be coming or going, it does not matter: it is the order of access to the world lying behind it that is at the center here. Across from the door, in the vanishing point of the glances that give the room its perspective, lies the center of the world that in the mirror next to the door—as a condition of the visibility of this room, as well as that of the world that is reigned over from it—becomes visible with it: the sovereign couple.  Thus, one might say, in Velázquez’s painting the world functions under the conditions of painting, conditions under which the painter paints the image, and which in this picture he uses for no other purpose than blocking, with the rear side of the canvas, a merely technical crux of perspectival representation: the left, dark corner opposite the door, the corner that would otherwise have thwarted the perfection of the perspective. The interieur of the Meninas is, as a space, what it could not become within another, surrounding space: the antechamber of the interior: that from which everything on the outside first becomes space. That the modern subject only had to enter—or to imagine entering—the latency of this interior, and thus enter into the role of the king, is, as much as Foucault suggested, not affirmed by the history of the later interieurs.9 On the contrary, Las Meninas exhibits the historical moment, in which inner-space rules over its outer-space as room and realm and asserts the sovereign’s sove-reignty in space. The technical interest of this moment, elaborated by Velázquez as image, is the pivot around which the as yet undecided paradox of inner-space perpetually turns— that of dominating outer-space, or having to disappear in it.10 Unbounded, the room rules as the center of its expansion. The technical crux that the mirror, with the help of which Velázquez maintains balance, has to minimize massively in order to be able

9 Michel Foucault, Les mots et les choses, Paris: Gallimard, 1966, p. 30. Admittedly, Foucault was not writing a history of the interieur. 10 Svetlana Alpers, The Art of Describing, Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press, 1983, p. 70, situates the paradox in a radical bifurcation of the history of painting’s modes of representation.


 Anselm Haverkamp

Fig. 2: Jan van Eyck, The Arnolfini Wedding, 1434, oil on wood, 60 × 82.2 cm, London, National Gallery.

In/Doors: The Dialectic of Inside and Outside 


to capture the sovereign couple and is offset by the fact that it can only re-produce what the canvas on the front-side is about to deliver through the representational capacity of painting.11 There is an undecidable difference between the directly mirrored monarch and the one who is pre-mirrored in the painting; it can but co-affirm the monarch’s power in, as well as through, re-presentation. The painting not only depicts this kind of power, but sets it to work; it participates in the performative of power that is exposed in it over and over again. This moment of a performative taking part—of mimesis by way of synecdoche—is enacted in the prehistory of the interieur in a different but equally illuminating way, in Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Wedding about 200 years earlier. In this picture we find another, but just as groundbreaking, fundamental performative moment captured, this time in the faithful recording of an early bourgeois wedding engagement. Here the representation participates in the act as a witness to its juridical accomplishment. In a similarly situated, centered mirror the painter completes the interior by adding the room’s other half, the half not representable by the perspective, from the viewpoint of the represented couple. In the non-painted but implied supplement, the consummation—symbolically co-consummated in front of actual witnesses—becomes complete through a joining of the halves.12 The witnesses stand across from the mirror and the couple, in a door that presents nothing else but the becoming public of the juridical moment and that includes the outsideworld not as space but as the public sphere, which gains in this representation its juridico-political format. The door does not allow for a view, and the view that the windows allow by doubling the image, as well as the mirror show only yet another piece of spaceless outer-signification: the blossoms of the marriage-garden in particular, the fruits of which already lie—lying again, and allegorically so—inside.

11 John R. Searle, Las Meninas and the Paradoxes of Pictorial Representation, in: Critical Inquiry 6 (1980), pp. 477–488, also in W. J. Thomas Mitchell (ed.), The Language of Images, Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press, 1980, pp. 247–258. Searle dissolves the identified paradoxes by stating that the painting, whose reverse side we see, is  the same as the one we have in front of us in the painting. This is a possible, maybe even probable, over-interpretation, but it is not a necessary one and thus not imperative; for the painting in front of us presents only one among several potential paintings—including those that never have been realized—in which the mirrored couple rules over the viewpoint (255). Searle is after pure paradoxes of representation that are in conformity with Foucault’s hypothesis; he does not recognize the image as a room-paradox or as a paradox of conflicting rooms and thereby misses—he of all people—the performative point of the Meninas. He reduces the latter to an achievement of the painter, which has to do with the limitation of the representational logic that is part of his own speech act theory too, and whose archaeology is Foucault’s topic. Which perfectly qualifies his interpretation again for an unexpected allegoresis. 12 Wolfgang Kemp, Die Räume der Maler. Zur Bilderzählung seit Giotto, Munich: Beck, 1996, p. 106. Edwin Hall, The Arnolfini Betrothal. Medieval Marriage and the Enigma of Van Eyck’s Double Portrait, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994, p. 83. Hall emphasizes the act of representation by stressing the oath in the engagement.


 Anselm Haverkamp

Fig. 3: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Harvesters, 1565, oil on wood, 117 × 160 cm, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

If in Velázquez it is the consummation itself in which the picture takes part, in van Eyck the image forms the supplement of the consummation by functioning as a witness.  The interior room, whose performative structure shows such variable scope—over the rest of the known world, or in the core of the marriage—is also not yet the later interieur. Yet it proves that its representation is not a question of technical approximation: of a measurable reality by way of perspectival space; but that, on the contrary, this representation has an interested stake in a specific ‘concept of reality’. It is constitutive of the historical concept of the interieur that in it the dialectical dismemberment of outside and inside becomes the signature of a ‘conception’ of reality, to echo Blumenberg’s term. This reality-concept is indeed modern, insofar as its place is the modern subject, the subject’s disempowerment and its alienation rather than a guaranteed share in some given order of things. In and under conditions of the interieur, the subject under-lies—as a sub-iectum—a reality that had its site in van Eyck’s and Velázquez’s inside, but from now on precisely this site is what is lacking in the emergence of the later interieurs proper. As open as it might pretend to be—see here Austin on ‘pretending’—the interieur cuts itself off and makes emerge within itself the receding flights of further interior 

In/Doors: The Dialectic of Inside and Outside 


rooms.13 It is not as if there were an intention toward inwardness that caused this involution of the subject—the inwardness emerges, in fact, by way of involution— but there is, closer to home, a fending off of the outside. The interieur negates, even denies, the latency, the impertinence, and the menace of the outside, against a spatial construction that is forced upon it from the outside and seems objectively superior to it. The order of things that is ruled by the King as well as by the Law, and which sets monarchical or juridical space into an image, strikes back against the room that lies enfolded in this king- and law-abandoned interior. The autonomy of the interieur that would be found in the baroque monad—without any doors or windows—was no issue in the painters’ interieurs.14 The interieur has always to do with the outside, is subjected to it—even in the remainders of the spatial perspective that act upon it from the outside, enter into it, pass through it. Thus, the interieur does not become an autonomous space; it remains a paradoxical non-space within the space that is its outside. Like a crypt in the totality of an absolutely posited space, on whose surface it shows itself—in iconic difference, in short—the interieur unfolds a ghostly life of its own, absorbed into a third dimension, in which it, at the same time, does not participate. For otherwise than in the genre to which it seems to correspond, and with which it seems to be thematically consistent—that of landscape—the interieur resists the spatial construction at its basis; it has ceased to rule over this construction. Landscape, on the other hand, remains a concept of second nature. Civilized within the limits of the city, it signals nothing but brutal power outside of the gates: distant castles and towers or walls that dominate or undermine domination, subject to or revolt against subjection. No landscape that would not lend itself, if under protest, to the general allegorical concerns from which the interieur seeks to escape. Thus, Bruegel’s The Harvesters in the New York Metropolitan Museum includes the early scenery of peasant life and inscribes into the landscape, in paths and trails, fields and meadows, the traces of an age-old process of cultivation; it highlights in and as landscape cultural traits as space and presents space as the deep structure of cultural achievements.15 Even the fictitious, formerly divine perspective on the created world cannot but authorize with its theological past a hidden implicature, which shows itself in landscape as no longer developed sub specie aeternitatis. Instead, the eye of the beholder enjoys the divine right of observation and might meditate on the beautiful coincidence of the visible world with the world revealed. Landscape offers a last

13 See J. L. Austin, Pretending (1957), in: Collected Papers, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962, pp. 201–219, p. 217 seq. 14 Gilles Deleuze, Le pli. Leibniz et le baroque, Paris: Minuit, 1988, p. 39, whose theory of immanence derives from this construct. 15 Anselm Haverkamp, Entwining the Inside in the Outside. The Sub-Structure of Landscape, in: Shirana Shahbazi, Aude Lehmann, Tan Wälchli, Tirdad Zolghadr (eds.), Accept the Expected, exhibition catalogue, Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva (Cologne, 2005), pp. 61–68.


 Anselm Haverkamp

Fig. 4: Johannes Vermeer, Girl Asleep at the Table, 1657, oil on canvas, 88 × 77 cm, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

theodicy, with the weakness of a world corrupted before time, but with a vast possibility of reinvestment. In landscapes, the recollection of lost utopias, of withdrawn auras and golden grounds, from which it once arose, remains possible. Not so in the emerging art of interieurs. Entering the painted space of the flat canvas, the interieur crosses out the perspective with which it was painted on a surface: as its topos remains the tabula rasa. In what seems to be a peculiar, even accidental coincidence, the interieur brings 

In/Doors: The Dialectic of Inside and Outside 


the interior of the painting back to its own planar locus, onto the surface on which, and from which, painting perspectivally goes into depth and started, once upon a time, the adventure of going in the depth. In the interieur, painting re-emerges from that depth, though not without bringing the latency of a bygone distance, the passing of time, along with it. In this respect, the art of the interieur offers a new attempt at painting.

2 Vermeer’s dreamer, the Girl Asleep at the Table, in the New York Metropolitan Museum, is ruled by the door in front of which she sits with her eyes closed, in a room that dominates the foreground of the image although it takes up less than half of the represented area. The door stands inside the room, pointing half-openly out of the picture, shielding the sleeping girl on the left side. On the other side, through the hall in the background, the door gives a limited glimpse into another room, and in this room, into a small, dark mirror. Compared to the furniture-blocked front room, the narrow but clearly cut detail of the back room allows an unobstructed, transparent view whose perspective, in a peculiarly narrow way, commands the whole image.16 It leads along the only undisturbed line in the painting, which flows, between table and chair, through the gap of the open door, to the vertex of the mirror. This line can barely comprehend the space before it. By the diagonal of the door tracing its angle, it is almost edged out of the picture through its right lower corner. The doorframe plainly halts its drift. This happens at the cost of an unclear collision of the doorjambs on the two sides of the corridor. The corridor drops out of perspective between the thresholds; it lifts the rear threshold into the air and leaves it hanging there like, indeed, a picture frame. This is not the question of a “priority of space over individual things”, as Daniel Arasse has suggested, or of the achievement of objective space in Panofsky’s sense.17 The priority is less disputed in this picture than it is turned on its head; it re-establishes itself in the interieur after it has been broken—whenever it breaks anew, and

16 Daniel Arasse, L’Ambition de Vermeer, Paris: Biro, 1993; revised English edition: Vermeer. Faith in Painting, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994, p. 17. 17 The locus classicus is Erwin Panofsky’s essay Die Perspektive als symbolische Form (1927), in: Aufsätze zu Grundfragen der Kunstwissenschaft, Berlin: Henssel, 1974, p. 118–151. Hubert Damisch, L’origine de la perspective, Paris: Flammarion, 1987; English edition: The Origin of Perspective, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994, confronts Panofsky’s “crude” Hegelianism (p. 13) with the spacetheoretical dimension  up to the subject-relevant post-Lacanian “structural effect that when man comes to terms with the symbolic order, his being is, from the very start, entirely absorbed in it, and produced by it, not as ‘man’, but as subject” (p. 20).


 Anselm Haverkamp

whenever it shall be broken again: as a labile container of the day’s residues and dream-contents. In the interieur, the absoluteness of the outside-space shows itself as the ‘absolute metaphor’ of the possible, spatially imaginable relations.18 In Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams these spatial relations fall under the category of ‘considerations of representability’ [Rücksicht auf Darstellbarkeit]. The perspectival swath that Vermeer’s door cuts through the space of the image reduces the perspective, and with it the space established by this door, to such considerations. And provided that the transparency (the doorsien in the Dutch terminology) responds to the same considerations, it can represent what Freud calls ‘dream work’. This does not mean that the girl asleep can be or should be interpreted according to Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, but rather, the other way around, that Freud himself participates in a history of the interieur, in which Vermeer plays an essential role, extending all the way up to Freud’s topology of the ‘unconscious’. The dreaming girl in the Met seems one of the first witnesses of his discovery. The “cosmos of the half-open”, about which Bachelard’s Poetics of Space raves, turns out to be empty in this case. In Vermeer’s half-open door there is little apart from the light that, falling in from the left, illuminates the room: in two glistening beams it falls upon the doubled doorjambs. The right window, crowded up against the mirror, is by contrast as dark as the latter; further to the left, there may be an open window that would be so precisely covered by the door that the mirror is not inserted between these two windows; but rather, it lies embedded between door and window-frame, in a joint within the spatiality of representation—just like the interieur that it mirrors. Through the narrow slit in the door the room appears emptied out, the opposite of the room in the front; everything that is missing in the back room seems to have been cleared into the front-room, including the carpet that has been folded together and, for inexplicable reasons, laid on the front-edge of the table, the large pieces of which cannot but reach beyond the lower edge of the image. Like the chair, which stands in the picture in a messy, slanted, inverted manner, the gorgeous pattern of the carpet crowds and indeed overflows the trivial scene of the girl, who has fallen asleep right under stupid cupid, in front of her glass and with her tucker undone. Cesare Ripa’s Cupido hangs above her, along with the mask cited out of Ripa’s emblem—the latter invoking the very sleep that has descended upon the girl, shepherding her dreams.19

18 Hans Blumenberg’s conception of ‘absolute metaphors’, Paradigmen zur einer Metaphorologie (1960), new edition with commentary by Anselm Haverkamp, Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2013, has in Newton’s ‘absolute space’ its more or less acknowledged meta-paradigm (commentary 264 ad 14.19). See in greater detail Anselm Haverkamp, Mass Times Acceleration. Rhetoric as the Meta-Physics of the Aesthetic, in: Qui parle 12 (2000), pp. 127­–143. 19 John Michael Montias, Vermeer and his Milieu. A Web of Social History, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989, p. 150, extrapolates from the masque the sleeper’s dissimulation and thereby alleges a narrative that Vermeer avoids, or, phrasing it differently, that he leaves behind as a possible ‘secondary meaning’ that would be worth a separate consideration. Erwin Panofsky, on the other

In/Doors: The Dialectic of Inside and Outside 


In the same corner, right under Ripa’s Cupid, whatever there is imaginable of generic or narrative remainders that might be agglomerated in bottle, glass, bowl, and fruit—it is buried and absorbed before the carpet, just as it is absorbed before the eyes of the dreamer. The interieur is a carpet—this carpet. And in this carpet, the jug, bowl, and fruits, not to mention the gold of the wine, blend together and are dissolved, displaced, and condensed into one material surface. What remains of the room in which the carpet lay—a most conspicuous lying again—is the fold in which it sublates and virtualizes the floor in the same manner that the door relates to the vista that it opens up. Vermeer painted no complete other space with adequate transparent depth, painted no second empty room, but he kept the gaze entirely fixated on the “blocked, hermetic interieur” of the front room.20 The picture of the dreaming girl is Vermeer’s poetics of the inner-picture, from which the genre of the interieur unfolds its pattern; Freud’s able echo proves it. His Interpretation of Dreams interprets Vermeer’s dreamer without having seen it. In interieurs after Vermeer—this one is his first of the genre— concepts of condensation and displacement—Freud’s understanding regards of representation—are to be seen in abundance. Consider a famous Hoogstraeten, which sets slippers on the threshold between the doors to the room in the back. Hoogstraeten re-arranges pretty much everything in Vermeer’s design; he relocates the dreamer to a picture on the wall, which takes up the space that in Vermeer’s painting was occupied by the mirror. This picture is in fact a ter Borch. Celeste Brusati has treated Hoogstraeten’s picture as a part, an aspect, of the notorious perspective-box, as if the three-dimensional rounding off in pictures was just a literal attempt at a representation that could on the screen be implemented only imperfectly and superficially.21 But Brusati also suggests against the grain of her own argument an interesting consequence, if one comes to think of the function of the mirror: As surface over a three-dimensional space, every mirror can only be the surface-image of something else. Vermeer’s black mirror of nothingness concentrates

hand, in his Studies in Iconology, New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1939, re-edition Harper & Row, 1962, pursues the topos of “Blind Cupid” in its whole range of the “rather terrifying company” of “Night, Synagogue, Infidelity, Death and Fortune (the classical caeca Fortuna)” (p. 112) up to the counter-reformational constellation of “Amour mondain” and “Saint Amour” (p. 128). 20 Martha Hollander, Vermeer’s Empty Room, Raritan 10, issue 2 (1990), pp. 1–17, p. 17. Christiane Hertel, Vermeer. Reception and Interpretation, Cambridge / New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1996, briefly approaches Proust’s mention of the picture, which at this time was part of Rudolf Kahn’s collection in Paris (mentioned as “VerMeer de Kahn”); she paraphrases Proust pointedly when she translates his high esteem for this picture (which would be worth a separate commentary) as “more valuable than one with a ‘more humane’—presumably narrative or instructive—content”. “A work of art like this Vermeer is comparable to a steeple hidden in clouds or fog, whose presence is incomplete by one account, yet superior by another” (p. 109). The quoted passage is printed in Cahiers Marcel Proust. Le Carnet de 1908, Philip Kolb (ed.), Paris: Gallimard, 1976, p. 103. 21 Celeste Brusati, Artifice and Illusion. The Art and Writing of Samuel Hoogstraeten, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1995, p. 85. As opposed to Arasse 1994 (as in note 16), pp. 29–31.


 Anselm Haverkamp

Fig. 5: Samuel van Hoogstraaten, View of an Interior, or The Slippers (traditional title, given in the nineteenth century), 1654–62, oil on canvas, 100 × 71 cm, Paris, Louvre.

In/Doors: The Dialectic of Inside and Outside 


the space that the picture is not, even annihilates it. Thus, one could say that in this quotation Hoogstraeten cites Vermeer’s structure of citation and uses the ter Borch as a placeholder. There is a moment of aesthetic reflection involved, which, however, is not just that of sheer ambiguity, as Arasse thought. The mirror in Vermeer’s picture is an allegory not of an ambiguity, but of the displaceability that is constitutive of the genre of the interieur. It is an allegory of the space (the installation-space, in a later idiom) that shapes this displace-ability. Hoogstraeten’s meta-citation is the rule put to the test, while Vermeer’s mirror is the matrix from which it derives. With the passage-effect of two mutually embedded interieurs, Van Hoogstraeten affirms the effectivity of the dispositif. But this affirms as well the latent, dream-like net-working that results in the return of the same motifs as in Vermeer’s pictures: the same jug, the same chairs and cards. This return virtualizes the space of the interieur and makes it the only space, a virtual space, in which things—things like these—could emerge. When Adorno spoke in his Kierkegaard book of a “semblance of the spatial in the image of the interieur”, he attributed to the nineteenth century what the painters’ interieur had established and exploited long before. The fact that this semblance served mainly a decorative adjacency in what Adorno called the “isolated dwelling” of the subject runs down to the infamy of a “practiced nihilism” of bourgeois existence, the sociological point of Adorno’s critique. In Kierkegaard this nihilism was transmuted, quite involuntarily, into the “fantastical image of a riddle”—a ‘dialectical image’ (Benjamin would say) of the bourgeois subject’s hidden history, which is encrypted in that riddle and, that is, everything other than consciously to be witnessed (as in the Arnolfinis’ wedding).22 As a dialectical riddle-image, the interieur exhibits the historical construction of an involuntary remembrance, which in the nineteenth century would produce the mnemo-fetishes of a progressively effective ‘syndrome of total delusion’. The mnemo-technical layers of construction deform and disassemble the perspectival space by which it is seemingly—as a delusion—taken in. That which is interiorized and alienated in this construction becomes the loss of what consciousness, at a loss, knows of itself and “cannot just not know” (to do justice to a presiding spirit of this place here, Stanley Cavell, who defined in this formula—of the “cannot just not know”—the philosophical efficiency of art in general). The quality of the dialectical image differentiates the interieur as an image from other genres; it is not an accidental quality. Benjamin developed his theory of the dialectical image with the interieurs of the nineteenth century in mind, but without relating it to the interieur as an image. That which is presented in every interior, unwittingly, according to the historical dialectics of the image, populates the painted interieurs of the preceding centuries. The subject formation that is disarmingly reenacted in the interieurs of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has in the pictures of the painters

22 Theodor W. Adorno, Kierkegaard. Konstruktion des Ästhetischen, Tübingen: Mohr, 1933, re-edition Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1974, p. 81, p. 86.


 Anselm Haverkamp

long since been exhibited in the lability of its constitution. What is missing from the sociology of the interieur in terms of dialectical understanding complements in Benjamin the melancholic reading of the poets, culminating in Baudelaire’s souvenirs. In the citation of movable set-pieces, in the exhibition of trophies and traumata—“the trophies of my lovers gone”, for example, in Keats’s Ode on Melancholy at the beginning of the nineteenth century—the history of the subject becomes comprehensible as an abyssal deepening of an interiorization that Vermeer began to grasp; it lodges itself within the spectator and becomes—turns, like milk turns—subjective. Yet Vermeer’s picture transgresses even this, its only possible self-conceptualization, by —and he is unsurpassed in this—losing itself (not to say, its self) in moments of the painting process’s hyper-structure: in a certain material im-precision that relates hyper-reflectively to the smoothing, normalizing tendencies of visual everyday comprehension.23 The carpet, in which Vermeer’s girl loses herself in sleep, is the allegory of this hyper-reflective drive; she is its subject.

23 Thus Arasse, L’Ambition de Vermeer, 6, following the phenomenological model of Maurice MerleauPonty in La prose du monde, Paris: Gallimard, 1969, p. 99, transformed by Jean François Lyotard’s ambitious design in Discours, Figure, Paris: Klincksieck, 1971, p. 6.

Julie Park

‘Marching Thoughts on White Paper’: Margaret Cavendish’s Tools and Spaces of Proto-Novelistic Interiority Margaret Cavendish was a seventeenth-century English natural philosopher, writer of works in many genres, and reclusive noblewoman given to flamboyant dress that sometimes involved cross-dressing. Cavendish’s famous love for retirement from social life matched her concerns as a writer. According to Anna Battigelli, “She explored interiority more openly and more publicly than any other writer of her time.”1 Such explorations of interiority emerged as a polemic in her scientific treatise, Observations upon Experimental Philosophy, which appeared in 1666 with the fantasy narrative The Description of a New Blazing World attached to it.2 Both these works question what constitutes the interior while blurring the boundaries between fact and fiction in literary and philosophical genres. At the same time, they challenge the use of scientific instruments not only to augment human faculties, but also to “see into” things that were previously inaccessible to vision. Cavendish’s conjoined texts, in probing the constitution of interiority, challenged directly the claims made in experiments conducted by the Royal Society. Chartered by Charles II in 1662, the elite organization sought to “improve natural knowledge” and promote the activities and philosophy of experimental science. While Cavendish took issue with experimental philosophy in general, she aimed her attack at the Royal Society’s celebration of the microscope and its abilities to reveal the “interior parts of things”.3 Robert Hooke’s Micrographia, which appeared in 1665, was the publication that prompted Cavendish to write and publish Observations upon Experimental Philosophy, and its companion text (now known as) The Blazing World a year later.4 In it, Hooke had memorialized the feats of discovery made possible by the microscope, and the act of looking at everyday objects through a scientific instrument. To Hooke’s

1 Anna Battigelli, Margaret Cavendish and the Exiles of the Mind, Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1998, p. 85. 2 Margaret Cavendish, Observations upon Experimental Philosophy. To Which is Added, the Description of a New Blazing World, London: A. Maxwell, 1666. 3 Margaret Cavendish, Observations upon Experimental Philosophy, Eileen O’Neill (ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. In the address to her husband, she explains, “In this present treatise, I have ventured to make some observations upon experimental philosophy, and to examine the opinions of some of our modern microscopical or dioptrical writers” (p. 4). 4 Robert Hooke, Micrographia: or Some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies Made by Magnifying Glasses, London: Royal Society, 1665, reprint, New York, NY: Dover, 1961.


 Julie Park

claim that “the invention of optical glasses” is necessary for “supplying” the “infirmities” of “the senses”, Cavendish countered “the best optic is a perfect natural eye”.5 Whereas Cavendish’s objections to microscopy as a “brittle art” and the microscope as an “artificial informer” appear legitimate in themselves, they contradict her own reliance on another supplemental device—the pen—to traverse and make visible the entity that Hooke himself claims is “the best of all Invisible things of this World, the Minds of Men”.6 This reliance is clear in Cavendish’s autobiography, A True Relation of My Birth, Breeding, and Life (1656), where she describes using her pen to “send out in words” her thoughts, “marching [them] more regularly […] on the ground of white paper”.7 If for her, microscopes fail to “go farther than the exterior parts of the object presented” and fail to represent “the interior form and motions of a creature”, the pen allows her to retreat into and render visible the “interior form and motions” of her own life. I will argue that tracing the tensions between the pen and microscope as instruments of interiority in Cavendish’s writing yields a new chapter in the history of the early novel. Her very efforts to counter the Royal Society and its elevation of the microscope with generically hybrid works that celebrate the interiority of the imagination—an interiority only the pen can make visible—form this new chapter. Such a chapter allows us to reconsider the origins of novelistic interiority in sources that fall outside the traditional sites for examining it—the novel of domestic realism that Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740) inaugurates, for instance—even as they provide their foundation. If novels have been read for the realism with which they depict psychological interiority, and continue to be read for such realism, it is owing in part to the development of materialist notions about interiority that earlier works of generic experimentation such as Cavendish’s explored. For literary historian Ian Watt, the novel’s distinguishing characteristic is its ability to render mental experience within the spatial-temporal framework of daily life. Citing Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740) as the first novel to take narrative art in a notably “subjective and inward direction”, Watt argues that it also reflects “a much larger change in outlook” of two different world views, the classical and the modern. Whereas the classical view was “objective, social and public”, the modern was “subjective, individualist and private”.8 The cultural movement that Watt calls “the rise of individualism” created an audience for Richardson’s novel “deeply enough inter-

5 Ibid., The Preface, no page; and Cavendish 2001 (as in note 12), p. 53. 6 Ibid. 7 Margaret Cavendish, A True Relation of my Birth, Breeding, and Life, in: Natures Pictures drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life, London: J. Martin and J. Allestrye, 1656. Citations in this essay from A True Relation will be from the reprinted version in Sylvia Bowerbank and Sara Mendelson (eds.), Paper Bodies: A Margaret Cavendish Reader, Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2000, p. 56. 8 Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1957, p. 176.

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ested in all the processes that occur in the individual consciousness to find Pamela absorbing”.9 The mechanism for creating the portrayals of “inner life” that Richardson’s readers found so compelling was its epistolary format. Through using the personal letters allegedly written by the heroine to compose his narrative, Richardson created the possibility for producing a “record of consciousness” in “daily experience” that is otherwise inaccessible in other genres of subjectivity such as autobiography.10So finely were “persons and sentiments” depicted in Richardson’s novels that poet, critic, and essayist Anna Laetitia Barbauld likened them to Dutch painting. In 1804 she wrote that their psychological realism had: “the accuracy and finish of a Dutch painter […] content to produce effects by the patient labor of minuteness”.11 The quality of “minuteness”, though, in narrative and visual representation is vastly different. Svetlana Alpers’s discussion of seventeenth-century Dutch paintings depicting “people reading, writing, and receiving letters” underscores the distinction. By using letters to form narratives, epistolary novels make the letters—and their “minute-by-minute” descriptions of consciousness—that the characters themselves are writing and reading also available to readers of the novel.12 This is possible because the textual form that incorporates them uses the same medium. Alpers writes that in contrast, in painting, “the letters are commonly the object of attention”, but “we do not see the contents and those who do do not reflect it in their demeanor”.13 In other words, “While the novel makes the world of private passions accessible, the seventeenth-century Dutch painters depict women absorbed in the perusal of a correspondence that is closed to us.”14 The visual medium can only gesture to but not unfold the interiority offered by the textual medium (see fig. 1). Thus, Dutch paintings of domestic interiors generate their rich interiority by showing solitary acts of reading and writing whose inner meaning can only be occluded by the very medium that depicts them. The mental worlds they appear to depict remain invisible to us, even as “visual attention” is placed on an artifact of that world—the letter—and on the state of being absorbed by it.15 The discordance between personal letters depicted as visual image and personal letters presented for reading is curious when considering that in the seventeenth century, according to Alpers, the letter was regarded as “a prime object of vision”.

9 Ibid., p. 177. 10 Ibid., pp. 191–192. Watt writes about autobiography that its “temporal mesh” is “too gross” to capture the “ceaseless flow of thought, feeling and sensation” of inner life in its “daily experience”. 11 Quoted in: Ibid., pp. 175–176; and Ruth Bernard Yeazell, Art of the Everyday: Dutch Painting and the Realist Novel, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008, pp. 2–3. 12 Watt 1957 (as in note 1), p. 192. 13 Svetlana Alpers, The Art of Describing, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, p. 192. 14 Ibid., p. 196. 15 Ibid., p. 192.


 Julie Park

Fig. 1: Johannes Vermeer, A Lady Writing, ca. 1665, Oil on canvas, overall: 45 × 39.9 cm (17 11/16 × 15 11/16 in.), framed: 68.3 × 62.2 × 7 cm (26 7/8 × 24 1/2 × 2 3/4 in.), Gift of Harry Waldron Havemeyer and Horace Havemeyer Jr., in memory of their father, Horace Havemeyer, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

With letters, “what was communicated was intended for the eyes alone”.16 She presents a lengthy passage from Comenius to illustrate the attitude that in order to read the letter at all, one has to be able to see it. Comenius asks, “For if it be not seen, how

16 Ibid., p. 200.

‘Marching Thoughts on White Paper’ 


can it be read?”17 And yet, while it is true that seeing does make access to the surfaces of interior worlds possible, such as the worlds depicted in paintings by Vermeer, it does not make the inner experience of those worlds legible. Only the textual medium can do so through its ability to proceed through time, the very medium for experience itself, and its use of language, a symbolic system more conducive to capturing the speed and fluidity with which thinking takes place. There is a difference between seeing as an act of viewing, and seeing as a function of the act of reading. Yet if Barbauld and nineteenth-century critics after her continually evoke seventeenth-century Dutch painting to describe the skill with which novelists such as Richardson and Jane Austen master the literary techniques of formal realism and its conflation of domestic interiors with psychological ones, the difference cannot be absolute. At stake in the distinction between visual and textual representations of interior experience is an understanding of what constitutes interiority, and how best to mediate it. How do we know when proper expression has been given of it? Can the eye alone perceive interiority, and if so, what can visual media do in capturing it? Or is interiority better communicated by text, a medium supremely suited for both generating and representing that most interior faculty: thinking? In Cavendish’s work, emerging in the time period between mid-seventeenth-century Dutch paintings of domestic interiors and Richardson’s Pamela, we see writing operate as a mobile and material medium of interiority. The notion of interiority developed in her work considers it an introspective state of being that merges transient thoughts with concrete substance. In fact her natural philosophy viewed matter itself as “sentient, self-conscious, and self-moving” and was so thoroughgoing that “she saw and imagined matter in everything”, as Lisa Sarasohn puts it. Furthermore, “in her thought, even the imaginary became concrete.”18 Such a theory of matter and the interiority it conceived can be traced to her lifelong “addiction to contemplation”, only matched by her addiction to writing.19 In CCXI Sociable Letters, she recounts to an imaginary friend her housekeeper’s remark: “You are naturally addicted to busie your time with pen, ink, and paper.”20 So absorbed is she by the addiction, her neighbors say her “Waiting-Maids were Spoil’d with Idleness, having nothing to do, but to Dress, Curl, and Adorn themselves.” She explains, “I was so Slow in Commanding them, as I seldom took any Notice of them, or Spoke to them […] I living so Studious a Life.”21

17 Quoted in: Ibid., p. 200. 18 Lisa Sarasohn, The Natural Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010, p. 11, p. 55. 19 Bowerbank, Mendelson 2000 (as in note 17), p. 55, p. 59. 20 Margaret Cavendish, CCXI Sociable Letters, London: William Wilson, 1664, Letter CL, p. 314. 21 Cavendish 1664 (as in note 19), Letter CL, p. 314.


 Julie Park

Driving the related addictions of contemplation and writing was an ambition that conceived writing as an opportunity to “Live, as Nature doth, in all Ages, and in every Brain.” She elaborates: “I am industrious to Gain so much of Nature’s Favour, as to enable me to do some Work, wherein I may leave my Idea, or Live in an Idea, or my Idea may Live in Many Brains, for then I shall Live as Nature Lives amongst her Creatures, which onely Lives in her Works.”22 The childless Cavendish figured the work that went to live in others’ brains as “a child” in Grounds of Natural Philosophy— “this beloved Child of my Brain”—and in Poems, and Phancies—“this Book, it is my Child”.23 In her biography of her husband, The Life of the Thrice Noble, High and Puissant Prince William Cavendishe [sic], she emphasizes the private nature of her working life while at the same time defending herself against accusations that she plagiarized someone else’s writing, a problem that accompanied her improbable-seeming status as a woman writing natural philosophy24. In her “retired Country life” at Welbeck, begun when she and her husband returned from exile to England after the war, she “set down” her “Thoughts, Fancies, and Speculations” in her “Closet”, with only her “Waiting-maids” as witnesses to her activity. With these descriptions of being observed by her household staff as she immerses herself in writing and reading, she creates the scene of many Dutch paintings produced around the time she began her writing career. This is the scene discussed earlier in the essay, of a woman in a domestic environment, writing or reading, usually alone, but sometimes with a servant standing next to her. When describing her writing in various works as an activity of sending in perpetuity the children of her brain to other brains—from the solitude of her closet— Cavendish lays hold of a crucial feature in the culture of print.25 This is its ability to make available to a public audience what her servants cannot see as they watch her burying herself in her writing, and what we cannot see either in contemporary Dutch paintings of women reading or writing letters: the thoughts and ideas that issue from acts of writing, and that become lodged in individual minds from acts of reading. The image Cavendish creates also registers a feature of print technology to which readers of her time were especially attuned: its ability to transport different worlds, cultures,

22 Cavendish 1664 (as in note 19), Letter XC, p. 178. 23 Margaret Cavendish, Grounds of Natural Philosophy, London: A. Maxwell, 1668, no page; and Margaret Cavendish, Poems, and Phancies, 2nd edition, London: William Wilson, 1664, no page. 24 Margaret Cavendish, The Life of ... William Cavendishe, London: A. Maxwell, 1667. 25 For a discussion of Cavendish’s work within the history of the book, see Randall Ingram, First Words and Second Thoughts: Margaret Cavendish, Humphrey Moseley, and ‘the Book’, in: Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 30.1 (Winter 2000), pp. 101–124. For Ingram, “Rather than point readers toward a self-contained, self-containing monument, Cavendish’s prefatory material embeds the printed object within a specific subjectivity”, quoted in: ibid., p. 111.

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and beings to the space of one’s own home, merely by gaining entrance to a reader’s mind. A dedicatory poem for CCXI Sociable Letters renders Cavendish’s writing as a mobile expression of the relationship between her self and the “creatures” and “commonwealths” that exist within it: This Lady only to her self she Writes, And all her Letters to her self Indites; For in her self so many Creatures be, Like many Commonwealths… (lines 1–4)

Ultimately, the “thoughts”, “creatures of her mind”, and “commonwealths” are detachable and transportable, insofar as they “Do travel through the World amongst Mankind” (line 28).26 In other works, Cavendish evinces this awareness that print makes her brain and its contents available to a wider audience. Her address to the “Noble Readers or Spectators” of Natures Pictures Drawn by Fancies Pencil to the Life (1656) refers to the book as a representation of a writer’s “brain or mind”. Accordingly, such a representation is much closer to the original than the picture of her “person” is. In fact, in the case of her book as a “figure of [her] brain”, the resemblance to the original is perfect: But howsoever, being customary for most Writers to set their Figures of their Persons before the Figure of their Brain or Mind, I thought fit to do the like. But I must tell my Readers, that though the Figure of my Person is not so exactly like the Original, as it might have been; yet the Figure of my Brain had a perfect draught from the Original of my Mind.27

As a “perfect” draft of her mind, it is vulnerable not to “false lines” by a painter or engraver as a “figure” of her “person” might be, but to “false letters” by a printer, “illiterate fault[s]” that are “wound[s] to [her] work,” and “may destroy the life of [her] fame”.28 If her brain is a “commonwealth”, it is also a dining room built for intimate family gatherings. In another paratext of Natures Pictures, a poem that precedes the frontispiece, she likens her brain to a “large room” built by her, and “fill’d” with her husband, his children, and other friends: The compass of this fruitless Piece so strait, I could not place those Friends I did conceit Were gathered in a Company together, All sitting by a Fire in cold weather; Though in my Brain a large Room I had built,

26 Cavendish, “Upon her Excellency the Authoress”, in: Cavendish 1664 (as in note 20), no page. 27 Cavendish, 1656 (as in note 17), no page. 28 Ibid.


 Julie Park

Most curious furnish, and as richly gilt, Fill’d with my Lord, his Children, and the rest Of my near Friends, and Banquets for to feast. (lines 1–8)29

Because time itself presents constraints, she “thought to joyn all in a papersheet” her friends.30 However, the book, even if it serves as a “perfect draught” from “the original of [her] mind”, is “so strait” and “narrow” it is unable to contain the “flow” of her “love”, “phancy”, and “such company”. But while her “wit is scanty” and her “book / Hath narrow limits,” her “love is infinite, eternal, kinde”.31 The book, seeming to make an attempt to overcome its own limitations of “narrowness” and “straightness”, illustrates the room she built in her brain (see fig. 2), replete with interior detail, as well as the family members and friends who want to be together with her at her banquet, “with Imaginations Phancy’s spread”. A description accompanies the frontispieces: My Lord, and I, here in two Chairs are set, And all his Children, wives and husbands, met, To hear me tell them Tales, as I think fit, And hope they’re full of Phancy, and of Wit.32

Thus, the fancifully conceived dining room of Cavendish’s brain, an image that conflates domestic interiority with psychological, is also brought into the interiors of other brains through the mechanism of print. Elsewhere, she conceives the book, in its function as a structure for her brain, as a “house” or an architectural structure. Whereas in her work of poetry and imaginative writing, such as Natures Pictures and World’s Olio, she presents the book/brain as a building for domestic residency, in her more serious work of natural philosophy (“my Book, which is my House”), in Philosophical and Physical Opinions (1663), she presents it as a building for an institution of learning. She explains that when writing Philosophical and Physical Opinions, “I was very studious in my own thoughts and contemplations […] for all that time my brain was like an university, senate, or council-chamber, wherein all my conceptions, imaginations, observations, wit, and judgement did meet, to dispute, argue, contrive, and judge.”33

29 Ibid., A2. 30 Ibid., A2r. 31 Ibid., A2v, no page, and A2r. 32 Ibid., A3v. 33 Margaret Cavendish, Epistle to the Reader, in: Philosophical and Physical Opinions, London: William Wilson, 1663, no page.

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Fig. 2: Frontispiece for Margaret Cavendish, Natures Pictures Drawn by Fancies Pencil. Rather than showing the author inside an existing domestic interior, this illustration depicts her in an interior that was conceived in the author’s “brain”. Cavendish claims in the poem accompanying the image, “Though in my Brain a large Room I had built / Most curious furnish, and as richly gilt / Fill’d with my Lord, his Children, and the rest / Of my near Friends, and Banquets for to feast” (lines 5–8). Image used by permission from the Folger Shakespeare Library.


 Julie Park

The seriousness and ambition with which she conceived her work of natural philosophy—a work in which she not only revises and “enlarges” her “former philosophical opinions”,34 but also “treats of the most subtil and obscure interior motions, degrees, and temperaments of matter”35—is reflected in the scale of the book as a building, and the exactness with which the chapters, like so many “rooms”, were designed: “I have endeavoured to build upon the ground not only a larger, but a more exact and perfect fabrick, wherein every several chapter, like several rooms, have as much and as clear lights as I can give them.”36 As portable architectural structures— from a cozy dining room to a large-scale and well-lit place of official learning—her books emerged from a context of instability that necessitated the very notion of a mobile and portable interiority. Her first book, Poems, and Phancies (1654) was conceived and written while she was traveling to England—staying there for nine months—from her residence of exile in Rotterdam. The purpose of her trip was to procure the funds for paying tradesmen’s services in Holland by petitioning for the income that Parliament had generated from selling her husband’s confiscated estates, Welbeck and Bolsover. Her brother-in-law Charles, to whom she dedicated Poems, and Phancies, accompanied her on the trip. Although she failed to fulfill the purpose of her trip—the Parliamentary committee refused to grant her petition, calling her husband “the greatest Traitor to the State” as she stood mute in front of them at Goldsmith Hall— she found the incentive to begin writing during it.37 Asking her readers to “be not too Severe in [their] Censures”, when reading Poems, and Phancies, she explains the circumstances of its inception: “For, first, I have no Children to imploy my Care, and Attendance on; Next, my Lords Estate being taken away in those Times when I writ this Book, I had nothing for Houswifery, or thrifty Industry to Imploy [her] Self in; having no Stock to work on.”38 Self-conscious of societal expectations that she make domestic duties her main activity and source of her identity, she acknowledges that by writing, and by publishing her writing, she has deviated from them. On one hand she identifies her status as a political exile, dispossessed with her husband of his estates, as her reason for writing. On the other hand, she reinforces this exile status by writing and publishing as a woman. Anna Batigelli claims that Cavendish found opportunity in her exile status throughout her writing by “transforming her comparative social

34 Ibid., b. 35 Ibid., no page. 36 Ibid., bv. 37 She describes this episode in Bowerbank, Mendelson 2000 (as in note 17), p. 51. 38 Cavendish, To the Reader, in: Poems, and Phancies, 2nd edition, London: William Wilson, 1664, no page.

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isolation into a rhetorical stance, a position of advantage from which to address her world”.39 By creating for herself this position in a world that saw regicide, a civil war, and the violent plundering and confiscation of family homes, including her own, she gave herself the freedom to explore and investigate what fascinated her the most: the life of her own interiority, only obtainable through the faculties of her mind and imagination.40 Certainly, such an interest was timely, “since she wrote at the very moment when concepts of inwardness, interiority, and selfhood were reaching full development in Hobbes’s and Descartes’s philosophies of mind”.41 For such philosophers, the activity of thinking was central to self-realization. And certainly, the status of exile not only allowed her to create an identity independent of any preconceived cultural models, but also, I will argue, it allowed her to create an interiority that furnished a portable domestic environment, a house for her brain shared with others through writing, and thus a place for herself in the print market, if not society. Whereas external reality had wrested from her and her husband the right to their own private property, writing and publishing gave her access to a form of property that was inalienable, even when others accused Cavendish of plagiarism. In her biography of her husband, The Life of the Thrice Noble, High and Puissant Prince William Cavendishe [sic], she describes how her “Readers did wonder, and thought it impossible that a Woman could have so much Learning and Understanding in Terms of Art, and Scholastical Expressions”. The repeated phrase “my own” used in her defense— “those Conceptions and Fancies which I writ, were my own” and “what was written and printed in my name, was my own”—indicates how for Cavendish, writing and publishing were as much forms of ownership as of self-individuation [italics mine].42 Her books—variously figured as children, houses, institutions of learning, garments, her brain, a family dining room—comprised an estate of which her possession was inviolable, even when they were disseminated through and held by hands other than her own. While the size of her books was much larger (folio sized of twelve by seven-and-ahalf inches) than standard eighteenth-century novels (octavo and duodecimo sized of five by eight inches and three by six inches), they were among the first type of books that, like novels, operated as movable goods that circulated personal thoughts and feelings through remote control and contact. Cavendish was especially conscious of this possibility when she wrote CCXI Sociable Letters, a book of letters that imagined the correspondence between “two ladies, living at some short distance from each

39 Battigelli 1998 (as in note 1), p. 7. 40 Ibid., p. 9. 41 Ibid., p. 10. 42 Cavendish 1667 (as in note 24), no page.


 Julie Park

other” as a way “to express the humours of mankind, and the actions of man’s life”. The letters in the volume are “an imitation of a personal visitation and conversation”. Cavendish’s choice of the epistolary format was deliberate, and based on its “brevity”, as well as relative informality. Acknowledging that she could have presented the women’s “conversations” with each other in the form of a play, she explains that she did not, because, in addition to their lengthiness and formality, plays incorporate “parts and plots that cannot be understood till the whole play be read over”, while “a short letter will give a full satisfaction of what they read”.43 Anticipating the popularity of epistolary form in novels of the following century, and further emphasizing the need for a more digestible format, she registers the portability of interiority afforded by the form when her letter writer avows in the first letter to her correspondent: “Wherefore I am never better pleased, than when I am reading your Letters, and when I am writing Letters to you; for my mind and thoughts are all that while in your Company: the truth is, my mind and thoughts live alwayes [sic] with you, although my person is at distance from you.”44 Thus exemplifying her view toward writing and authorship as an act of making transportable the inner and private aspects of personhood—even their material representatives, such as a domestic environment or a handspun garment—she also gives expression to the energies that propelled the novel’s development as a dominant literary medium in the eighteenth century. For Deidre Lynch, the novel was “the first literary form to emerge into cultural centrality in the medium of print, and the first to exploit the capacities for the long-distance communication of the passions and the catalyzing of communities that this medium provided”.45 Lynch’s argument about the portability of the novel—about its status as “moving writing”— is made to counter predominating accounts of the novel that, with and after Watt, emphasize the novel as a medium for individualism. Just as personal letters and the epistolary form operate as “a window yielding a view of an inner subjectivity”, it does so as part of a movement that “defines a transactional space”. The letter is “from someone to someone else”.46 Thus, the novel, like the moving goods that played leading roles in eighteenth-century England’s growth as a global market economy, “were as much associated with an emergent idiom of transport, transac-

43 Cavendish, The Preface, in: CCXI Sociable Letters, no page. All preceding quotations in the paragraph are from the preface. 44 Cavendish 1664 (as in note 20), Letter I, 2. 45 Deidre Lynch, The Novel: Novels in the World of Moving Goods, in: Cynthia Wall (ed.), A Concise Companion to the Restoration and Eighteenth Century, Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005, pp. 121–143, p. 124. 46 Ibid., p. 138.

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tion, commercial traffic and social mixing as they were with an idiom for the representation of separate selves”.47 Nowhere was the creation of a separate self—created paradoxically through participating in an emerging conversation about the nature and origins of things— more clearly realized than in Cavendish’s writings on natural philosophy, especially Observations upon Experimental Philosophy and The Blazing World. Not just another philosophical treatise, The Blazing World is a utopian fantasy about an abducted and shipwrecked young lady who becomes empress of a new world invented by Cavendish. By virtue of attempting to contribute from afar to the transactions (the proceedings of Royal Society meetings were published as The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society) of a male experimental community with such writings, she only reinforced her exile standing—her separate selfhood—further, not least because her contributions were ignored by those she addressed. Yet in doing so, she also strengthened the “singularity” of selfhood that she sought to develop and claim for herself. In her memoir, A True Relation, she writes, “I always took delight in a singularity.”48 Similarly, while her act of combining genres—the scientific treatise of Observations upon Experimental Philosophy with the utopian romance of The Blazing World—to convey her ideas set her writing apart from the dominant group of natural philosophers such as Robert Boyle, who “rejected romance, poetry, and speculative fiction as legitimate means for expressing philosophic ideas about nature”, it also allowed her to contribute to a genre that would surpass others before it in its own singularity and novelty.49 The prefatory remarks for her more seriously conceived and presented works of natural philosophy, such as Philosophical and Physical Opinions, show her acknowledging her own novel status as a woman engaging with natural philosophy, as well as writing about and publishing her ideas about it: I being a Woman Cannot, or if I could, it were not Fit for me Publickly to Preach, Teach, Declare or Explane them by Words of Mouth, as most of the most Famous Philosophers have done, who thereby have made their Philosophical Opinions more Famous, than I fear Mine will ever be; for though Writing and Printing Explanes the Text, yet it doth not so Clearly Expound it as Speech would do. But I am in Hope, this my Work will meet with Understanding Readers, to whom I Leave it.50

47 Ibid., p. 123. 48 Bowerbank, Mendelson 2000 (as in note 17), p. 60. 49 Sarasohn 2010 (as in note 17), p. 2. On the eighteenth-century novel’s novelty, see Julie Park, The Self and It: Novel Objects in Eighteenth-Century England, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010. 50 Cavendish 1663 (as in note 33), bv.


 Julie Park

Again, Cavendish finds in writing and printing a means for overcoming physical and exterior boundaries—here, those created by her social and biological status as a woman—but in doing so, admits that such recourse can only be a weaker form of expression than speech itself. In Observations upon Experimental Philosophy, when presenting her work to the “Most noble, and Eminently-Learned” at “the most Famous University of Cambridge”, she speculates that they “might, if not with scorn, with silence have passed by, when one of my sex […] took upon her to write, not only of philosophy, but the highest of all human learning”.51 Cavendish mixed genres not just with Observations upon Experimental Philosophy and The Blazing World, but also within other individual works and across the entire body of her works. Lisa Sarasohn suggests that Cavendish’s “embrace” of “all genres as a vehicle for her ideas” had to do with her need to “insinuate her ideas into a public forum increasingly closed to women in the late seventeenth century”.52 In her first book, Poems, and Phancies, Cavendish expresses self-awareness about the rhetorical uses of genre, especially the genre of fiction, when she explains that she chose to write natural philosophy—her theory of atomism—in verse because “Errours might better pass there, than in Prose, since Poets write most Fiction, and Fiction is not given for Truth, but Pastime.”53 She confirms the feminized timbre of “pastime” when she addresses the book “To All Noble, and Worthy Ladies” and maintains, “Besides, Poetry, which is Built upon Fancy, Women may Claim, as a Work belonging most properly to Themselves: for I have observ’d, that their Brains work usually in a Fantastical motion, as in their several and various Dress.”54 If one of the reasons why Cavendish chose to create works of mixed genres was to negotiate the challenges not just of writing and publishing as a woman, but of writing and publishing philosophical works as a woman, she also inadvertently formed the basis on which the new literary genre of the novel came into being. By mixing genres of fact and fiction, and by further mixing scientific discourse within fiction, Cavendish generates the categorical instability that forms, according to Michael McKeon, the background of the novel.55 At the same time, by placing her writing in conversation with Hooke’s Micrographia (1665), she contributes to the proto-scientific movement that threw into crisis epistemologies of truth governing romance, the predominating genre of fiction, and formed the groundwork for the new genre of realism. And yet, even as she contributes to such energies, she did so by strenuously objecting not only to their standards of truth, but also, their instruments.

51 Cavendish 2001 (1664) (as in note 13), p. 6. 52 Sarasohn 2010 (as in note 18), p. 2. 53 Cavendish, To Natural Philosophers, in: Cavendish 1664 (as in note 22), no page. 54 Cavendish, To all Nobles, and Worthy Ladies, in: Cavendish 1664 (as in note 23), no page. 55 Michael McKeon, The Origins of the English Novel, 1600–1740, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.

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For her, microscopy most seriously distorts truth when it claims to locate interiority in what to her are further externalities. As much as gender factored into the elements of Cavendish’s works that make them foundational texts in the history of the novel, not least the subgenre of science fiction, so too did her prevailing concern with interiority as a condition of both mind and matter. In the first sentence of the section “Of Micrography… [and of Magnifying and Multiplying Glasses]” in Observations upon Experimental Philosophy, Cavendish declares, “Of this I am confident: that this same art [meaning micrography] with all its instruments, is not able to discover the interior natural motions of any part or creature of nature.”56 Allowing her to build this case is the premise that sight—and the other senses—fail to “go further than the exterior parts of the object presented” (50). When technology supplements sight, it only succeeds in enlarging what is already in front of the naked eye. Deformity, rather than reality, ensues: “For example, a louse by the help of a magnifying glass appears like a lobster, where the microscope enlarging and magnifying each part of it makes them bigger and rounder than naturally they are” (50). At the same time, beauty itself becomes distorted and lost in her example of the “picture of a young beautiful lady” (51). When passed through the microscope’s “various refractions and reflexion of light”, the face of the lady “would not be like a human face, but rather a monster, than a picture of nature” (51). Here, it is hard not to detect in Cavendish’s critique a challenge to the sexualizing and masculinist language of the new science.57 This notion resonates especially when Cavendish elaborates on how the bodies of insects “will appear as a diseased, swelled and tumid body, ready and ripe for incision”, when subjected to the microscope (50). Presented in this way, the microscope appears as an invasive instrument that cuts and penetrates its objects of investigation, all the while disfiguring their bodies in order to prepare them for the investigation. Even more troubling for Cavendish is that this penetrating search for truth mistakes the view through the microscope as the object’s true nature, its true interior. She claims, “For it is one thing to perceive the exterior figure of a creature, and another thing to perceive its interior, proper, and innate actions” (141). The view through the microscope, in other words, is one that mistakes just another view of the exterior—and a distorted one at that—for the interior. For this reason, “the best optic is a perfect natural eye” (53). While all these rejoinders by Cavendish are remarkable for their eloquence, none are as pungent as her observation that “magnifying glasses are like a high heel to a short leg” (52). This observation brings the scientific instrument into analogy with a cosmetic one that

56 Cavendish 2001 (1666) (as in note 13), p. 50. All pages references from this source will hereafter be included in the body of the main text. 57 See Joanna Picciotto, The Labors of Innocence, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010, for a reading of this aspect of the new science’s discourse.


 Julie Park

can likewise “do no more than represent exterior figures in a bigger, and so in a more deformed shape and posture than naturally they are” (52). Hooke’s invocations of the interior are more delicately presented in Micrographia as a search for seductively elusive nature. Mary Baine Campbell argues that in this sense, his treatise may be read as a romance narrative in which Hooke’s “female loveinterest [is] named Nature”.58 We may discern this romance especially in his wellknown passage: “The footsteps of Nature are to be trac’d, not only in her ordinary course, but when she seems to be put to her shifts, to make many doublings and turnings, and to use some kind of art in endeavouring to avoid our discovery.”59 Hooke also claims that “by [the] helps” of instruments, or, “the adding of artificial Organs to the natural”, the “subtility of the composition of Bodies”, and the “manner of their inward motions” may “come to be more fully discovered”. With this, he suggests not only that nature’s invisible interiority might be his ultimate objective, but also that it can be apprehended through such libertine maneuvers as capturing and penetrating its body.60 In The Blazing World, Cavendish also refers to “Nature’s ways” and the project of tracing them. And yet her observation is formulated to overturn directly Hooke’s. “Nature’s works are so various and wonderful, that no particular creature is able to trace her ways,” Cavendish writes.61 Markedly void of the arabesques of longing that mark Hooke’s description of “Nature”, Cavendish’s description refuses to romanticize her, and refuses to allow the tracing of her ways. Such a view of nature accords with the vitalistic materialism of her natural philosophy, which for her, in opposition with the Royal Society in Observations, “is a self-moving, and consequently a self-living and self-knowing infinite body, divisible into infinite parts” (125). Elsewhere, she personifies nature as an authoritative and autonomous woman, much like the Empress character she creates for herself in The Blazing World. In fact, she identifies “Nature” as a role model for her project as a writer when avowing, “I am industrious to Gain so much of Nature’s favour, as to enable me to do some Work, wherein I may leave my Idea, or live in an idea, or my Idea may live in Many Brains; for then I shall live as Nature Lives amongst her Creatures, which onely Lives in her Works, and is not otherwise Known but by her Works.”62 Of a piece with her complex theory of matter, Cavendish’s view of nature also regards it as the organizing principle of matter, which itself is self-moving, self-conscious, and possesses reason. As such, its interiority is not a static entity, but a mobile

58 Mary Baine Campbell, Wonder and Science, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999, p. 191. 59 Robert Hooke 1961 (1665) (as in note 4), The Preface, no page. 60 Hooke 1961 (1665) (as in note 4), The Preface, no page. 61 Cavendish 1666 (as in note 2). Citations to The Blazing World in this essay will be from the reprinted version in Kate Lilley (ed.), The Blazing World and Other Stories, London: Penguin, 1992, p. 157. 62 Cavendish 1664 (as in note 20), Letter XC, p. 178.

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one that continually determines its “interior figure”. This notion is detectable in the following passage from Observations: But as for the interior form and motions of a creature, as I said before, they can no more represent them, than telescopes can the interior essence and nature of the sun, and what matter it consists of. For if one that never had seen milk before should look upon it through a microscope, he would never be able to discover the interior parts of milk by that instrument, were it best that it is in the world—neither the whey, nor the butter, nor the curds. (52–53)

By referring to the whey, butter, and curds of milk as “the interior parts of milk”, she is making integral to milk the products that emerge from it after it undergoes processes of transformation. Accordingly interiority is not an immobilized object that lies behind the mask of an exterior surface, but an object of potential becoming that is mutable and mobile. However, in light of such autobiographical works as A True Relation of My Birth, Breeding, and Life, where she makes plain her reliance on the pen as a tool for creating a life and world that issue out of the invisible reaches of her imagination, her denunciations of the microscope as a tool that distorts truth into fanciful fictions seem misplaced.63 On one hand, in Observations, she characterizes the male scientific community as “boys that play with watery bubbles […] or make a hobbyhorse of snow”, who are “worthy of reproof rather than praise, for wasting their time with useless sports”. Indeed, they “addict themselves to unprofitable arts” (52). Furthermore, she describes micrography as an “art” that “has intoxicated so many men’s brains” (51). Yet in her preface to the very same work, she refers to her own “much writing” as a “disease” that is “also a great delight and pleasure to [her], as being the only pastime which employs [her] idle hours” (7). In A True Relation, she also describes how her “addiction to contemplation” is supplemented by the capacities of the pen to “sen[d] out in words” her thoughts “in a more methodical order, marching more regularly with my pen on the ground of white paper”.64 The line recalls Hooke’s own allegiance to “the minds of men” as “the best of all invisible things of this world”.65 Hooke’s remark, appearing in his epistle dedicatory to Charles II, not only flatters the King for having “establisht an Empire over the minds of men” by supporting the institution of the Royal Society, but also implies that the microscope itself makes visible the invisible things of this world.

63 Bowerbank, Mendelson 2000 (as in note 17). 64 For a history of women’s handwriting instruction in seventeenth-century England, see Heather Wolfe, “Women’s Handwriting”, in: Laura Lunger Knoppers (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Women’s Writing, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009, pp. 21–39. For the relationship between female subject formation and handwriting practices in a later period and different country, eighteenth-century France, see Dena Goodman, Becoming a Woman in the Age of Letters, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009. 65 Hooke 1961 (1665) (as in note 14), To the King, the Epistle Dedicatory, no page.


 Julie Park

Hooke’s book inscribes the microscope’s gesture of making visible the invisible not only through using the tool in the first place, but also through describing in his own words—when his illustrations can not suffice—the images his mind captures through his eyes, and that would otherwise stay invisible inside his mind without the tool of his own pen to write his observations down in words. When Hooke tires of describing the flea, the disjunction emerges between drawing as a medium for conveying what is visible to the eye, and writing as a medium for conveying how the mind perceives what it sees. Beginning to describe the flea as “adorn’d with a curiously polish’d suit of sable Armour, neatly jointed”—he ends abruptly to claim, “there are many other particulars, which, being more obvious, and affording no great matter of information, I shall pass by, and refer the Reader to the Figure.”66 That his micrography depends as much on the technology of the pen as the technology of the microscope is reflected in the oft-quoted lines that “there is not so much requir’d towards it [micrography] […] as a sincere Hand, and a faithful Eye.”67 And yet agreement with Cavendish stops at the hand. Other elements of the passage just quoted conflict with her program not only for natural philosophy, but also for writing itself. First, Hooke denies that “strength of Imagination” and “depth of contemplation” are necessary for micrography.68 Second, as Cavendish might have it in Observations, the things themselves as they appear through the “faithful Eye” are distorted pictures, “not the real body of the object which the glass presents” (51). For this reason, micrography is one of the “deluding arts” that alters nature (53). Notable in Cavendish’s lines about the exertion of her pen is the way it emphasizes the pen’s mobility, and correspondingly, the movement of her words as they are sent out from her thoughts, but first through saying them aloud. However, throughout her passages about working with a pen, she describes a less than smooth correspondence between the movements of her thoughts and the movements of her pen. She writes: “But my letters seem rather as a ragged rout, than a well-armed body, for the brain being quicker in creating than the hand in writing, or the memory in retaining, many fancies are lost, by reason they oft-times outrun the pen.”69

Despite recognizing its imperfect technology, Cavendish’s descriptions of her pen and its relationship with the contents of her mind suggest it is a more ideal tool for accessing interiority than the microscope. It is so because it operates as a tool of transmission as opposed to penetration. Much like the transformation of milk into curds and whey, thoughts, like handwriting on the page, move and change. Cavendish’s fiction

66 Ibid., Observ. LIII. of a Flea, pp. 210–211. 67 Ibid., The Preface, no page. 68 Ibid., no page. 69 Bowerbank, Mendelson 2000 (as in note 17), p. 56.

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The Blazing World recognizes in its incipient moments of free indirect discourse, the novel’s much-vaunted technique of conveying interiority through giving written utterance to the stream of thinking itself. In one of those moments, the Duchess of Newcastle in the midst of creating a new world of her own, tries out different philosophical doctrines for framing her world. Working through Pythagoras, Aristotle, and Epicurus, she settles on the modern doctrine of Descartes. Having done so: *…* she […] made the ethereal globules, and set them a-moving by a strong and lively imagination, her mind became so dizzy with their extraordinary swift turning round, that it almost put her into a swoon; for her thoughts, by their constant tottering, did so stagger, as if they had all been drunk.70

Overwhelmed by her Cartesian world, she tries out making a world according to Hobbes’s “opinion”. And yet after doing this: *…* All the parts of this imaginary world came to press and drive each other, they seemed like a company of wolves that worry sheep, or like so many dogs that hunt after hares; and when she found a reaction equal to those pressures, her mind was so squeezed together, that her thoughts could neither move forward nor backward, which caused such an horrible pain in her head, that although she had dissolved that world, yet she could not, without much difficulty, settle her mind, and free it from that pain which those pressures and reactions had caused in it.71

Remarkable in this passage is the way Cavendish describes the mind in physical and animated terms. Here, she is not only making the invisible contents of the mind visible, but is also narrating the life of something that might remain un-narrated— that of the mind. In this way she prefigures the interiority of the eighteenth-century novel of domestic realism, doing so within the frameworks of romance and science, which she sets in collaboration with each other. Commonly regarded as conflicting approaches to world making, with science overtaking romance as the orthodox epistemology of truth in narrative fiction, the two stay entwined in The Blazing World.72 In the end, the Duchess decides to create a “world of her own invention”, which succeeds in bringing her delight and pleasure. We know this is also Margaret Cavendish’s world because she has inserted herself as a character in her own fiction—the Duchess of Newcastle is herself. In this world, true interiority can be traced with the pen, which not only issued the world that becomes the fiction we hold in our hands

70 Cavendish 1666 (as in note 61), pp. 187–188. 71 Cavendish 1666 (as in note 61), p. 188. 72 In addition to Mary Baine Campbell and Michael McKeon, Tita Chico and J. Paul Hunter argue that the methods and rhetoric of experimental philosophy and the new science were conducive to the novel’s development as a genre of realism. See Tita Chico, “Minute Particulars: Microscopy and Eighteenth Century Narrative”, in: Mosaic 39.2 (June 2006), pp. 143–161 and J. Paul Hunter, “Robert Boyle and the Epistemology of the Novel”, in: Eighteenth-Century Fiction 2.4 (July 1990), pp. 275–292.


 Julie Park

to read, but also the interior workings of that world and the interior thoughts of the characters that people the world. Cavendish seems again to contradict herself by filling her fiction with “hermaphroditical” or hybrid bodies that are “partly artificial and partly natural”, as she puts it in Observations (50). After all, she has just accused the Royal Society in the same volume of producing such bodies with the microscope. However, Cavendish justifies herself for attacking the Royal Society’s misprisions of truth because they, unlike her, present their hermaphroditical bodies as truth. In contrast she presents her own hermaphroditical bodies as products of fancy, the imagination. For Cavendish, it is inside the imagination where we find the interior parts of things, so generative of the mutating and moveable truth that would surface as the “psychological interiority” of fiction in the following century, and so powerfully evoked but invisible in contemporary Dutch paintings of women like her, enclosed by the interior worlds that mental acts of reading and writing create.

Etienne Jollet

Interior in the Exterior: Marie-Antoinette’s Grotto at Trianon On October 5, 1789, when the Parisian women arrived in Versailles to bring the royal family to the capital, Marie-Antoinette was in her grotto, with some friends. So the legend goes, however real the story is. The grotto, this very interior space, some sort of superlative form of what the architects called les dedans, makes in this dramatic moment a spectacular contrast with the exteriorization of passions in the public space. The contrast is even stronger, since the type of grotto to which the one in Trianon belongs plays directly on an opposition between artifice and a nature, which is stressed by the simplicity of the interior; and also because of the opposition between history in the making and the seclusion of the place, the estate of Trianon, the function of which was to create a distance from the decorum in Versailles. The grotto must then be associated with what the queen sought in Trianon: privacy. The second aspect concerns the interplay with the immediate exterior: the garden and the buildings, through dynamic relationships created by the fact that the grotto is one possible stop during walks through the park considered as a secluded exterior. I will assert, as the third and last point, that the question of interiority has to be thought, as far as the second half of the eighteenth century is concerned, in terms of depth: a vertical interiority, which affects the grotto, the garden, and, supposedly, the self.

1 The grotto: interiority as privacy — or intimacy? “Ici, je suis chez moi”: every contemporary witness stresses the fact that Marie-Antoinette seemed at home in her Trianon estate.1 Did she feel so in the grotto that Richard Mique, the queen’s favorite architect and designer of the gardens of the Petit-Trianon, created in 1781? In fact, very little is known about the way the grotto was actually used by the queen. No letter from her; no description of the project by the architect. The archives prove that she nevertheless was very interested and attentive: she asked for fourteen models of the hill, in 1777 and 1778, and seven projects of the grotto before she accepted one.2 We may be tempted to use the testimony of Madame Campan,

1 See P. Higonnet, La Gloire et l’Echafaud. Vie et destin de l’architecte de Marie-Antoinette, Paris: Vendémiaire, 2011, p. 97. 2 Archives nationales, O1 1877 (4).


 Etienne Jollet

Marie-Antoinette’s chambermaid—though its veracity has been doubted—who writes in her Mémoires that the queen said: “The pleasures of private life don’t exist for us unless we make sure to get them ourselves.”3 It gives some sort of a general indication concerning the use of the grotto: as a superlative form of privacy, that is, a negative conception: privacy as opposed to “publicity” (publicité is used in this sense in French at this time); the interior is a way to fight again a constantly aggressive exteriority, the one of the court. Various important features here are worth referring to. First, the entrance of the grotto is well hidden, at the extremity of a hollow (fig. 1). Second, there are two entrances—or an entrance at the bottom of the fake hill and an exit at the top of it; the two are closed, the former with a latticework, the latter with a grid. Third, the interior is not easy to see. Hézecques declares that “this grotto was so dark that the eyes, dazzled at first, needed some time to discover the objects.”4 Fourth, the noise of the waterfall covers the sound of the voices. Fifth, through a crack—intentional or not—one can see who is coming.5 The grotto is then a retraite, a retreat from the overwhelming hectic life of the court—one among others: as Chantilly for the Prince of Conti since 1774, le Raincy for the Duke of Orléans, or Montreuil for the Countess of Provence.6 As Hézecques put it: “Isn’t it natural that it seems sweet for a sovereign, always in representation, in the midst of the chains of the utmost rigorous etiquette, to be able to retire in some lonely habitation to get rid there of the weight of grandeur?”7 The contrary to “grandeur”: a tiny place for intimacy.8 Would intimité be here what Whately, the celebrated author of Observations on Modern Gardening (1770), the theoretical basis of Mique’s work, describes in such words: a place for “a small

3 Speaking of a selected company, centered on the princess of Lamballe and the countess of Polignac: “Je jouirai des douceurs de la vie privée, qui n’existent pas pour nous, si nous n’avons le bon esprit de nous les assurer”, quoted in: Madame Campan, Mémoires sur la vie de Marie-Antoinette … par madame Campan, Paris: Mongie aîné, 1823, vol. I, p. 142. 4 “Cette grotte était si obscure que les yeux, d’abord éblouis, avaient besoin d’un certain temps pour découvrir les objet.” Quoted in: France d’Hézecques, Page à la cour de Louis XVI. Souvenirs du comte d’Hézecques, Paris: Tallandier, 1987, p. 100. 5 “Mais, soit par l’effet du hasard, soit par une disposition volontaire de l’architecte, une crevasse, qui s’ouvrait à la tête du lit, laissait apercevoir toute la prairie et permettait de découvrir au loin ceux qui auraient voulu s’approcher de ce réduit mystérieux, tandis qu’un escalier conduisait au sommet de la roche.” Quoted in: ibid. 6 For the Trianon, see Mémoires de la baronne d’Oberkirch, Paris: Charpentier, 1853, p. 205 (ch. X, 23 mai 1782): “Je n’ai de ma vie passé des moments plus enchanteurs que les trois heures employées à visiter cette retraite.” 7 “N’est-il (pas) naturel qu’il semble doux à un souverain toujours en representation, au milieu des chaînes de l’étiquette la plus rigoureuse, de pouvoir se retirer dans quelque habitation solitaire pour s’y délasser du poids de la grandeur?”, quoted in: France d’Hézecques 1987, (as in note 4), p. 97. 8 Ibid.

Interior in the Exterior: Marie-Antoinette’s Grotto at Trianon 


Fig. 1: The Grotto at Trianon. Exterior view.

number of friends who came to hide from the rest of the society”.9 Intimacy is here the new form of the epicurean garden, valuating the link of real friendship.10 What we see today from the grotto can corroborate this interpretation. The dimensions of the grotto imply the selectivity of people, which is the fundamental principle at Trianon: only a few persons can be here with the queen.11 It is a rather small place, very irregular in shape, which is never deeper than five meters (from the lower entrance to the bench) and wider than four meters (from the wall on the side of the hollow to the

9 T. Whately, Observations on Modern Gardening, London, 1770, p. 117: the buildings conceived as places for “retirement”. The French text is far more precise: “Ils servirent aussi de retraites agréables à ceux qui aimaient la solitude, et à un petit nombre d’amis qui venoient s’y dérober au tourbillon de la société,” quoted in: L’Art de former les jardins modernes, Paris: Jombert, 1771, p. 99. 10 See the Dictionnaire de l’Académie française, Paris: Académie française, 1762: “intimité” is a “liaison intime” and “intime” means “qui a, pour qui l’on a une affection très forte” (“who has, for whom one has a very strong affection”). 11 The count of Mercy-Argenteau, ambassador of the Austro-Hungarian empire in Paris, mentions in July 1779 that “the queen is more and more busy with her country cottage and that she goes there almost every day, either during the morning or the afternoon: Her Majesty is followed only by two or three persons” (“la Reine est de plus en plus occupée de sa maison de plaisance et qu’elle s’y rend presque chaque jour, soit le matin, soit l’après-midi: Sa Majesté n’y est suivie que par deux ou trois personnes”). Quoted in: P. de Nolhac, Le Trianon de Marie-Antoinette, Paris: Calmann-Levy, 1927, p. 180.


 Etienne Jollet

beginning of the stairs), with a height of approximately 2.5 meters high (fig. 2).12 Such a small place reminds us of the various places created by Mique for the queen: the architect designed a cabinet, i.e., a room for retreat in 1775, a bathroom in 1780, a réchauffoir at the Hameau de la Reine in 1785. He replaced, in the appartements de la reine, the walls of marble by some woodwork with pilasters, far smoother. In all these cases, a process of miniaturization is at work—Hézecques speaks of a “mysterious tiny room” (“mystérieux réduit”).13 Intimacy is a space: it is also acts. What about the actual use of the grotto? The only rather precise witness, the Comte d’Hézecques mentions a bed “made of moss” which “was an invitation to rest”.14 In the context of the critics addressed to MarieAntoinette, resting couldn’t be resting: for the pamphlets, the depraved queen has here a place even more appropriate than Versailles, than the rest of Trianon, for her excesses. In fact, there is absolutely no proof of such a behavior. The “bed” surely permits to a body to lay down, but it is, along the wall on the opposite side of the entrance, nothing more than a horizontal and curved surface, two meters long. But in fact, there are two “benches”: very close, but separated by the rock, there is a narrow one, for one person. Mique seems here to refer to what C.C.L. Hirschfeld, the great theoretician of these jardins anglo-chinois in his Theorie der Gartenkunst (1779­–85), known in French as Théorie de l’art des jardins and translated from 1781 onwards, asks for: a “small bench of lawn, or a heap of earth that nature has covered with moss”.15 It was the case for the grotto at Trianon: sparteries, i.e. plaitings, a brand-new technique for the period, were put everywhere on the walls.16 And these, adds Hirschfeld, were “the usual type of seats known in the times of the first simplicity of gardens”. Simplicité is the big word here: it corresponds to the way back to nature. Furniture is reduced, according to Hirschfeld, “to penetrate the interior and to pierce some apertures which constitute seats and even convenient dwellings”. The authors of memoirs, as the archives, don’t mention any piece of furniture. What is here at stake is the questioning of social status, of convenance, of decorum:

12 We may note a tendency to small inner spaces: Mme Victoire’s grotto at the Hermitage is 8 feet high by 9 feet wide—approximately 2.60 on 2.90 meters. 13 France d’Hézecques 1987 (as in note 4). See also note 5. 14 “It was entirely covered with moss and refreshed by the stream which strolls across it. A bed, also in moss, was an invitation to rest.” (“Elle était toute tapissée de mousse et rafraîchie par le cours d’eau qui la traversait. Un lit, également en mousse, invitait au repos,” quoted in: ibid.). 15 C. C. L. Hirschfeld, Théorie de l’art des jardins, Leipzig: Les héritiers de M. G. Weidmann et Reich, 1779, p. 135. 16 J.-F. Gavoty de Berthe obtained in 1775 the monopoly of a false lawn made with a plant, the Spanish esparto or Stipa tenacissima. D. Vivant-Denon quotes it in his erotic novel Point de lendemain (1777): “Le parquet, couvert d’un tapis pluché, imitait le gazon,” Vivant Denon, Point de lendemain, in: Étiemble (ed.), Romanciers du XVIIIe siècle, vol. II, préface par Étiemble, Paris: Gallimard, coll. “Bibliothèque de la Pléiade”, no. 178, 1965, p. 379–402, p. 397.

Interior in the Exterior: Marie-Antoinette’s Grotto at Trianon 


Fig. 2: Pierre-André Lablaude, The Grotto at Trianon, Cross-Section.

“One couldn’t get further from nature than by adopting the prejudice according to which the grottoes must correspond to the status of the owner and increase with him in richness and magnificence”.17 But even this supporter of grottoes as “imitations of natural caves” (pp. 102–103) says that they must be “as clean as necessary, and that they must not be harmful for the health because of their mugginess”. The problem here is the relationship to nature. From what we see today after the restoration of 2005,18 from what we learn from the archives, from what we notice in the contemporary testimonies, the relationship to nature, at the very origin of the valuation of the grotto in the Western tradition from the Renaissance onwards, was very present at Trianon. Hézecques, the best source, gives only a few words on the topic: “it was entirely covered with moss and refreshed by the water flowing across it”—even if we have seen that the moss was

17 C. C. L. Hirschfeld 1779, (as in note 15), p. 106. 18 By P.-A. Lablaude, ACMH. I thank Gérard Robaut and Annick Heitzmann, from the Centre de recherche du château de Versailles, for having kindly given me access to the file concerning the restoration of the grotto.


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fake.19 Mineral and vegetal components are narrowly associated; and it is the case outside, with important vegetation around the place: grass, bushes, and trees everywhere. This grotto then can be called a folie, provided that one doesn’t interpret it as “madness” but link it to its etymology: it comes from folia, the leaf, hence a vegetal frame. The absence of furniture inside stresses this desire to imitate an original state of things. In fact, it can be considered as also belonging as even older trend, the one illustrated by the Abbé Pluche when he declares: “Let’s give the least possible modification to what we have under our hand: our dwellings are converted into terrestrial paradise”.20 It is here more a religious reference, but the result is the same: back to the state of nature. But to which nature?

2 The grotto and the exterior: toward a dynamic approach of gaze The best formulation of this phenomenon is given by the American politician Governor Morris: who says of France, “Royalty has here endeavoured and at great Expense to conceal itself from its own Eye but the Attempt is vain.”21 In vain, since privacy is shown. First, the grotto was, up to the end of the seventeenth century, a very architectonic building, placed at the end of the alleys or under the terraces;22 but at the beginning of the eighteenth century, according to the same Antoine-Joseph Dezallier d’Argenville, “Perspectives and grottoes are now almost out of fashion, above all the grottoes which are very at risk to be wasted.”23 With the jardin anglo-chinois, the grotto as a fabrique is back, but with a new paradox: it is still an important component of the whole effect produced by the park; but, as it is supposed to represent the wild part of the world, it must stay remote from the eyes.24 The solution is the effect of sur-

19 The technique was already used: in the Château of Aunois, at Champeaux; in Einville, both grotto and a rustic lodge have unrefined furnishings. In Commercy, a cabin is covered with moss. 20 Abbé Pluche, Le Spectacle de la nature, Paris: Veuve Estienne et fils, 1752, vol. II, p. 82: “Donnons le moindre arrangement à ce que nous avons sous notre main, nos demeures se convertissent en un paradis terrestre”. 21 Beatrix Cary Davenport (ed.), A Diary of the French Revolution by Gouverneur Morris, vol. I, Boston, 1939, p. 78 (May 14, 1789). 22 A.-J. Dezallier d’Argenville, La Théorie et la Practique du jardinage, Paris: J. Mariette, 1732, p. 100: “On les plaçoit ordinairement au bout des allées, et dessous des terrasses (a) “On a laissé ruiner les Grottes de Versailles, de Meudon, de Saint-Germain, de Saint Cloud, de Rueil, de Conflans, et autres”. 23 “Les perspectives et les grottes ne sont maintenant presque plus à la mode, surtout les (a) grottes qui sont fort sujettes à se gâter”, quoted in: ibid. 24 See the count of Shaftesbury: “Even the rude Rocks, the mossy Caverns, the irregular unwrought Grotto’s [sic], and broken Falls of Waters, with all the horrid Graces of the Wilderness itself, as representing Nature more, will be the more engaging, and appear with a Magnificence beyond the

Interior in the Exterior: Marie-Antoinette’s Grotto at Trianon 


prise, important in the aesthetics of the picturesque garden, from the ha-ha onwards. But one should also remember that the grotto, before being hidden in the vegetation, was viewed by the queen from above: when she looked at the various models of it made by the sculptor Deschamps, who used stone, plaster, and cardboard for the rocks; pieces of mirror for water; and wool, moss, and bits of horn for the trees and lawn.25 The grotto is placed between two hills. One bears the belvedere, the other is the montagne de l’escargot (the mountain of the snail). This location was even easier to spot when it was illuminated for a feast, as for the one in honor of Joseph II, the emperor, in 1781. An account by “Geoffroy, chandelier à Paris” mentions 1,200 terrines (i.e., large earthenware pots) and other pots used for such illuminations, which LouisClaude Chatelet would paint.26 A whole setting seems to have been created thanks to 138 transparents—oiled papers decorated and placed on frames, and behind which a light is set—and artificial bushes made of sparterie (plaitings).27 In the normal conditions, the grotto exists as a place among others, considering that the pertinent scale is the garden as a whole—a garden, which is itself a play between closing and opening. We may here recall that the mere word “garden”, as “garten” and “jardin”, includes the notion of a limit, a fence.28 The closure in the grotto is a version of what happens in the garden itself—an interior. In the case of Trianon, the relationship is particularly strong, because of the effect of echo: the grande rivière, already designed by the Count of Caraman and used by Mique in his final project of 1777, is repeated inside the grotto: the stream gushes out from the rocher, the vast fake rock. Inside, the river is, because of the steep, some sort of waterfall. The link between inside and outside is then of two types: by imitation; by contiguity. The old logic linking the microcosm and the macrocosm is still valid here. In fact, the whole grotto has to be understood in terms of its relationship to the other small world of which it is an echo; this very deep interior has to be analyzed in its relationship to the exterior. This is why a dynamic approach to the grotto, as inscribed in a walk, in a promenade, must be considered. The fact we mentioned that they are places of rest is because of the walk; and they belong to a larger type, the reposoirs, mentioned by Hirschfeld: “One needs resting places to get rid of the weariness caused by the walks

formal Mockery of Princely Gardens,” quoted in: The Moralists (1709), quoted by J. Dixon Hunt & P. Willis, The Genius of the Place. The English Landscape Garden 1620–1820, Cambridge, MA / London: MIT Press, 1988, p. 124. 25 It was executed by the sculptor Deschamps (Archives nationales, O1 1880). 26 “Mémoire des fournitures faites pour les quatre illuminations de la grotte du jardin de la Rene au petiti Trianon, par Geoffroy chandelier à Paris” (quoted in: Archives nationales, O1 1877). 27 “Mémoire des fournitures faites pour les quatre illuminations de la grotte et des deux du jardin de la Reine au petit Trianon, par la Varinière artificier à Paris” (quoted in: Archives nationales, O1 1877). 28 See the old Frankish “gart”.


 Etienne Jollet

[…] Comfort requires them to be placed in cool and shadowed places.”29 They must also provide a nice point of view, from which one takes greater pleasure while resting than during the walk. The most characteristic feature is the development of a new type of grotto during the second half of the eighteenth century: the banc couvert (the covered bench). The most obvious case of the complexity of the game between hiding and showing the interior is constituted by the various representations of the grotto painted by Claude-Louis Chatelet. From 1779 onwards, Marie-Antoinette had him draw and paint with watercolors various views of the Petit-Trianon to offer to high-ranking visitors after their stay in Versailles. It seems that there were five of them, out of which three included views of the grotto.30 The one for Joseph II includes twenty drawings, fifteen of the building, the rest of the fabriques in the garden. The last drawing shows the interior of the grotto: the stream at the center, two figures seated at the entrance (one an artist with a sketchpad on his lap). The positioning at the end of the series is interesting, since it evokes the idea of distance from the palace, the views of which are placed at the beginning; and so the mention of the artist, since it shows that the place is not associated with the figure of the queen, but presented as picturesque—as what is worth being painted (it is a habit, shown in Fragonard’s or Hubert Robert’s paintings of Italy, to show artists in such a site).31 The album of 1786 is, on the contrary, well known: executed in 1786 for her sisterin-law and brother, the Archduke Ferdinand of Lorraine-Este, it is kept at the Biblioteca Estense in Modena.32 There are three views of the grotto, placed before the ones of the hamlet: One of the outside, showing the entrance—or, more precisely, the vale, since the entrance itself is hidden (fig. 3). Two men and a woman are there—they could be the visitors. In 1786, the Archduke Ferdinand, travelling under the pseudonym of Count of Nellenbourg and his spouse, Maria Beatrice Cybo Malaspina, visited the park. The characters are dressed as visitors and the grotto is indicated, with a deictic gesture, by one of the men to a woman: it designates the object of the visit, but it is also a way to integrate the representation in the long tradition of “sentimental journeys” (to refer to L. Sterne’s contemporary book), since the Pilgrimage at the Isle of Cythera by Watteau, or even more the Enseigne de Gersaint: what is important is the idea of direction toward an aim common to the two members of a couple. The

29 C. C. L. Hirschfeld 1779 (as in note 15), p. 134. 30 An album for Joseph II, after his visit to his sister Marie-Antoinette in 1781 (private coll., sold at Christie’s New York on October 29, 2001); another for the Grand Duke Paul Petrovitch of Russia, in: Pavlovsk Library, the frontispiece at the Metropolitan Museum, New York; a third one, here mentioned, in 1786. 31 See the Cascatelles de Tivoli by Fragonard, Paris, Musée du Louvre. 32 Pierre Arizzoli-Clémentel, L’Album de Marie-Antoinette. Vues et plans du Petit Trianon à Versailles, Montreuil: Gourcuff Gradenigo, 2008.

Interior in the Exterior: Marie-Antoinette’s Grotto at Trianon 


Fig. 3: Claude-Louis Chatelet, The Grotto at Trianon: Three Cross-Sections.

stream, strolling along, but also the small bridge accentuates the idea of the existence of various steps before arriving to the aim of the trip. The views of the interior are executed according the norm used for the buildings: as cross-sections (ill. and ill.). The first shows two visitors, who embody the two possible attitudes: sitting (on one of the “benches”) or standing. But what is surprising is not to find the same characters as in the view outside: the two men, with their long coats, are represented as travelers. The notion of travel is accentuated by the fact that the man on the right is stopped at the very shore of the stream. The other drawing gives a different angle of view but above all stresses the power of nature inside the grotto: the main motif is the waterfall. A parallelism, which one does not feel when in 


 Etienne Jollet

the grotto, is accentuated by the fact that there is a person on each side, both showing their backs: one is climbing the stairs in the direction of the way out at the top, the other is half visible and goes back to the entrance—as if the visit was finished: but the fact that he points with the left hand to the waterfall creates a link with the possible interlocutor, the man outside, who is a guard, presumably, because of the gun. A fourth work, seeming to belong to another series, stresses even a bit more this relationship between the exterior and the interior.33 The characters on the left resemble the ones in the exterior view of the series of 1786, but in a far more gallant way, with a canon of proportions that is closer to the tradition of Boucher and Fragonard. There is the same gesture of invitation to enter the grotto as in the first painting, but this gesture is also, for the beholder, a guide that leads to the interior of the grotto, this time visible. The general scheme of the representation is not far from what is proposed in the second view of 1786: the man on the left still climbs the stairs, but here the point of view is not in frontal. In such a view, exterior and interior are associated as two components of a same picturesque presentation of the garden. In fact, this way of playing with the relationship between exterior and interior exists in a number of prints, where the point of view is situated in the interior of the grotto—we have to remember that point de vue, at this period, has a double meaning; it defines both the place to be seen and the place from which you see, as if both belong to the same apparatus. And it means that the point of view chosen for the print we are dealing with is also something we have to question.34 Chambers mentions the Chinese rocks with “apertures, through which one sees what is in the distance” and likewise Hirschfeld mentions these tableaux, which are what is to been seen in a garden—a word also used by Girardin at Ermenonville.35 The most extraordinary and influential perspective is the one mentioned by Le Rouge in his Jardins anglo-chinois: these Chinese grottoes, placed under water, with a glass window on the ceiling to see the animals above.36 Being inside means to look outside the proper way.

33 A black and white photograph is held in the collections of the Département des Estampes et de la photographie of the BNF: “Histoire du château de Versailles: La grotte de la reine au petit Trianon; aquarelle ayant appartenu à Marie-Antoinette (collection Parmentier).” 34 Such a point of view can be illustrated by the print of M. Tronchain’s garden at Saint-Leu Taverny. 35 C. C. L. Hirschfeld, Théorie de l’art des jardins, Leipzig: Les héritiers de M. G. Weidmann et Reich, 1779, p. 48: “Des cabinets posés avec choix ont offert des abris nécessaires et des tableaux qui arrêtent et attachent les regards”; E. de Girardin, Promenade ou itinéraire des jardins d’Ermenonville, Paris: Mérigot père, 1788: “L’art des jardins, ou celui d’ajouter aux charmes de la nature champêtre, consiste uniquement à exécuter des Tableaux sur le terrain, par les mêmes règles que sur la toile,” (“avis”, no pagination). 36 Le Rouge, Jardins anglo-chinois, Paris: Le Rouge, 1784: at the corner of the “Plan du rocher et de la grande cascade de Saint-Leu”—the plan of the rock and large falls of Saint-Leu, in the left inferior corner: “Projet d’un Appartement sous l’Eau”. Le Rouge refers to the Chinese Hoie-ta, or dwellings beneath water: “Le plafond composé de glaces admet la lumière au travers de l’eau qui le couvre. On observe à travers le cristal du plafond l’agitation de l’eau, le passage des navires, les jeux des

Interior in the Exterior: Marie-Antoinette’s Grotto at Trianon 


Fig. 4: The Grotto at Trianon. The Crack.

In Marie-Antoinette’s grotto, the legend gives to a crack between the rocks the purpose of preventing an undesired visit (fig. 4/Plate 5)—in fact there are two of them. But if we refer to the contemporary types of relationship between inside and outside in the houses, the emphasis is more on a play between the two dimensions, with the presence of elements of nature in the house, and views on the garden.37 The baroque salon terrena, so well named in German as Gartensaal, shows that there are reflections about the link between the two dimensions. Diana Balmori’s proposition to name the grottoes “intermediate spaces” is very pertinent for our period, since it plays with the two dimensions:38 it is the time when Ledoux builds his hôtel Thélusson with a grotto beneath the building, and Bélanger has similar projects. Another characteristic of the grotto at Trianon must here be mentioned: the fact that it has two entrances, but also that the stream goes through the space. The “intermediate” space is to be understood as associating two sides, like the famous Pope’s

oiseaux aquatiques, des poissons dorés qui nagent au-dessus du spectateur, les mandarins en font des retraites voluptueuses” (“the ceiling covered with mirrors accepts light through the water which covers it […] one observes the movement of water, the crossing of ships, the plays of aquatic birds, of golden fish above the beholder, the mandarins make of them voluptuous retreats”). 37 See Eva Börsch-Supan, Garten-, Landschafts- und Paradiesmotive in Innenraum. Eine ikono­ graphische Untersuchung, Berlin: Bruno Hessling, 1967. 38 Diana Balmori, Architecture, Landscape and the Intermediate Structure. Eighteenth-Century Experiments in Mediation, in: Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 50.1 (1991), p. 38–56.


 Etienne Jollet

grotto in Twickenham, which is a long corridor with rooms; or the entrance of Retz, or of Mauperthuis, where it corresponds to a passage from one stage to another in some sort of psychic progression towards Truth, in a freemason context; or at Arc-etSenans, where the entrance is both a grotto and a sun. During the 1780s, numerous grottoes are becoming underground passages: at the garden of Saint-James in Neuilly, in the park of Montceau. The grotto is here to be considered in a progression that is not only the one that leads, in the limits of the garden, from one fabrique to another, as a sort of spiritual progression. This one also deals with a dimension specific to the grotto: depth.

3 The grotto and the depth as the real interior The grotto at Trianon is not in the ground: it is beneath a fake hill. That means that its ground is at the same level as the park, which Chatelet’s images confirm. But as the same time, it gives an image of nature in its rawest aspect: with rocks and moss—the rocks must have been given these couleurs de vétusté (colors of dilapidation) mentioned for the grotto in Bellevue.39 Whately, then Watelet in France, had asserted that there were three fundamental characteristics: “dignity”, “terror”, “fancy”—in French “le majestueux”, “le terrible”, “le merveilleux”. There is no way to decide to which type our grotto belongs, but it seems to belong to neither of the first two. However, the rocks and moss from inside inscribes it in the context of mountains, very close to the actual caves the same Claude-Louis Chatelet had drawn during his travel in the Alps (fig. 5). It absolutely fits with what Marie-Antoinette asked, the reference to the landscapes of the Swiss Valais, supposed to be illustrated by the two hills between which the grotto is placed, the one on the top of which the belvedere is located, and the “mountain of the snail”.40 Marie-Antoinette’s grotto at Trianon belongs to the type of artificial grottoes that look natural. This type dominates during the eighteenth century. It leaves behind the built one, exemplified in Versailles by the grotto of Thetis. The knowledge of actual caves was in fact constant: the issue was whether to refer to it or not. One deals here with serious problems—no more than the relationship between the activity of man and the reign of nature. As Félibien put it: “There are two sorts of grottoes: the ones are works from Nature, the others works of Art; and as Art never makes something more beautiful than when it imitates Nature well: so Nature never produces some-

39 See Paul Biver, Histoire du château de Bellevue, Paris: Gabriel Esnault, 1933, p. 34: Belot paints in “couleurs de vétusté” the fake rocks in cement made by the “rocailleur” Ménard. The colors were first tested by the Parisian ornemanist Tolède (quoted in: Archives nationales, O1 1536, p. 150). 40 See Muriel Müntz de Raïssac, Richard Mique. Architecte du roi de Pologne Stanislas Ier, des Mesdames et de Marie-Antoinette, Paris: Honoré Champion, 2011, p. 142–143.

Interior in the Exterior: Marie-Antoinette’s Grotto at Trianon 


Fig. 5: Claude-Louis Chatelet, View of a Grotto.

thing rarer than when Art puts its hand on it”.41 It is a legitimization of false nature, which is immediately adapted to the interior—in a rather surprising way for a man who is going to describe the grotto of Thétys: Félibien describes a cave—or caves, the ones of Tibiran, in the Pyrénées, which looks like a real apartment, with several rooms, filled with marvels of craftsmanship.42 The comparison between the grotto and an apartment is not that pertinent for the grotto at Trianon. It belongs to the ideal of false nature, a characteristic of the

41 A. Félibien, Description de la grotte de Versailles, Paris, 1679. He refers to Ovid, Metamorphosis, III, 157: “Cujus in extremo est antro nemorale recessu, arte laboratum nulla: simulaverat artem ingenio natura suo”: “Here is a dark cave which owes nothing to art: nature has simulated art with its own genius.” 42 “Ceux qui ont eu assez de curiosité pour entrer dans les grottes de Tibiran, qui sont dans les Pyrénées en ont remarqué trois, qui font comme un Appartement complet, et où l’on voit une imitation assez juste de ces riches ornements dont l’on pare les lambris et les plafonds des chambres les plus superbes,” quoted in: ibid.


 Etienne Jollet

jardin anglo-chinois, the type to which the park at Trianon belongs (Richard Mique possessed, among other books, an exemplary verifier of Whately’s Observations on Modern Gardening). But even in this genre there is a discrepancy between two types of grottoes. The first corresponds to the tradition of Renaissance grottoes, translating a conception of nature as natura naturans.43 This type remained during the eighteenth century. According to the Duke of Croÿ, Boutin, with his “Tivoli” in Paris from 1766 onwards, “was the first who has here (in France) made real the idea of creating English gardens at a large scale […]” and among other fabriques, “grottoes adorned with precious shells”.44 Closer to the Trianon, the grotto of Madame Victoire at the hermitage in Versailles (1782) is covered with shells, crystals, minerals, and marine plants, with a fountain with a winged child at the bottom. Mique’s grotto, on the other side, doesn’t exhibit the process of its creation. It only shows an effect: the moss on the wall refers to humidity, as in a real cave. It is not the only case in France: as early as 1767, the Aunoy estate in Champeaux, ordered by P.J.B. Gerbier in 1767, includes a simply rusticated grotto. The king’s sister, Madame Elisabeth, has such an undecorated grotto at her estate of Montreuil, designed from 1783 onwards by the architect J.-J. Huvé. This one is also characterized by the fact that inside there are two ways down: stairs to go to the edge of the lake and stairs to reach a bench.45 Verticality is doubly stressed. In fact, verticality in the grotto at Trianon is very present, and not only because of the stairs to the top of the hill. It is also so because the stream is first a waterfall, then a ditch above which a sort of bridge is built, stressing the fact that there is a depth inside the grotto, as an echo to the orientation toward the top. This double vertical orientation of the grotto’s interior replaces here the more common model of the grottosituated at the bottom of a hill, with a belvedere on top, is , such as the one erected in the estate of Balbi, located very close to Trianon, on the other side of the park of the Château of Versailles. There, from 1787 onwards the architect Chalgrin built both a grotto and a belvedere in another fake hill. Richard Mique, though, had in certain blueprints of 1786–88, maybe in relation to Chalgrin’s works, planned a fake ruin on the top of his grotto; but it was never achieved. Verticality is also stressed in the representations by Chatelet, in the way he uses, for a spectacular effect, the well-known procedure of the cross-section. Not only is the spectator absolutely in the heart of the grotto, but the surrounding rocks, painted in the conventional pink that is traditionally attributed to the built parts on a blueprint, form some sort of a triumph arch (ill.). Chatelet here seems to use the angle “under

43 See Phillipe Morel, Les Grottes maniéristes en Italie au XVIe siècle, Paris: Macula, 1998. 44 Boutin created his garden, “Tivoli”, in what will become “la nouvelle Athènes” in Paris. 45 Archives des Yvelines, IV Q 483: there was a “petite grotte avec un petit escalier dans le rocher au pied de la tour, quatorze marches pour descendre au lac et cinq autres pour descendre à une petite salle où est pratiqué un banc”.

Interior in the Exterior: Marie-Antoinette’s Grotto at Trianon 


the bridge”, which a famous article by J. Langner associates with Neo-Piranesism.46 Noticeable is also the tendency to conceive the whole grotto as a sort of frame, which stresses the central part, especially the waterfall, i.e., the dynamic element stressing the verticality, as in the second view of the album of 1786. But in the first, on the right, one sees the stream as situated outside of the grotto; whereas on the left, what the light part in front indicates is not clear: it might be a hole in the ground, which exists, but it can also be the soil of the place. In this way, some sort of vertigo is created, which makes the place at the same time static and in motion, as the two travellers show by their attitude. In opposition to the abstraction of the cut in the rocks, some big stones are scattered, creating an idea of lively chaos. The man resting (or meditating) and the other one in motion belong to a logic of trespassing thresholds: the traveller on the right has his right foot on the very limit of the stairs, above the stream, the one which stresses the idea of movement in the representation. The grotto belongs to a system of dynamic approaches in which the task of the gardener is: “To build, to plant, whatever you intend, To rear the Column, or the Arch to bend, To swell the Terras, or to sink the Grot; In all, let Nature never be forgot”.

The first verses of Pope’s “Epistle to Lord Burlington” (1731) says it: “sink the Grot”— the grotto is in motion, and in motion in the direction of the ground. Depth—of the ground, of man: it is the link between these two interiorities—a link which, historically, is characteristic of the eighteenth century. This grotto “to rest”, or more, is built as a period when the underground is valuated as never before. The utopian tradition is renovated thanks to the success of Ludwig Holberg’s Niels Klim’s underground travels, initially published at Copenhagen in Latin in 1741 and quickly translated into French in 1743.47 The discoveries of Scheuchzer or Benoit de Baillet led the regent Philippe d’Orléans (1715­–1723) to order his Enquêtes, inquiries about French mineralogical richness. The second half of the century we here refer to sees the birth of the term “geology”—in 1778, by the Swiss mineralogist Jean-André Deluc. It is in France the period of the creation of a special service for the quarries, especially under Paris. It gives some sort of scientific

46 J. Langner, La vue par dessous le pont. Fonctions d’un motif piranésien dans l’art français de la seconde moitié du XVIIIe siècle, in: Georges Brunel, André Chastel (eds.), Actes du colloque. Piranèse et les Français, exhibition catalogue, Rome, 1976, pp. 293–302. 47 Ludwig Holberg, Le voyage souterrain de Niels Klim, trans. by M. Mauvillon, Paris: 1743. Recent edition: Paris: Delamain and Boutilleau, 1949. For the utopian tradition, see Tyssot de Patot, La vie, les aventures et le voyage de Troenland du révérend père Cordelier Pierre de Mésange, Paris, 1720; the chevalier de Mouhy, Lamékis ou les voyages extraordinaires d’un Egyptien dans la terre intérieure, Paris, 1738; or Casanova, Isocameron, Paris, 1787.


 Etienne Jollet

legitimacy to what architecture has organized for so long, the idea according which a building presents in itself the history of humanity: ontogenesis associated with phylogenesis, with the grotto; it plays at another scale, the one of the ground—with all sorts of distance toward it: since the word intime is yet used to qualify the secret structure of nature, as with Buffon: “we will never penetrate the intimate nature of things”.48 The 1780s are also the period during which a new valuation of the grotto as the original place not only of manhood, but also of architecture, is developed by CharlesFrançois Viel de Saint-Maux, which sees in the grotto the origin of human shelter, in opposition to the well-known Vitruvian cabin: the grotto corresponding to societies which practiced an agricultural cult, the origin of the column no longer being the tree, but the pillar in the cave. In fact, various features show the convergence of attitudes toward a valuation of a principle of fertility at the very basis of physiocracy: a new cult of Gaïa that makes of the grotto some sort of a native cave. The stream is here an element that can corroborate this valuation in terms of movement—but a movement of the present, in the heart of the earth. At Trianon, all the elements are present: rocks, moss, water, but no statue of Gaïa—and no trace of the queen: what the grotto brought to Marie-Antoinette, to her very inner feelings, is still unknown. Would it be then possible to refer to the oldest meaning of intimité? The one we avoided mentioning at the beginning of this paper, as being too far away from what we know of Marie-Antoinette: the deepest layers of oneself, discovered through meditation. The grotto here would be the one of the anchorite—a retraite, a place for retirement. Here, no reference to what Dezallier d’Argenville, in 1755, associates with the grotto in the castle of Montgeron, south of Paris—a creative solitude: “As one is there protected from the sun, it has been called the cabin of solitude. It is there that the man of genius creates beauties in the place which is the least susceptible of welcoming them.” And no melancholy as mentioned by Girardin, in his Promenade ou Itinéraire des Jardins d’Ermenonville (1788), where he describes a grotto almost identical to the one in Trianon, slowly discovered and experienced: “This shaded path which runs along the river leads to a grotto covered with climbing plants, which contribute to give it an air of dilapidation; between several rocky vaults, a waterfall can be seen, that the dark colors of the grotto make even brighter. It is from the bench covered with moss that this effect of water, which is pleasant to the eyes, must be enjoyed, and brings the soul to a sweet and tender melancholy.”49 Here, the owner speaks and characterizes the feelings which are supposed to be created by his grotto. Was melancholy already

48 “Nous ne pénétrerons jamais dans la structure intime des choses” (quoted in: Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, Œuvres complètes de Buffon, Paris: Pourrat frères, 1835, Histoire des animaux, chapter II, “De la reproduction en général”, p. 17). 49 E. de Girardin, Promenade ou itinéraire des jardins d’Ermenonville, Paris: Mérigot père, 1788, p. 16: “Ce sentier ombragé qui suit le cours de la rivière, conduit à une grotte tapissée de plantes rampantes, de toute espèce, qui contribuent à lui donner un air de vétusté ; entre plusieurs voûtes de rochers, on aperçoit la cascade, que la couleur sombre de la grotte fait paraître plus brillante. C’est du banc de

Interior in the Exterior: Marie-Antoinette’s Grotto at Trianon 


fashionable in the grotto at Trianon? In fact, what we know is the queen spent more and more of her time in another cave, but this one with characters: the theater, so close, so far away, filled with people and life. A shelter away from the court; a place to rest in the itinerary of the garden; a contact with nature, in depth? The grotto at Trianon seems to have been a type the definition of which can be found in theoretical books, but which is in fact something rather new in France, before being imitated in the popular fabrique. The obvious interest the queen had in the whole project, and especially in the grotto (the seven different projects!) show it corresponded to an ideal of deliberate self-seclusion at a double scale, the one of the park and the one of the place. And the principle of fake nature triumphs here even more than in the hameau. The locus amoenus then executed belongs to a whole tendency leading to the appreciation of the underground—but at the very moment when this underground becomes something collective, where the mineralogists and the physiocrats find the richness of the nation, where the antiquaires find its past: in what will be called, during a nineteenth century characterized by the triumph of the idea of the nation, Boden in Germany, sol de la patrie in French. Houdon, in these years, wanted to put Louis XVI at the top of a hill in Brest, but more precisely at the top of an old tower supposed to be Roman, the king being thus above what the ground concealed: the collective past. As far as his wife is concerned, her personal interior in the exterior, her grotto at Trianon, has been only for a very “happy few”. In both cases, but at different scales, the relationship to the ground was a way to define a problematic identity. But Houdon’s project in Brest failed; and in Trianon, after October 5, 1789, the grotto has been as it is today: for—nobody.

mousse qu’il faut jouir de cet effet d’eau qui est agréable aux yeux, et porte l’âme à une mélancolie douce et tendre.”

Susan Sidlauskas

Inside Out: Cézanne’s Perforated Wall Is there be a modern painter less associated with domesticity than Paul Cézanne? Linda Nochlin’s name for him—the “Lone Wolf of Aix”—persists, fortified by the fact that the painter spurned a conventional family life, was never photographed within a domestic interior, as far as we know, and spent most of his time alone wandering in search of his motif. However, it would be a mistake to extrapolate from Cézanne’s self-professed wariness of domestic life proof of his disinterest in either the interior or interiority. Walter Benjamin believed that the urban population of the nineteenth century was “addicted” to the dwelling. He envisioned the domestic interior as a kind of cocoon in which every single object, piece of furniture, and every figure was cloaked in layers of fabric; as Benjamin dryly observed, “From this cavern, one does not like to stir.”1 But eventually, at least some of those dark spaces yielded to the world outside: “The bourgeois who came into ascendency with Louis-Philippe,” Benjamin proclaimed, “sets store by the transformation of nature into the interior,” an incursion exemplified by a ball at the British embassy around 1840. The writer reported that guests had navigated an interior landscape adorned with two hundred rose bushes, completed with indoor graveled walks, and cast iron benches. This seeming dissolution of the separation between the inside and the outside anticipated “[…] the porosity and transparency of the 20th century domestic interior,” Benjamin wrote. Its openness “put an end to dwelling in the old sense”.2 I would contend that Paul Cézanne’s ambitious watercolor The Balcony, painted around 1900, at just the moment Benjamin described (fig. 1/ Plate 6), visualizes the convergence of the old and the new, the inward retreat and the outward projection, materializing as a fragile-appearing but deceptively elastic screen of color. Despite the apparent modesty of this late work, The Balcony motivates us to rethink the parameters of the visual form that we associate—in great part at Benjamin’s prompting—with interiority. Cézanne’s simultaneous deflection and submission did not depend upon a projection into an internal architectural space, as it did for other nineteenth-century artists such as Degas, Sargent, or Vuillard.3 Instead, it was distilled in a scrim of luminous paint strokes: a perforated wall situated where the formlessness of nature con-

1 Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, trans. by Howard Eiland, Kevin MacLaughlin, prepared on the basis of the German volume edited by Rolf Tiedemann, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002, p. 220. 2 Ibid., p. 221. 3 On the representation of the domestic interior as a vehicle for conveying interiority in 19thcentury visual culture, see Susan Sidlauskas, Body, Place and Self in Nineteenth Century Painting, Cambridge, UK/New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2000.


 Susan Sidlauskas

Fig. 1: Paul Cézanne, The Balcony, ca. 1900 (possibly later). Graphite and watercolor on paper. 61 × 45.1 cm, The Philadelphia Museum of Art.

fronted the structure of the dwelling with greatest force (or perhaps it was the reverse, in Cézanne’s case—the formless dwelling resisting the architecture of nature). Rather than visualizing an enclosure, an intimate space defined by walls, the painter imagined a kind of membrane between the inside and the outside, suggesting that the 

Inside Out: Cézanne’s Perforated Wall 


boundary between self and world was both (in the words of anthropologist Paul Connerton) “permeable and reversible”.4 This reversibility makes sense for Cézanne, for whom every space was both exterior and interior. The lone wolf of Aix was known to recoil from the touch of others, fearful of anyone “getting their hooks [grappins]” into him, his solitude, as Richard Shiff has described it, “folding in on himself, within the closed circle of his life-intoart, art-into-life existence”.5 Yet even given Cézanne’s fanatic desire to close that circle, he breached it to gaze at his beloved motifs with such ferocity that they became for him virtually palpable. The operations of the “body schema”, according to psychologist Shaun Gallagher “[…] are neither strictly mental (intentional) nor strictly physical phenomena, although their effects reach across this distinction”. The form of The Balcony gestures toward that extension.6 Susan Stewart has written that, “Touch, like dizziness, is a threshold activity— subjectivity and objectivity come quite close to one another.”7 The Balcony mobilizes both the sensation and its shadow (vertigo, according to Stewart) through the groundlessness of the space with which we are confronted. At first glance, this watercolor appears so innocent, as if it were made only for visual pleasure—both the artist’s and our own. But its apparent simplicity is deceptive, as is its flat-footed, frontal composition, which is relatively uncommon in Cézanne’s work. There are small but distinct ruptures in the near-translucent field of color: strategic marks of inky black and blood red that occasionally darken the film of greens and blues, soft grays and ochers. With a well-practiced skill for inducing vertigo from just about anywhere his viewers position themselves, Cézanne has located us in a space we can neither leave nor abide in; there is no place for us to land. This absence of anchoring pushes us up directly against that membrane of color strokes. The view out the window, or door, which is what we assume this to be, seems transporting at first: an ethereal but potent evocation of nature, without the distractions of identifiable forms. But the elaborate coils of the ironwork—Joseph Rishel once credited them with the dynamism of Saint Catherine’s wheel—impede a smooth passage through and out of the space.8 They are far too muscular a presence to pass by with ease, emitting as they do a sensation of accelerating movement only lightly contained. The grillwork has the expansive

4 Paul Connerton, The Spirit of Mourning. History, Memory and the Body, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011, p. 98. 5 Richard Shiff, “He Painted”, in: Nancy Ireson, Barnaby Wright (eds.), Cézanne’s Card Players, exhibition catalogue, London: Courtauld Gallery with Paul Holberton Publishing, 2010, p. 75. 6 Shaun Gallagher, “Body Schema and Intentionality”, in: José Luis Bermúdez, Anthony Marcel, Naomi Eilan (eds.), The Body and the Self, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998, p. 227. 7 Susan Stewart, Poetry and the Fate of the Senses, Chicago, IL / London: University of Chicago Press, 2002, p. 178. 8 Joseph Rishel, Catalogue entry for “The Balcony”, in: Françoise Cachin, Joseph Rishel (eds.) Cézanne, exhibition catalogue, Philadelphia, PA: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1996, p. 432.


 Susan Sidlauskas

undulations of an aerial map, and it is easy to imagine that we are looking down at the decorative metalwork from above—an angle Cézanne occasionally used for bursts of foliage. The possibility of this too-easy perceptual shift compromises any sense of stability and fails to reassure us, as a proper enclosure should. In fact, the railing is a bit too low, given its address to our bodies; we could topple right over it, if we were so inclined. Connerton has written: “[W]hatever the nature of my perceptual field, my body is the stable center within that field. My body is always experienced by me as ‘here.’ I am never ‘there’.”9 Connerton’s observation makes sense, and in life that distinction seems to hold. However Cézanne’s representation resists that logic, and dramatizes our own uncertainty about the discrepancies between where we sense we are, and the spaces we see before and around us. Are we inside or outside? Here or there? How far away is the “fabric of color”, as Lawrence Gowing called it, that seems somehow suspended in the air before us?10 How close are those coils that flex like overextended limbs Consider the differences between Cézanne’s Balcony (actually a grill mounted on what is likely to have been a very shallow projection) and those by two of his near contemporaries: Édouard Manet and Berthe Morisot. In Manet’s Balcony of 1868–69 (Musée d’Orsay, Paris), three well-dressed subjects, including Morisot on the left, sit gazing into the city, protected by both the bars of the ironwork balcony and their elevated vantage point. We assume they have just emerged from the darkened interior that we can barely discern. The compositional structure is convincing enough to distract us from the fact that we would have to be hanging in mid-air to achieve Manet’s view. There is no question, however, that we are located outside the Parisian balcony he paints, looking in, however illusory our visual path. Morisot’s On The Balcony, a watercolor painted in 1871–1872 (Art Institute of Chicago), reverses the trajectory, showing a woman and child, perhaps the artist’s sister and Berthe’s daughter Julie, surveying the city from within an enclosed terrace, a space commodious enough to be part of a public setting. But the intimacy of the figures suggests that this could be an extension of the domestic space, the only domain to which nineteenth-century upper-middle-class women were entitled, as Griselda Pollock has argued, given their restricted access to the liveliest commercial spaces in Paris: its cafes, bars, theaters, and dance halls.11 The spatial logic of Cézanne’s Balcony, on the other hand, is far more difficult to decipher. For instance, it appears at first impossible to account for how the green of the trees seeped inside, “percolating through the iron tracery”, as Gowing described

9 Connerton 2011 (as in note 4), p. 101. 10 Lawrence Gowing, in: Michael Doran (ed.), Conversations with Cézanne, with intro. by Richard Shiff, Berkeley / Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2001, p. 193. 11 Griselda Pollock, Modernity and the Spaces of Femininity, in: Vision and Difference. Femininity, Feminism and Histories of Art, London / New York, NY: Routledge, 1988.

Inside Out: Cézanne’s Perforated Wall 


its effect, and then leaking into the space beneath what seems to be a shutter, inside.12 Cézanne took some care delineating the structure of the shutter, and the deliberate way in which it attached to the wall, pausing to delineate its edges and intersections with the railing. Metal shutters like these, popular on upper-middle-class buildings in both Aix and Paris, would have been divided to allow either the upper or lower panels to open separately. This was done habitually in the Midi during the summer to allow the oppressively warm air to circulate, while maintaining some privacy. But knowing how the shutters worked does not render the space they frame any less ambiguous. As the lower railing intersects with the shutter on the left, leaving a triangle of blue-gray just below, the wall dissolves, and the greenery presses inside, as if no shutter can contain it. Benjamin himself noticed this unsettling momentum in many of Cézanne’s paintings. In his Moscow Diary, he wrote, “[…] great paintings do not induce passage into the represented space, “rather this space [Raum] thrusts itself forward.” The strategy is all the more unsettling when our natural instinct is to look out a window or door from the safety—or confinement—of the interior.13 The rectangle that barely contains the blues and greens could be a separate work of art, as if Cézanne has framed one painting inside another. The longer we gaze at this bounded field of color, the more formless it appears. The strokes that comprise it grow more insistent, released from their presumed identity as trees, or some sort of foliage glimpsed in the distance. Things are not as they seem, and nothing stays where it belongs. The reds and blacks that infiltrate the coiled ironwork, skimming, sometimes occluding its contours, intensify the suspicion that there is some kind of physical encounter transpiring before us, however abstract its form. Here is how Gowing described what he considered to be a dichotomy in Cézanne’s late painting: “There was an opposition between the bulging biomorphic rhythms, which are halfdestructive, and the light yet calculated precision with which color patches are built along parallel lines into rectilinear structures.”14 Gowing is describing a marriage of the contradictory that sums up The Balcony’s effect, a tension he traced back to the painter’s fraught, even violent, imagery of the 1860s. Even the empty metal circles caught between the double railing seem to be transformed as they roll along the railing, looking like apples exiled from their still lifes. This was the kind of metamorphosis Cézanne loved to play with, as one form generated another. Shiff has pointed out that in one of the artist’s two-figure Cardplayers, the knees of the subject on the left bear a more than passing resemblance to aubergines.15

12 Gowing 2001 (as in note 10), p. 193. 13 Richard Shiff, “Handling Shocks. On the Representation of Experience in Walter Benjamin’s Analogies”, in: Oxford Art Journal 15.2 (1992), p. 97, quoting Walter Benjamin, Moscow Diaries, Gary Smith (ed.), trans. by Richard Sieburth, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986, p. 16. 14 Lawrence Gowing 2001 (as in note 10), p. 203. 15 Richard Shiff 2010 (as in note 5), p. 82.


 Susan Sidlauskas

Graphite lines are threaded under, over, and through the entire watercolor in rhythmic counterpoint, injecting the surface with a kind of crackling electricity. Every area of the watercolor contains marks that seem calculated to incite a response: looping spirals that reiterate and pierce the broken blue lines Cézanne used for their contours; areas of dense, diagonal hatching; and multiplying arcs at the top that seem to spring from the evanescent green and blue color patches. The penciled lines, our closest physical contact with the body of the artist, naturally provoke the desire to touch, but the absence of anchoring interferes. There is no place to touch from. Cézanne’s perforated wall becomes both more diaphanous and yet somehow even more difficult to penetrate as we attempt to move through it visually. Sometimes a more recent work helps us to see a historic one with new eyes, especially when the older work has largely escaped scrutiny, having been relegated to the limbo of the “minor”. I believe that there is a productive analogy to be made between Cézanne’s Balcony and another, more recent, diaphanous but tensile structure made by the Korean artist Do-Ho Suh, who has reinvented the lost houses of his peripatetic life between cultures and countries.16 With pale colored near-transparent scrims, he and his assistants have painstakingly built replicas of the bricks and mortar, or wooden, dwellings he had left behind in Korea when he came to America, as well as the first apartments he inhabited in his new country. Walking through his homage to his former Brooklyn apartment (fig. 2), the walls billow slightly as we move through them, the “floor” wrinkles and the ceiling rises and falls, as if the house itself is breathing. In Do-Ho Suh’s ghostly impersonation of his former abode, the shimmering fabric invites the viewer/visitor to touch: to turn on the electrical switch, run a hand across the kitchen counter, and graze the ceiling with our fingers. But we have, in principle, been forbidden to do so, since this artwork is likely to be sitting within a museum or gallery. But there is a physical consequence even more immediate than the censure of the gallery attendant: the recognition that if we did press our hands against the walls of this phantasmic house, they would meet with no resistance whatsoever, and the illusion of the wall would collapse. However, the resilient nylon fabric resists permanent damage—unlike its real-life counterpart, and reverts back to its own original form—much like Cézanne’s watercolor, no matter how many times we visually press up against it. The building of boundaries may be a “primeval architectural act”, as Connerton has put it, but in Do-Ho Suh’s structures, the surfaces refuse to rest in one place.17 And so with Cézanne.

16 See Do-Ho Suh, exhibition catalogue, Artsonje Center, Seoul, 2003, with essays by Sun Jung Kim and Lauri Firstenberg and an interview with the artist by Nan Jie Yun. 17 Paul Connerton 2011 (as in note 4), p. 96.

Inside Out: Cézanne’s Perforated Wall 


Fig. 2: Do-Ho Suh, The Perfect Home, 2002. Nylon, silk, stainless steel structure, Installation at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.

Cézanne had never heeded the conventional distinctions between interior and exterior spaces, just as he had difficulty regulating his sudden, even violent, mood swings, prompted as they were by his need to close himself off from the world, and his competing desire to project himself with abandon onto everything that caught his eye, leaving his eyes red and his mind and body spent. In his portrait of his wife Hortense, Madame Cézanne in the Conservatory, circa 1892 (fig. 3), the borders between the organic and the man-made are noted, only to be deliberately breached. The conservatory in which Madame Cézanne sits, attached to the family home, the Jas de Bouffon, was itself a liminal space. Inside the high wall around the conservatory, Hortense is both tucked into and excluded from the Cézanne family circle. The tree just behind her pierces the wall as if that surface were a skin. The chestnut trunk is neither entirely outside nor inside the enclosure; but rather seems embedded in its very structure, one that is ordinarily used to separate the two. Another branch, this one a golden brown, reaches up to the tip of Hortense’s ear like 


 Susan Sidlauskas

Fig. 3: Paul Cézanne, Madame Cézanne in the Conservatory, 1891–92, oil on canvas, 92.1 × 73 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

a finger. The flat surface beneath the spiky plant on the right appears to float in space, and the robust crimson begonia on the right arrogates space like an animate being.18 If Cézanne did not have a conventional sense of the boundaries between private and public life, he nonetheless complained mightily when he perceived that they had

18 On the Cézanne’s portraits of his wife, see Susan Sidlauskas, Cézanne’s Other. The Portraits of Hortense, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2009.

Inside Out: Cézanne’s Perforated Wall 


been violated. As he wrote to his young friend Joachim Gasquet, when young painters were coming from Paris to seek him out: “I thought that one could do good painting without attracting attention to one’s private life.”19 Ultimately, Cézanne’s domestic life remains enigmatic to us; its absence is what has been emphasized in the origin myths of modernism. One watercolor does give us a glimpse of a hallway that may be within one of the apartments Cézanne rented in either Paris or Aix, as crowned with a lavishly draped, patterned textile (Curtains, circa 1885, Musée d’Orsay, Paris). As sensual and inviting as the painted surfaces may be, we are faced with what looks to be a door to nowhere. When Cézanne situated his portraiture subjects in what appear to be domestic spaces, only fragments of interior architecture are revealed, and each fragment is rendered distinctly, almost too vividly observed—as if each corner, mantelpiece, misaligned wainscoting and chair back plays a role as prominent as any human subject. One suspects that for Cézanne, the reassurance that others extracted from the sheer familiarity of domestic life was neither possible nor desirable. His art was forged through his talent—or curse—for making everything around him perpetually strange, no matter how often he had encountered it. As he walked through the rooms that he inhabited—sometimes alone, sometimes with his family—he experienced a kind of domestic uncanny.20 In some of Cézanne’s drawings and watercolors, domestic objects—furniture and clothing, in particular—seem engaged in an unresolvable contest for dominance. The curving frames of two household chairs and a bed frame (fig. 4) are impossibly, illogically entwined like giant chains, or even wrestlers locked in a group stranglehold, with none of the forms conceding to the others. In Jacket on a Chair (1890–92, Private Collection) a cumbersome garment seems to writhe with life. With its mountains and grottoes of fabric, it seems perfectly capable of crushing the unnervingly springy legs on which it sits. Other objects become worlds unto themselves. The elegant armchair (fig. 5), rendered in watercolor, possesses a restless asymmetry; it is seen frontally from the left, but obliquely from the right—the stranded leg the evidence of another attempt abandoned. Its strong arms enclose a soft mountain of pillows that rises up against a textile sky filled with clouds. Inside and outside are fully integrated: the chair is an idealized dwelling-in-miniature, with land and atmosphere in perfect equipoise.

19 Paul Cézanne, writing to Joachim Gasquet, Aix, April 30, 1896, in: John Rewald (ed.), Paul Cézanne. Letters, New York, NY: Da Capo Press, 1976, p. 245. 20 For the original formulation see Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny (1919), in: The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, 24 volumes, London: Hogarth Press, 1955, vol. 17, pp. 217–252. Anthony Vidler has applied Freud’s notion to exterior and interior space in: The Architectural Uncanny. Essays in the Modern Unhomely, Cambridge, MA / London: MIT Press, 1992. More recently, the phrase has been used by a number of artists and filmmakers to describe a domestic space made strange. See J. Collins, J. Jervis, Uncanny Modernity. Cultural Theories, Modern Anxieties, New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008; and Fiona Carson, Uneasy Spaces. The Domestic Uncanny in Contemporary Installation Art, New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.


 Susan Sidlauskas

Fig. 4: Paul Cézanne, Bed and Chair Frames, p. 9 (verso) from Sketchbook I, 1882–90, graphite pencil, graphite offset from p. 10 (recto); on wove paper sheet, 11.6 × 18.4 cm. © The Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The lightly compressed slope of the pillows and the multiple legs also suggest that the chair has become a kind of body unto itself, arrogating space and beckoning the visitor/viewer with its concave softness.21 Cézanne may have included houses—or at least geometric shards of them—in his landscape views, but they rarely appear habitable, let alone inhabited. Certainly, one could object that the painter was interested only in their visual intersections within a larger motif. But there is a pattern that recurs throughout his career: his houses often appear as blind monoliths, with blank walls and ungenerous perforations. Most seem to be either voids or impenetrable solids. One is riven by cracks that threaten to cleave apart its very structure (The House with Cracked Walls, 1892–94, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art); another seems at the mercy of claw-like branches poised to rend it apart (House in the Country, 1879–82, Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum). In a sketchbook usually dated 1878 to 1886, the artist’s son, Paul, then six years old, added his own visual commentary to his father’s nearly blind houses by repeat-

21 For a discussion of this watercolor, see Stephanie Buck, John House et al. (eds.), The Courtauld Cézannes, London: The Courtauld Gallery with Paul Holberton Publishing, 2008, pp. 124–125.

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Fig. 5: Paul Cézanne, Fauteuil (Armchair), ca. 1885–90, graphite, watercolor and gouache on pale cream laid paper, 32.3 (left) / 31.6 (right) × 34.3 (upper) / 33.7 (lower) cm, The Courtauld Gallery, London.

edly enlarging the windows in his own emulations, until on one sheet, Paul conjured a house that appeared to be nothing but windows (fig. 6). For Cézanne, the provisional interiors of the natural world likely provided the only space where he could achieve any sense of comfort: enclosed within an allée of trees; in the intermittent clearings near the Chateau Noir; at the edge of the forest, under the canopies of the great pines. In a photograph taken around 1905, we see the painter sitting in the midst of a stand of ferns, craning toward the vista before him. His body is anchored to the foliage-covered ground, and his eyes are riveted to the motif.22 When Cézanne

22 This photograph is illustrated in Françoise Cachin and Joseph Rishel 1996 (as in note 8), p. 563.


 Susan Sidlauskas

Fig. 6: Paul Cézanne (fils), A House Surrounded by Trees, ca. 1876–79, 12.7× 22.23 cm, page “XV”, in his father’s sketchbook. The facsimile edition is: Paul Cézanne, A Cézanne Sketchbook: Figures, Portraits, Landscapes and Still Lifes, with an introductory text by Carl O. Schniewind, New York, NY: Dover Publications, Inc., 1985.

became interested in particular man-made structures, they tended to be rudimentary and perhaps only opportunistically “domestic”: a shack, huts, a pigeon tower, abandoned factories or mills, and, of course, the ruins of Chateau Noir, an abandoned, unfinished manor house, which had reportedly been owned by a man skilled in the dark arts. The painter was said to treat it like a skull with empty eye sockets.23 In another watercolor (Disused Factory near Aix [Atelier de fabriques en ruines], circa 1900, Private Collection), Cézanne represents what has been identified as either an unused factory outside Aix, or a “hut”. (There may be a figure leaning against the left hollow.) The interior of this exposed building is structured by surprisingly rational perspectival lines that converge at the far corners; but the dispassion of geometry is clouded by layers of delicate tones of brown, crimson, violet, and ocher that merge and overlap to resemble a bruised skin. The rippling lines that edge the voids could be the ruffles on a curtain hanging at a window; but Cézanne often used such an irregular contour to represent the mouth of a cave. The factory is his favorite kind of structure: one that is in the midst of reverting back to nature. In Une Cabane (A Shed),

23 Joseph Rishel, 1996, writing in Françoise Cachin and Joseph Rishel (as in note 8), p. 448.

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Fig. 7: Paul Cézanne, Une cabane (A Shed), ca. 1880, graphite and watercolor on pale cream wove paper, 31.3 × 47.5 cm, The Courtauld Gallery, London.

circa 1880 (fig. 7), the dilapidated structure seems nearly consumed by the foliage and tree branches that press against it. In The Balcony Cézanne ostensibly offers both the natural and the constructed, uneasily adjacent, even encroaching on each other’s territory. Gowing described Cézanne’s impulse to make The Balcony an extension of his immersion in nature: “He saw the same fabric of color outside his window”—and to reiterate Gowing’s own metaphor—the artist “painted it percolating through the iron tracery”.24 Cézanne may indeed have noticed this incursion as an ordinary occurrence, but he didn’t paint it that way. The so-called fabric of color comes toward us like a weather front, with the iron grill supplying considerable resistance. The green and blue rectangle is composed of disconcertingly large strokes of paint, very different from Cézanne’s usual shorthand for foliage seen at a distance. There are similarities, to be sure—the quicksilver traces of curving black lines, the arcing pencil strokes above the colors, the diagonal hatchings in graphite. We see variants of these in contemporary landscapes—especially in the watercolors. But the larger scale of the marks, and the demands they make on our attention are striking, as is their resolute refusal to even faintly cohere into foliage. In fact, it could be said that the green/blue field resists interpretation. This is a vision

24 Lawrence Gowing 2001 (as in note 10), p. 193.


 Susan Sidlauskas

Fig. 8: Paul Cézanne, Roofs Seen Through an Open Window, ca. 1900 (possibly later), verso of Trees Forming an Arch, watercolor and graphite on buff wove paper, 60.2 × 45.8 cm. Inscription: in graphite, lower left edge on verso: A (?) Voll…, Princeton University Art Museum.

made, not found, and a comparison to a related watercolor and drawing at the Princeton University Museum suggests the scope of Cézanne’s construction. On the verso of a delicate but expansive watercolor of a segment of the forest (Trees Forming an Arch [Arbres Formant une Voûte], circa 1904–5, Princeton University Art Museum), there is another iteration of the same balcony (fig. 8), with a very different view pictured above the railing. The railing here is heavy, even graceless, materialized through the kind of faux modeling that Manet might have used occasionally to upend the expectations of illusion. Cézanne had, in fact, labored over its construction, for it was originally to be pitched at a diagonal; traces of this can be discerned as we move slightly downward from left to right. The tilt would have rhymed well with the slanting rooflines that are visible above the railing. Before us, sketched in pale but sharp, densely gathered lines occasionally touched with watercolor, is a near-urban constellation of peaked roofs, gables, and chimneys. Some of the houses’ windows appear to be peeking just over the railing. Realistically proportioned dwellings are intermingled with less identifiable geometries; some of these, on the left, fracture 

Inside Out: Cézanne’s Perforated Wall 


into relative incoherence. But it is irrefutable that the Princeton drawing is a relatively distant view—predicated on a clear distinction between here and there. John Rewald believed that these roofs were northern in character, but most scholars now speculate that the cluster of roofs belonged in Aix—the tracery and shallow balconies were characteristic of many of the eighteenth-century buildings that still face the town square.25 Certainly a sensation of movement was embedded in the tracery from the beginning, but Cézanne would greatly enhance the serpentine tension of the coils in the Philadelphia work, thus intensifying the sensation that they are actively straining to escape their frame. In the Princeton drawing, the artist made many attempts to integrate the ironwork visually with the architectural contours of the buildings, even though their spatial plans are so distinct—one so close, the other so far away. It’s as if he were searching for a way to construct a unity out of these very disparate parts—an impulse we see in images such as the far more compressed Millstone in the Park of the Château Noir (1898–1900, Philadelphia Museum of Art) or the series of paintings made at the quarry the painter had haunted from childhood (such as Bibémus Quarry, circa 1895, Museum Folkwang, Essen), where he built the small structure now called the cabanon Cézanne.26 For the more ambitious watercolor, The Balcony, Cézanne straightened the railing, so that it is perpendicular to the opening framed by the shutter. He also rotated its orientation, giving the image the aspect of a mirror or a painting that we face directly, deepening our visual contact with, and resistance to, its surface. Alberti might have wanted painters to represent the natural world they saw through a window, a dictum that the Princeton drawing more or less fulfills. Cézanne wrestled the natural world—his remaking of it—into a shape of his own devising, a kind of false window constituted of paint strokes of unerring delicacy and brute force. In so doing, he reversed the traditional balance of nature’s role in representation—of ground to figure. In the process, he undermined received ideas about how we experience the distinction—if indeed we do—between where we are physically and where we imagine ourselves to be. Confronting The Balcony straight on, as we tend to do, we pause, as if at a threshold. “Threshold magic” was Benjamin’s phrase for the fraught point of passage from the interior to the world, or the reverse. “When the family, on a Sunday, might be looking for a little greenery,” he mused, they would then “turn

25 John Rewald, Paul Cézanne. The Watercolors, A Catalogue Raisonné. New York, NY: Little, Brown, 1983, p. 254, no. 632, quoted in: Laura M. Giles, Carol Armstrong (eds.), Cézanne in Focus. Watercolors from the Henry and Rose Pearlman Collection, Princeton University Art Museum, NJ, 2002, p. 117. For an illustration of a typical balcony in the Aix town square, see Françoise Cachin, Joseph Rishel 1996 (as in note 8), p. 434. 26 Scott Allan, in: Laura Giles, Carol Armstrong (as in note 25) discusses both the history of the quarry and its significance for Cézanne, p. 48.


 Susan Sidlauskas

to the mysterious thresholds.”27 On an overcast Friday in 1905, Cézanne wrote to his protégé Emile Bernard: “In this rainy season, it is impossible to practice these theories out of doors, however correct they may be.—But perseverance leads us to perceive interiors like everything else.”28 Cézanne very likely did not use his own far more modest home for The Balcony­—a customary preference for intimacy once removed. He teeters at the edge of his own threshold, poised between worlds, a fitting refusal to choose by a painter who was painfully aware of the great cost of what he had renounced. As long as we look at The Balcony we can teeter along that edge with him; not simply looking at an image, but participating directly in its physicality.

27 Walter Benjamin 2002 (as in note 1), p. 214. 28 Paul Cézanne quoted in: Doran 2001 (as in note 10), p. 47.


Beate Söntgen

Mariology, Calvinism, Painting: Interiority in Pieter de Hooch’s Mother at a Cradle1 Pieter de Hooch’s picture presents what is, by the standards of seventeenth-century Dutch painting, an extraordinary scene: a young woman, seated in a domestic interior, a cradle by her side, is lacing or unlacing her bodice with her left hand (fig. 1/ Plate 7).2 Her gaze is fixed on the infant in the little bed, hidden from our eyes; her right hand playfully holds the end of the lace out to the baby. An alcove screened off by a half-drawn curtain forms the backdrop for this intimate scene captured in a close-up view. Further to the right, a passage leads to a second room into which bright sunlight falls through an open door. A young child stands erect near the door, looking out intently, though we cannot tell what there is to see. Even this brief description indicates the salience of motifs of opening and closure in the picture: the space subdivided into nesting spaces while also opening up to an outside world; the child on the threshold to that outside world, turning away so that we cannot read its physiognomy; the infant hidden in the cradle to whom the mother turns her attention; and finally, her partly unlaced bodice. This dynamic of opening and closure is illuminating, on the one hand, with regard to the establishment and interior arrangements of a private middle-class space in the picture, which the interiors of the Dutch baroque manifest with almost formulaic regularity. On the other hand, the specific back-and-forth between showing and concealing in de Hooch’s work illustrates the transformation of modes of interiority with Christian connotations into early modern forms of absorption whose primary reference is not to religious spirituality but to the mediation between interior and exterior as a process that is both individuated and determined by social roles.3 The persistence of religious models both in the motif and in the manner in which the picture affects the viewer is evident in what I want to call the Mariological contour of the female figure.

1 This essay was written during a fellowship at the Center for Advanced Studies “BildEvidenz” at the Freie Universität Berlin. I am grateful to the Center’s team and my co-fellows—in particular, to Reindert Falkenburg and Friederike Wille—for the inspiring discussions and to the student assistants for their help. I would also like to thank Agnes Sawer for additional research and Gerrit Jackson for another excellent translation. 2 Pieter de Hooch, Mother at a Cradle, 1661–1663, oil on canvas, 92 × 100 cm, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. 3 Bernhard Fraling, Innerlichkeit, in: Walter Kasper (ed.), Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, vol. 5, Freiburg: Herder, 1996, cols. 512–513; Renate von Heydebrand, Innerlichkeit, in: Joachim Ritter and Karlfried Gründer (eds.), Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, vol. 4, Basel: Schwabe, 1976, cols. 386–388.


 Beate Söntgen

Fig. 1: Pieter de Hooch, The Mother at a Cradle, 1659/1660, oil on canvas, 92 × 100 cm, Berlin, Staatliche Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Gemäldegalerie.

Let us first take a closer look at the iconography. Breastfeeding is a widespread motif in seventeenth-century Dutch painting.4 In the Netherlands as elsewhere in Europe, the use of wet nurses is a hotly contested issue. Mary Frances Durantini maintains that in Holland, unlike on the rest of the continent, almost all women nurse their own children, but the insistent admonitions in the handbooks suggests otherwise.5 The arguments in favor of breastfeeding are manifold and concern both

4 See Mary Frances Durantini, The Child in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Painting, Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1983, pp. 6–38; Durantini distinguishes two types of pictures—the distracted and the nursing child—and offers moral interpretations of both. 5 Ibid., pp. 19–20. Durantini takes the exhortations in Cats and other authors to be nothing more than compliance with a literary tradition, but offers no evidence for her own view beyond a reference to

Mariology, Calvinism, Painting: Interiority in Pieter de Hooch’s Mother at a Cradle 


child and mother, both body and soul.6 When authors base their recommendations on considerations of physical health, the underlying ideas are biologistic: many animals nurse their own offspring, they point out, because the young animal’s own mother is the most natural source of milk and hence the healthiest. Milk, they argue, is transformed blood, to which the infant is accustomed because it was already nourished by the mother’s blood as an embryo in the womb. Moreover, wet nurses, who often stay in the countryside with the children entrusted to their care, cannot be relied upon to maintain impeccable dietary and moral habits. The significance of the latter extends beyond concerns over the quality of the physical nourishment the wet nurse provides: as the infant drinks her milk, it is thought, it also imbibes character traits and attitudes.7 Breastfeeding itself is thus already an essential part of the work of forming the baby’s body and soul. Moreover, nursing strengthens the bonds of mutual love between mother and child. Advocates of breastfeeding do not deny the difficulties associated with it, from inflamed breasts to the father’s displeasure and the mother’s temporary inability to fulfill her domestic and, in some instances, professional obligations, for example in assisting in her husband’s business. And yet, as Cats puts it harshly, childbearing is merely one half of motherhood, and only breastfeeding makes a mother pleasing in the sight of God:8 “Een die haer kinders baert, is moeder voor een deel, / Maer die haer kinders sooght, is moeder in ’t geheel.”9 Most artists embellish the theme of breastfeeding, which derives from the Maria lactans tradition, with anecdotal detail. De Hooch, by contrast, stages the subject in an unconventional manner suffused with the same quiet emotional intensity that informs many of his depictions of adults and children. Instead of showing the act of

travel accounts in which writers express their bafflement at the widespread sight of mothers nursing their children. 6 See Robert V. Schnucker, The English Puritans and Pregnancy, Delivery and Breast Feeding, in: History of Childhood Quarterly 1.4 (Spring 1974), pp. 637–658. The books of the Puritans were a major source for the Dutch debate, and so the arguments presented by Schnucker should also hold, at least by and large, for the situation in the Netherlands. I know of no dedicated study on the history of nursing in Holland. The brief reference in Durantini, The Child in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Painting, pp. 18–19, primarily addresses the Puritan sources of the Dutch debate and merely touches on the handbooks produced in Holland itself. 7 Theologians, too, emphatically advocate that mothers breastfeed their own children; see Erasmus, Collected Works, vol. 26: Literary and Educational Writings 4, Institution of Christian Matrimony, J.K. Sowards (ed.) Toronto / Buffalo, NY / London: University of Toronto Press, 1985, pp. 410–411, and cf. the pertinent remarks in the introduction, ibid., p. 211. 8 Puritans placed particular emphasis on the holiness of breastfeeding; refusal to nurse was tantamount to an offense against God, who made the female body fit for breastfeeding (Schnucker 1974 [as in note 6], p. 645). 9 Jacob Cats, Houwelijck, in: Al de Werken, Rotterdam: Roelants, 1870, p. 255, quoted in Durantini 1983 (as in note 4) pp. 18 and 315, n. 23; “One who bears her children is mother in part, / But she who nurses her children is a mother completely.”


 Beate Söntgen

breastfeeding itself, he focuses the picture entirely on the mother, putting the baby in a cradle that shields it from our gaze. De Hooch’s mother has either just finished breastfeeding or is about to do so, a fact indicated solely by the half-unlaced bodice. As the left hand threads the lace, the right holds the loose end out for the baby to play with, establishing a direct and visible bond between the mother’s body and the infant. Her head is affectionately inclined toward the crib, and she regards the baby with downcast eyes and a smile. Her body, meanwhile, is slightly turned away from the infant and toward the dog, a symbol of conjugal faith, so that a triangular composition firmly anchors all three elements to converging axes. However much the picture reflects contemporary ideas of neat housekeeping and motherhood, its purport goes beyond such conventions. Both the mother-and-infant scene and the child on the threshold are of an almost emblematic stillness heightened by the spatial structure. The domestic scene is carefully furnished and neat and tidy, but it is also shot through with openings—a door, windows, and the pictures within the picture that integrate the Dutch landscape into the world of the interior. Like the explicit concern with thresholds, such blurring of the boundary between interior and exterior is virtually omnipresent in de Hooch’s oeuvre. Martha Hollander10 and Heidi de Mare11 have read this dynamization of space in societal terms, as an articulation of new ideas about residential living and society in architecture and, in another and specifically pictorial register, in painting. Both accentuate the presence of the exterior, of the urban scene and public sphere, in the Dutch interior, which they read as the outer shell of a complex social structure. De Mare highlights the significance of the threshold as a figure of access to this simultaneously closed and open universe. Drawing on the work of Arnold van Gennep, she describes the entrance to the Dutch home as an extended zone invested with rituals; it incorporates the voorhuis, yard, and sidewalk as frames of the threshold proper that are associated with various functions and different advantages and disadvantages for the various residents. Hollander shows how the entire interior with the manifold openings connecting it to the outside world must be seen as a sort of transitional space that does not, or not yet, conform to Habermas’s conception of the private sphere as a place of domestic intimacy.12 Instead, it is a space of exchange and mutual accessibility between interior and exterior. Pentimenti in de Hooch’s pictures allow us to reconstruct his technique, revealing how fundamental considerations of space were to his compositions: he began by defining the architectural structure and then inserted the human figures almost as though they

10 Martha Hollander, Public and Private Life in the Art of Pieter de Hooch, in: Jan de Jong et al. (eds.), Wooncultuur in de Nederlanden / The Art of Home in the Netherlands, 1500–1800, Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 2000, vol. 51; Zwolle: Waanders, 2001, pp. 273–293. 11 Heidi de Mare, Die Grenze des Hauses als ritueller Ort und ihr Bezug zur holländischen Hausfrau des 17. Jahrhunderts, in: Kritische Berichte 4 (1992), pp. 64–79. 12 Hollander 2000 (as in note 10), p. 287.

Mariology, Calvinism, Painting: Interiority in Pieter de Hooch’s Mother at a Cradle 


Fig. 2: Pieter de Hooch, Interior with Woman beside a Linen Chest, 1663, painting, 72 × 77.5 cm, Amsterdam Rijksmuseum.

were mere staffage.13 The dynamic interplay between partitioning and the blurring of distinctions between spaces engenders the specific atmosphere of the pictures de Hooch created in Delft and during his early years in Amsterdam. One distinctive example is Interior with Woman beside a Linen Chest (1663; fig. 2),14 a picture that positively teems with figures of opening and closure. The interior setting is presented frontally like a stage; the voorhuis behind it leads to a street bathed in bright sunlight. In the foreground, two women sort laundry into a closet whose inside is concealed by the open door. A glazed window to the voorhuis is partially obstructed by a piece of furniture so that the particulars of that room elude us; its only purpose is to allow light from the facing window to flow into the domestic space. Pictures mounted above the door and window, to the extent that we can make out the details, transmit the Dutch landscape into the interior. A girl plays kolf on the threshold to the voorhuis; turning to us, she guides our attention back inside from the

13 Ibid., p. 277. 14 Pieter de Hooch, The Linen Closet, 1663, oil on canvas, 72 × 77.5 cm, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.


 Beate Söntgen

luminous world outside the door. A twisting flight of stairs next to the door connects the domestic space to a further invisible room, and open receptacles and vessels add another level of nesting to the interior: a porcelain tureen sits on the closet, and a piece of laundry hangs from an open basket behind the women. The façade of the house across the street is no less perforated by openings than the interior, though they offer no insight into what is going on inside. The picture merely hints at the complexity of social interaction by laying out its structures as a backdrop before which the women calmly go about their chores. The rigid and intricate geometry of the architecture solicits an analytical gaze that recognizes the artificial quality of the construction. The quiet exchange between the women, meanwhile, invites us to cross the distance and appreciate the discreet gestures as their hands meet around the fabric. The girl on the threshold mediates not only between interior and exterior, but also between proximate and distant sense perception. The child’s play demands fine motor skills, but her gaze, extending the axis of the doorway, crosses the interior toward the space of the beholder. Another threshold figure appears above the door: a statuette of Perseus that seems to rise from the picture behind it. Hollander reads it as a figure of the absent paterfamilias, who, in the gendered social order of the seventeenth century, is also the representative of the outside world in the domestic space. I have sketched the dense network of social and emotional interrelations the picture visualizes in the medium of spatial structure only to show how different the spatiality is that de Hooch orchestrates in Mother at a Cradle. Although apertures of various kinds once again abound in this interior, the outside world plays no part in it, with the exception of the landscape we can discern in the painting above the door. There are no views, not even intimations, of what lies beyond the door and window, and no social relations to anyone or anything outside the house. In the absence of such messengers of the outside world, that role is prominently taken by the blazing sunlight. Falling upon the threshold, it illuminates the interior and yet exceeds this immanent function to show itself in its blinding brightness.15 Its counterpart on the inside is the mother’s luminously white blouse we can espy beneath the half-unlaced bodice. This interior, too, is a receptacle for diverse figures of opening and closure, from the cradle and the curtained alcove to smaller containers such as the bedpan and the pitcher. But unlike in most of de Hooch’s pictures, these figures do not stand in for spatial and social relations to the outside world. Instead, they are doubles of the mother’s unlaced bodice, which is associated, by virtue of the radiant white of the blouse, with the light on the threshold. Beyond the latter lies not a world of concrete phenomena; the light transcends the empirical world and intimates the presence of another, invisible, world. As a reflection of this light, the white in the inte-

15 On the uses of light in the seventeenth century, see Carolin Bohlmann, Thomas Fink, and Philipp Weiss (eds.), Lichtgefüge des 17. Jahrhunderts. Rembrandt und Vermeer-Spinoza und Leibniz, Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2007.

Mariology, Calvinism, Painting: Interiority in Pieter de Hooch’s Mother at a Cradle 


rior—and with it, the maternal body—becomes the radiant center of the picture, a figure of opening and simultaneous closure, an ambiguity that recurs in the woman’s posture: she addresses herself to the viewer, almost demonstratively so, while also gently turning away. The reference is patently not to the urban space and the social fabric with which it is interwoven, but to an outside in another sense. There is, for one, the mise-en-scène of the light, the index within the interior of a transcendent dimension associated with the figure of the mother—an association extended into the alcove, the locus of conception, by virtue of a white pillow. And then this interior is laid open to the beholder’s eyes, a display in which the figure of the mother is presented almost frontally so that, despite the light contortion of her body and the quiet movement of her hands, there is a devotional quality to her depiction.16 The curtain screening off the alcove behind her becomes the representative decoration framing the figure absorbed in her own thoughts and contemplation of the child, but it also lends the intimate space an aspect of theatricality: an open curtain is what transforms the impression of a present intimate scene captured in the moment by a painter on the spot into a revelatio that, however discreetly, evokes the Annunciation.17 Even if the bodice points to the act of breastfeeding the infant, what the luminously white blouse, the skirt open at the waist, and the position of the hand accentuate is not the breast but the womb. The allusion to the child’s conception is reinforced by the correspondence between the open gown, whose fur trimmings frame the exposed body, and the partially drawn curtain revealing the alcove, the locus of procreation. The supernatural light falling on the threshold is a reminiscence of the Annunciation, while an axis of red hues from the coverlet in the cradle across the bodice ends in a gown hung over a hook that invokes the figure of its presumable wearer, the natural father: he is inscribed in the scene as a present absence, a frequent conceit in depictions of the Dutch household.18 The presence of the paterfamilias by token of personal objects he has left behind usually appears in relation to an isolated female figure. In this instance, the inclusion of the children in the picture

16 Erwin Panofsky, ‘Imago Pietatis’. Ein Beitrag zur Typengeschichte des ‘Schmerzensmanns’ und der ‘Maria Mediatrix’, in: Festschrift für Max J. Friedländer zum 60. Geburtstage, Leipzig: Seemann, 1927, pp. 261–308 is still required reading on this point. On how forms of sensual affection may serve as bridges for religious experience, see Reindert L. Falkenburg, The Fruit of Devotion. Mysticism and the Imagery of Love in Flemish Painting of the Virgin and Child, 1450–1550, Amsterdam and Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins, 1994, especially pp. 65–77. 17 See Klaus Krüger, Das Bild als Schleier des Unsichtbaren. Ästhetische Illusion in der Kunst der frühen Neuzeit in Italien, Munich: Fink, 2001. 18 Fatma Yalzin, Anwesende Abwesenheit. Untersuchungen zur Entwicklungsgeschichte von Bildern mit menschenleeren Räumen, Rückenfiguren und Lauschern im Holland des 17. Jahrhunderts, Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2004.


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places a different accent, emphasizing fatherhood, which is to say, the procreative aspect of the household. The mise-en-scène of the mother, I would argue, frames this procreative aspect in a Mariological perspective. This claim calls for an explanation, since Mariology and Calvinism do not necessarily go together. Calvin himself never addressed Mary as a model of motherhood at any length, and there is no scholarly discussion of Mariology in the Netherlands. We do know that all branches of Reformed Christianity rejected Mariolatry. This does not mean, however, that Mary as a figure and example no longer plays any part, especially in a culture that is concerned with motherhood as it reenvisions the contours and value of domesticity. Albrecht Koschorke’s study of the Holy Family has highlighted how sedimented religious tropes persist in the emergence of the early modern state.19 The more recent theological literature has underlined the anthropological potential, especially in the context of the ecumenism debate, of the figure of Mary as a model whose significance goes beyond motherhood: her blend of obedience, humility, and freedom is regarded as a religious as well as social virtue.20 The Mariological symbolism implicit in the mother by the cradle may be read in the perspectives of social history as well as pictorial theory: she is a figure of opening and closure that resonates in the entire spatial structure and bespeaks painting’s ability, as real as it is limited, to visualize something that eludes visual perception—to show on the surface what takes place on the inside, within the private setting as well as within the female figure. Rembrandt’s Holy Family (fig. 3) is an excellent example of the combination of the mother and child absorbed in their intimate union with a theatrical rhetoric of revelation.21 The curtain now appears as a trompe-l’oeil element, distinctly unconnected to and unmotivated by the scene behind it that it demonstratively reveals. More overtly than de Hooch’s picture, Rembrandt’s painting exhibits the interpenetration of the worlds of family life and sacred history. The carpenter in the background is treated like an attribute, identifying this mother with her child as Mary. The intimate play with the baby she tenderly embraces divests the scene of the devotional quality the lavishly painted frame and curtain then restore to it. Otherworldly and vividly present at once, this Mary manifests her significance as the medium of the Incarnation in the

19 Albrecht Koschorke, The Holy Family and Its Legacy. Religious Imagination from the Gospels to Star Wars, trans. by Thomas Dunlap, New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2003. 20 See, for example, Otmar Meuffels, Mariologie und Anthropologie, in: Theologie der Gegenwart 43 (2000), pp. 198–211; Wolfgang Beinert, Unsere Liebe Frau und die Frauen, Freiburg: Herder, 1989, especially chapter 5: “Maria und die theologische Anthropologie”, pp. 139–68; Wolfgang Beinert, Maria. Spiegel der Erwartungen Gottes und der Menschen, Regensburg: Pustet, 2001, especially chap­ ter 4: “Was kann Maria für uns werden? Theologisch-spirituelle Analyse”, pp. 116–149. 21 Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, The Holy Family with a Curtain, 1646, oil on wood, 46.5 × 69 cm, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Kassel. See Wolfgang Kemp, Rembrandt. Die Heilige Familie oder die Kunst, einen Vorhang zu lüften, Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch, 1992.

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Fig. 3: Rembrandt, The Holy Family with a Curtain, 1646, painting, 46.5 × 69 cm, Kassel, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Gemäldegalerie.

very ordinariness and tenderness with which she attends to her child.22 Rembrandt’s numerous depictions of Mary and the infant Jesus show him casting about for an adequate expression of the humanity of the Son of God as well as his divinity. In an early classicistic rendition of the Holy Family, he works with the format of the devotional picture, but then lends it an anecdotal quality by adding the figure of Joseph and conferring a scenic aspect on the group.23 Tired from feeding at the mother’s breast, the child has fallen asleep under Mary’s and Joseph’s loving eyes. As Joseph stoops over the infant with a gesture of humility, the mother’s arms form a second protective frame around the baby she has bedded on a fur, its cheek still resting on her bare breast. It lies as though in a mandorla, bathed in a brilliant light that seems designed primarily to illuminate Mary’s décolleté.

22 See Stefano de Fiores, Maria in der Geschichte von Theologie und Frömmigkeit, in: Wolfgang Beinert (ed.) Handbuch der Marienkunde, vol. 1, 2nd revised edition, Regensburg: Pustet, 1996, pp. 115–119 and p. 152. 23 Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, The Holy Family, 1633/1635, oil on canvas, 183.5 × 123 cm, Alte Pinakothek, Munich.


 Beate Söntgen

Fig. 4: Rembrandt, The Holy Family with the Serpent, 1654, 9.6 × 14.4 cm, etching, Kupferstich­kabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

In the version of the same theme now in Saint Petersburg, Mary interrupts her reading to uncover the child sleeping in its cradle. The lighting and several putti draw attention to the supernatural event unfolding in the humble home of the carpenter working in the background.24 An etching created in 1654 (fig. 4) illustrates the fusion of devotional image and intimate family scene with particular clarity.25 It is based on a compositional formula Rembrandt frequently used that one might call otherworldly presence; a depiction that makes the scene almost palpably real is combined with elements that hold the viewer at a distance.26 Affectionately clasping her child to her bosom, Mary sits in a small interior whose furnishings—a fireplace, an armchair, and an open small chest—are merely sketched. With the landing of a flight of stairs in the foreground, the room in which the mother and child have found shelter appears like a raised stage, a space we can behold but to which we have no access. The scene is

24 Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, The Holy Family with Angels, 1645, oil on canvas, 117 × 91 cm, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. 25 Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, The Holy Family with a Cat and Snake, 1654, etching, 9.4 × 14.3 cm, Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin. 26 This formula is particularly evident in Rembrandt’s depictions of the supper at Emmaus. For the theological implications, see Herbert Fendrich, Rembrandts Darstellungen des Emmausmahles, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1990.

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also being beheld from within the picture, by a furtive observer approaching from the background: Joseph is peering through the window, one pane of which forms a gloriole around Mary and Jesus. Like the viewer before the picture, he is a furtive participant in a scene whose mundane and yet otherworldly nature forbids both from entering.27 In the Kassel version of the Holy Family, the frame and painted curtain foreground this display aspect, exalting and revealing the scene they at once remove from our reach. Two aspects of Rembrandt’s renditions of the Holy Family are relevant to our context: one, the integration of Christian motifs into Dutch interior painting; and two, the explicit concern with access both to the motif and to the picture itself. The blend of presence and otherworldliness Rembrandt’s depictions typify is a characteristic quality of many Dutch interiors, and especially of the paintings of de Hooch and Vermeer. The Music Lesson (fig. 5)28 is the most striking example of this equivocation between presence and distancing, in this instance of a scene with amorous undertones. Indirection prevails throughout the scene, in which the bonds between the figures are articulated solely through their joint music-making and the mirror allowing for eye contact. The pair of figures standing by the virginal is set at the far end of a deep pictorial space, but then, as Karin Leonhardt has aptly described it, this space draws our gaze inward with a powerful pull that reaches across the threshold of the picture and blurs the boundary between the painted room and the viewer’s space.29 And yet, unlike in the Italian baroque, the two spaces do not blend into one, engulfing all participants, those inside the picture as well as those in front of it, in the unifying atmosphere of the scene. The pull into the depth of The Music Lesson is restricted to the left-hand side of the picture: the right half is literally obstructed by furniture and musical instruments, making the problem of access to the picture explicit. As Edward Snow has pointed out, this concern with the pictorial threshold in Vermeer’s pictures, and in The Music Lesson in particular, affects the motif as well: it modulates the accessibility of the female figure to male admirers, the male figure within the picture as well as the painter-beholder.30 Without recapitulating Snow’s compelling psychological reading of Vermeer in any detail, I should like to note two points: the ambiguous nature of the effect of spatial depth, which renders the depicted scene eminently present and at once sets it at a remove, and the interest in the question of access both to the pictorial space and to the painted subject.

27 On the inclusion and simultaneous exclusion of the figure of Joseph, see Koschorke 2003 (as in note 19), pp. 127–129. 28 Jan Vermeer, The Music Lesson, ca. 1662–1664, oil on canvas, 73.3 × 64.5 cm, Buckingham Palace, London. 29 Karin Leonhardt, Das gemalte Zimmer. Zur Interieurmalerei Jan Vermeers, Munich: Fink, 2003, pp. 154–158. 30 Edward Snow, A Study of Vermeer, revised and enlarged edition, Berkeley, CA / Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1994, pp. 104–115.


 Beate Söntgen

Fig. 5: Vermeer, The Music Lesson (Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman), 1662–1664, oil on canvas, 73.3 × 64.5 cm, London, Royal Collection, Windsor Castle/Buckingham Palace.

In the case of de Hooch’s mother, more is at issue than the beholder’s being permitted to witness an intimate act that is usually concealed from the eyes of outsiders. Given the Mariological contour of de Hooch’s female figure, the motif of opening and closure implies a crypto-theological aspect that may in turn be read as making a theoretical point about painting: as an inquiry into the potential and limitations of the picture. Christian themes have not entirely disappeared from the baroque art of the generation after Rembrandt’s in the northern Netherlands. The use of townscapes is a borrowing from religious painting,31 and the interior, a popular subject, has roots in the births of the saints,32 the cell of Saint Jerome, and of course, the bower in which the Madonna receives the Annunciation. Gabriel Metsu presents a sick child in his mother’s lap modeled on the Pietà (fig. 6);33 as Martha Hollander has highlighted, de Hooch uses the compositional template of the Annunciation for one of his famous courtyard scenes.34 And the theme of the nursing mother obviously derives from the Madonna with the infant Jesus, a subject for which fifteenth- and sixteenth-

31 Hollander 2000 (as in note 10), p. 280. 32 See Wolfgang Kemp, Beziehungsspiele. Versuch einer Gattungspoetik des Interieurs, in: Sabine Schulze (ed.), Innenleben. Die Kunst des Interieurs. Vermeer bis Kabakov, exhibition catalogue, Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, Frankfurt am Main (Ostfildern 1998), p. 18. 33 Gabriel Metsu, The Sick Child, ca. 1660, oil on canvas, 32.2 × 27.2 cm, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. 34 Martha Hollander, Space, Light, Order. The Paintings of Pieter de Hooch, in: The Low Countries. Art and Society in Flanders and the Netherlands 9 (2001), p. 113.

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Fig. 6: Gabriel Metsu, The Sick Child, ca. 1660, painting, 32.2 × 27.2 cm, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum.

century Netherlandish painters had found a new formulation focused on the intimacy between mother and child.35 Such adaptation of Christian models is plain to see, but this observation in itself does not answer the question of what it means for the message these pictures convey and the way they affect their beholders. The simple notion of a process of secularization in which artists take up existing formulas for expedience’s sake and imbue them with new, post-Christian subjects is hardly sufficient to explain the art of the baroque, in the Netherlands as elsewhere. The culture that produces this art is an early form of bourgeois culture, but it remains steeped in Christian ideas and values intertwined, since the fifteenth century, with humanist ideals whose overarching objective is the establishment of a harmonious social order.36 Erasmus was instrumental in promoting the recourse to ideas from classical antiquity that subsequently informed seventeenth-century Dutch culture. As Margo Todd has pointed out, the Reformed ideal of the family as the spiritual nucleus of society interweaves Biblicism, patristic influences, Stoicism, and civic humanism.37 With regard to the issue at hand, this raises the question of how we should read the continuing vitality of a Christian motif, the

35 Durantini 1983 (as in note 4), p. 22; Falkenburg 1994 (as in note 16). 36 See Margo Todd, Christian Humanism and the Puritan Social Order, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987, especially p. 194. 37 Ibid., p. 6 and p. 34.


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Madonna with Child, in the light of Dutch ideas about family and motherhood as well as in the context of Mariology. In Calvinism as in all branches of Reformed Christianity, Mary’s position and significance are a complicated matter.38 As a saint, she falls under the verdict against second-order religion Luther had already imposed on cultic forms of worship and the praxis of praying for the intercession of the saints.39 Calvin doubled down on the rejection of Mariolatry and abolished all observances devoted to the mother of God. Both Luther and Calvin sought to shore up the position of Jesus as the mediator between the congregation and God, a singular status the Reformers saw as threatened by the invocation of Mary’s intercession. Still, none of the Reformers, not even Calvin, ever disputed the prominent position Mary held as the mother of God and instrument of the Incarnation, or her sainthood. Beyond the practice of praying for intercession, Mary posed a problem because of her role in the narrative of salvation. Exalted by God’s selecting her for this unique duty, the virgin humbly accepts it as an act of grace.40 The difficulty Luther and then Calvin faced was Mary’s participation in this act of grace, which is realized in the divine Annunciation to the simple girl and her obedient acceptance. Though her capacity for such humility was itself regarded as a token of divine grace, the virgin’s humble attitude, her unconditional submission, implied the threatening possibility that she was actively involved in the plot of salvation. That was indeed the interpretation that was subsequently developed in the Counter-Reformation, especially by the Jesuits: by dint of her virtue and her unconditional assent to God’s plan, it was argued, Mary had an active part in it and was thus a co-savior. Luther had introduced a line of theological reasoning designed to remove this problem—he declared it to be a matter of mistranslation: humilitas, he argued, should be rendered not as humility but as lowliness.41 God, he wrote, elected Mary precisely for her lowliness, to give full reality to the act of grace and the Incarnation of the Word. This translation of humilitas forestalls any suspicion of her active involvement in salvation. Despite this stumbling block, however, the Reformers confirmed that Mary was an unambiguously positive figure in being an exemplary believer: in her unquestioning faith and her compliance with a providence that made her the instrument of Incarnation, she was, in the Calvinist no less than in the Catholic perspective, the archetype of the imitation of Christ.

38 See de Fiores 1996 (as in note 22), p. 169. 39 Herbert Haag, Joe H. Kirchberger, Dorothee Sölle, and Caroline H. Ebertshäuser, Maria. Kunst, Brauchtum und Religion in Bild und Text, Freiburg: Herder, 1997, p. 96. 40 Franz Courth, S.A.C., Mariologie und Geschichte. Zum Marienbild der reformatorischen Theologie und Frömmigkeit des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts, in: Anton Ziegenaus, Franz Courth, and Philipp Schäfer (eds.), Veritati Catholicae. Festschrift für Leo Scheffczyk zum 65. Geburtstag, Aschaffenburg: Pattloch, 1985, pp. 410–419. 41 See Christoph Burger, Calvin und Luther deuten das Magnifikat, in: Hermann J. Selderhuis (ed.), Calvin. Saint or Sinner?, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010, pp. 142–157.

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As Todd has pointed out, Mary’s relegation during the Reformation did not reduce the importance of womanhood, but it changed its profile: responsibility for a woman’s salvation passed from the priest to her husband, whom she assists as his cultured companion.42 Regardless of how we should assess this shift, a question Barbara Vinken has discussed at length,43 the fact remains that the Christian humanist model, which informs Calvinism as well, installs the family as the spiritual nucleus of society.44 Woman’s role is to educate children from the cradle on, and as I mentioned above, breastfeeding is part of this mission: “to nurture them to good manners”, as Erasmus already puts it.45 Breastfeeding, in other words, is a form of spiritual education imparted to the children, and at least during their infancy, it is the mother’s job. Another aspect of Christian humanism from which women benefit as well is the accent on freedom of conscience,46 which is supposed to develop without the interference of institutional authority. As angels and saints are stripped of their power, new emphases redraw the picture of the world; cosmic interconnections fade as concern with the earthly community, social issues, and the individual’s own actions rises. Discipline and education are expected to establish social order, although, as Albrecht Koschorke writes, that order rests on a substratum of religious signifiers reinterpreted in societal terms and thus retains a theological grounding.47 There is an anti-institutional and indeed anti-authoritarian aspect to the individual’s examination of his or her conscience, as the Catholics already knew. But whereas Erasmus, building on the ethics of the ancients, calls for an exemplary life in the light of the vita Christi, the Protestants insist on the individual’s election by Christ. Yet Mary is a model not only of individual action, but also, at least according to the Gospel of Luke, of carefully considered action. Luke gives the most detailed account of the Annunciation, beginning with an interpellation that frightens Mary. She first asks, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” Only then does she unconditionally accept, giving herself into the hands of others, as a token of her profound faith.48 Virtually no painter has staged this moment of consideration and com-

42 Todd 1987 (as in note 36), p. 113. 43 Barbara Vinken, Die deutsche Mutter. Der lange Schatten eines Mythos, enlarged edition, Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch, 2011, especially the chapter “Epoche 1. Die reformierte Mutter (Luther)”, pp. 107–132. 44 Koschorke 2003 (as in note 19), pp. 115–133. 45 See Todd 1987 (as in note 36), p. 110. 46 See Heinz D. Kittsteiner, Die Entstehung des modernen Gewissens, Frankfurt am Main: Insel, 1995, especially chapter B II 1: “Die Entwertung des religiösen Gewissens im 17. Jahrhundert”, pp. 229–254, and Fraling 1996 (as in note 3). 47 Koschorke 2003 (as in note 19), pp. 5–7. 48 Luke 1:26–38; and cf. Meuffels 2000 (as in note 20).


 Beate Söntgen

Fig. 7: Antonello da Messina, Virgin of the Annunciation, panel painting, 45 × 34.5 cm, Palermo, public collection Galleria Regionale della Sicilia.

prehension more vividly than Antonello da Messina (fig. 7),49 at least if we follow Anselm Haverkamp’s lucid reading. The Virgin’s pausing attentively, and the posture of the right hand, a literal depiction of her grasping for understanding, transport the narrative of salvation into another epistemic register: the Mary we see here is not a passive instrument of eschatology but the figure of a dawning realization that both contains and undoes Eve’s grasping for the apple, which led to the fall of man.50 Although this picture places very different accents than de Hooch’s, it, too, shows its subject wavering between opening and closure, and in two different elements: in Mary’s intent absorption in thought combined with the hand reaching out, and in the stole. Mary clasps it to veil her body, the site of the Incarnation, but the gesture with which she extends the right hand raises the fabric, though without actually revealing anything. Antonello emphasizes the epistemic dimension of comprehension, and hence a transgression of the competencies traditionally assigned to Mary: hers had been to humbly accept, not to understand. Skirting such breach of theological convention, de Hooch’s Mariological figure instead marks the shift toward the social realm the Ref-

49 Antonello da Messina, Virgin of the Annunciation, 1475, oil on wood, 45 × 34.5 cm, Galleria Regionale della Sicilia, Palermo. 50 Anselm Haverkamp, Begreifensgeschichte. Antonello da Messina, August Sander, in: Begreifen im Bild. Methodische Annäherungen an die Aktualität der Kunst, Berlin: August, 2009, especially p. 12.

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ormation movements urged. Both pictures depict the female figure’s turning toward inwardness as a form of opening up to the divine that does not entail complete closure to the world. In reaching for the mythical apple, Antonello’s Mary embodies an act of realization; the absorption of de Hooch’s woman is embedded in the domestic framework. Her inwardness no longer serves the sole purpose of religious meditation and instead aims at understanding or the formation and manifestation of female social virtue. De Hooch’s picture unites the representation of Christian humanist familial ideals with the figuration of a young mother in the mold of Mary as the exemplar not only of motherliness, but also of absolute faith in the imitation of Christ.51 On the side of the social order, the painting stages the manifold ties that bind woman to the household and the positive value of breastfeeding as a form of physical as well as spiritual formation and a way to foster the love between mother and child. The fruits of the good education that begins in the cradle are manifest in the actions of the child on the threshold, which, having been released from the symbiotic relationship with the mother, now turns toward the supernatural light. By contrast, the mother’s very existence is woven into the interior, as the triangle she forms with the cradle and the dog as well as the alcove that frames her indicate; her body, meanwhile, is the scene of an interplay between opening and closure associated, by colors and axes, with both the paternal and the divine elements in the picture, in keeping with the Reformed belief that the husband and God are joint guardians of the wife’s salvation.52 The red hue of the unlaced bodice returns in the coverlet in the cradle and, in the culmination of a rising diagonal, in the gown of the absent paterfamilias. The white of her blouse is the counterpart within the interior of the light falling upon the threshold, another faint reflection of which illuminates the alcove. The picture thus illustrates the submission to God and husband that Calvinism demands of woman53 in a female figure whose actions are visibly guided not by institutional authority but by her self-directed absorption in the interior, in the space allotted and the role assigned to her as well as in her own inward life. By emphasizing the abdomen over the breasts, de Hooch reenvisions the figure’s Mariological dimension. The nourishing aspect of the Maria lactans, who quenches the physical as well as spiritual needs of both the infant Jesus and humankind at large, fades in favor of the Virgin of the Annunciation, who opens herself to the Word of God as she becomes closed to the world, a figure of exemplary faith in her absolute assent to an event that defies her understanding. But de Hooch includes only indirect references to Mary’s association with the celestial sphere: the correspondence between the light falling on the threshold and the luminous white of the blouse, and the figure

51 See Koschorke 2003 (as in note 19), p. 35. 52 See ibid., pp. 8–10 and pp. 51–53. 53 Todd 1987 (as in note 36), pp. 114–115.


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of the child on the threshold facing the supernatural light as the sign of divine presence. Flanked by her two children, the woman remains within the framework of the interior, even if her attention is not entirely absorbed by the infant. This form of devotion conforms to the values of Christian humanism, which prioritizes social order over spirituality.54 Erasmus had already cautioned against the propensity for inwardness: contemplation, he wrote, was valuable not in itself, but only with regard to the social order, an idea that is widespread throughout the Reformed cultures.55 The picture vividly illustrates this reorientation precisely by retaining the Mariological contour while also showing how the mother’s giving herself over comes to sustain social functions: as the figure of a self that is realized and absorbed in receiving and sharing, a figure of pure transitus, as Meuffels puts it.56 The mother with the unlaced bodice positioned between the infant in the cradle and the child on the threshold is its ideal type. Still, de Hooch has not entirely jettisoned the impenetrability of the spiritual dimension; it is represented by the inaccessibility of the female figure’s mind as well as the blindingly bright light of the world outside the door. The figures of opening and closure imply another theoretical point about pictures: they not only determine the space and the female figure, they are also tokens of the specific power of pictures—pictures show something, something they themselves are not, and in so doing conceal their own essence, their objecthood. What pictures show is not merely the likeness of a visible world; they render something manifest by their own distinctive means that would otherwise be invisible—a Eucharistic understanding of the picture, as Klaus Krüger has succinctly described, that promises the real presence of the numinous.57 In this perspective, art, especially of the illusionistic kind, does not aim at a repetition of what exists; it is emblematic of the human desire for a vision to which the power of the picture to render present responds. Mimetic transparency, the defining quality of all illusionistic art, is thus a medium of imaginary communication with a world beyond the picture.58 Such communication was at the heart of the highly influential model of the external stimulation of inward images framed by Saint Augustine, which Calvin vehemently opposed: there was, he argued, nothing numinous and no intrinsic power to pictures, whose effects were purely a matter of subjective response. Pictures, he wrote, were legitimate only when they were used correctly, as examples of civic virtue.59 De Hooch’s Mother at a Cradle illustrates

54 Luce Irigaray has recently explored Mary as a spiritual figure in her Le mystère de Marie. The French original has not been published; see the Italian translation Il mistero di Maria, Rome: Paoline, 2010 or the German version Das Mysterium Marias, Hamburg: Tredition, 2011. 55 Ibid., p. 35. 56 Meuffels 2000 (as in note 20), p. 206. 57 Krüger 2001 (as in note 17) p. 12. 58 Ibid., p. 53. 59 Ibid., pp. 182–185.

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how the use of traditional compositional templates keeps not only iconographies but also modes of pictorial agency alive. His illusionistic depiction of an interior is more than an exemplary scene that solicits imitation: it is also the medium of an imaginary communication both with the world awash in light beyond the threshold and with the hidden inner world of the woman’s mind, which finds its likeness in the nested revealing and concealing spatial figures of the interior. (translated from the German by Gerrit Jackson)

Catherine Girard

Space, Intimacy, and Deformity: Stags at Louis XV’s Versailles* A third very striking piece, is the representation of Deformed Antlers caught by the King on last 5th [sic] July. I don’t believe that there ever was, nor that there will ever be anything better in this genre. The Deformed Antlers are to be grabbed with the hand. (Anonymous Letter to Poiresson-Chamarande, September 5, 1741) One cannot touch [the distinct]: not because one does not have the right to do so, nor because one lacks the means, but rather because the distinctive line or trait separates something that is no longer of the order of touch; not exactly an untouchable, then, but rather an impalpable. (Jean-Luc Nancy, The Ground of Images, translated by Jeff Fort)

The propinquity of stags and princes had a long history in ancien régime France. The crowns on the heads of kings conjure up the image of antlers adorning the skulls of stags—they are crowned heads of the woods—carrying the semantic field of virile power from one to the other.1 This distinct status of stags stemmed from the majesty of their appearance and the thunderous demonstrations of their sexual life at the end of the summer, once their antlers reached full growth. Like kings occupied an intermediary position between human concerns and divine power, stags were construed as liminal beings, and the right to hunt them was reserved to a privileged few. The extreme sophistication of stag venery, the noblest form of hunting in ancien régime France, exaggerated this intimate affair during Louis XV’s reign (1715–1774). The art and interiors made in response to an inflated concern for misshapen and atrophied antlers manifested, in the second quarter of the eighteenth century, a shift in the imaginary of the royal hunt, replacing aspirational metaphors of lonesome and bellicose masculinity with distinct cases of male atrophy.2 For many of the antlers that accumulated at Louis XV’s Versailles signaled aging, potentially emasculated stags. I first explore how space, as a vector of intimacy, was used to create a sense of proximity with these defective and sexually charged remnants of the king’s hunts. Space, like Nature, was also explored pictorially for its capacities to generate forms and deformity. In the pictures of deformed antlers that he painted for Louis XV, which were kept in the utmost intimate rooms of the château, Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686–1755) exploited

* An earlier version of some parts of this article appeared in French in Histoire de l’art 70 (2012), pp. 63–71. Unless mentioned, all translations from French are mine. 1 The nascent antlers of fawns (pivots) are also commonly called crowns (couronnes) in French. 2 The hunted and dying stag as a stand-in for the monarch’s martyrdom was also a trope of early modern English literature. See Anne Elizabeth Carson, The Hunted Stag and the Beheaded King, in: Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900, 45.3 (Summer 2005), pp. 537–556.


 Catherine Girard

the tension between sight and touch in order to bring the cumbersome, deformed antlers caught by the king even closer, perhaps too close for comfort.

1 Building Intimacy with Stags at Versailles Stag antlers accumulated at Versailles in the parts of the corps central’s upper floors that served as the king’s cabinets and small apartments (fig. 1/ Plate 8).3 This confidential constellation of rooms was spread out around the cour des cerfs. The ceremonial of the curée froide, a belated moment of reward after the hunt when dogs were offered blood-soaked bread along with the organs and flesh of the dead game, used to take place in this very space during Louis XIV’s reign.4 Over the course of the first half of the eighteenth century, the stag courtyard was gradually walled off, complicating access to its confined space. Between 1723 and 1737, the four walls of the court were decorated with real deer antlers attached to sculpted and painted plaster heads made by Jean Hardy (fig. 2).5 The heads were lost in the nineteenth century, and the recent reconstruction of the decor of the stag courtyard at Versailles is only a faint evocation of its 1730s state (fig. 3). Such hybrids were typical of cynegetic decors, but the nature of the antlers that were attached to them was particular. In his correspondence with the master of the royal hounds, Louis XV implied that deformed antlers taken from stags that he hunted were destined for his stag courtyard at Versailles. When discussing the atrophied antlers of an old stag, which his packs had caught on August 8, 1735, he claimed that they were “not worthy of the stag gallery at Fontainebleau”, but hoped that they were “good enough for our courtyard at Versailles”.6 In contrasting these two places, Louis XV intimated that the kind of deformity presented by these

3 On the successive states of the king’s cabinets and small apartments at Versailles, see Jean-Claude Le Guillou, Les appartements attiques de Louis XIV et les petits appartements de Louis XV à Versailles, in: Versalia 13 (2010), pp. 55–143. Antlers were collected in Europe during the early modern period, both in galleries and in curiosity cabinets. Although the antlers and pictures of antlers in Louis XV’s possession shared a certain nominalism and fetishism with the objects and representations found in curiosity cabinets, they were never completely detached from the king’s own hunting practices, nor submitted to a collecting logic. The literature on the cabinet of curiosities and collections of wonders is bountiful; one of the recent publications worth signaling is R.J.W. Evans, Alexander Marr (eds.), Curiosity and Wonder from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006. 4 Émilien Cazes, Le château de Versailles et ses dépendances, Versailles: L. Bernard, 1910, p. 532. 5 The number of stag antlers attached to sculpted heads varied over time in the stag courtyard. See Archives Nationales (A.N.) O1 1771, A.N. O1 1773, and A.N. O1 2223; Pierre de Nolhac, Le château de Versailles sous Louis XV, Paris: Champion, 1898, p. 173; Alfred Marie, J. Marie, Versailles au temps de Louis XV, 1715–1745, Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1984, p. 59; and Philippe Salvadori, La chasse sous l’Ancien Régime, Paris: Fayard, 1996, pp. 234–235. 6 The letter of Louis XV to the comte de Toulouse, dated August 10, 1735, is cited in Michel Antoine, Louis XV, Paris: Hachette Littératures, 1989, p. 450.

Space, Intimacy, and Deformity: Stags at Louis XV’s Versailles 


Fig. 1: Versailles, annotated plan of the king’s apartments on the first floor (planned remodeling in red), 1738 (detail): A stag courtyard; B bedroom; C alcove; D cabinet du conseil; E semicircular staircase; F cabinet doré, 1742. India ink, wash, and graphite, 57 × 85 cm, Paris: Archives nationales.

freshly caught antlers did not meet the standards of Fontainebleau, whose long stag gallery nonetheless contained misshapen and non-conventional antlers.7 Why did Louis XV believe that these freshly caught deformed antlers were not worthy of it?

7 Primary and secondary sources evince the presence of deformed antlers in Fontainebleau’s grande galerie during the eighteenth century. Oversized antlers continued to be added to this space during


 Catherine Girard

Fig. 2: Versailles, Elevation of the Stag Courtyard, 1767 (detail). India ink, pen, and wash, 68 × 48 cm, Paris: Archives nationales.

One possible answer would be that Louis XV discriminated between different types of deformed antlers: whereas the vestigial antlers caught in 1735 were characterized by atrophy, the grand display of Fontainebleau’s stag gallery called for more statuesque examples of deformity such as sets of monstrous antlers with up to thirty tines.8 Before the end of Louis XV’s reign, however, the oblong stag gallery at Fontainebleau was dismantled and divided into smaller rooms.9 This was not an indication of a diminishing interest for stag antlers in general—his concern for antlers was deepening—but of a shift from ostentatious displays of impressive specimens to hoards of withered antlers. The kind of deformity that Louis XV focused on was related to the wrinkling effects of old age and, as I will demonstrate later, castration. He chose to surround himself, in his private rooms and stag courtyard, with the kind

Louis XV’s reign. In 1749, for instance, the deformed stag antlers with twenty-six tines caught by the duc de Chartres were placed in Fontainebleau’s stag gallery. See Charles-Philippe d’Albert, duc de Luynes, Du mercredi 12 (novembre 1749), Fontainebleau, in: L. Dussieux, L. E. Soulié (eds.), Mémoires du duc de Luynes sur la cour de Louis XV, 1749–1750, vol. X, Paris: Firmin Didot, 1862, p. 37. 8 See ibid. 9 The dismantling of Fontainebleau’s Galerie des cerfs under Louis XV was later deplored and compared to an act of vandalism, a narrative that is found in numerous nineteenth-century books on Fontainebleau. See Léon Gouvenin, La galerie des Cerfs au palais de Fontainebleau et l’architecte Paccard, Fontainebleau: Imprimerie de Ernest Bourges, 1883, pp. 10–11.

Space, Intimacy, and Deformity: Stags at Louis XV’s Versailles 


Fig. 3: Versailles, Stag Courtyard (21st-century reconstruction). View of the bricked up windows of Louis XV’s 1738 bedroom taken from the balcony by the semicircular staircase.

of “massacres” that belonged to an interrupted form of masculinity, thus cornering his own body with the possible products of impotence.10 The distribution and décor of the king’s cabinets and small apartments at Versailles were in perpetual transformation. The conception of space that developed through this new quest for architectural intimacy—an eighteenth-century concern— was modeled on the transience of life. By allowing a certain degree of undocumented entropy, the king’s space at Versailles was animated by a transitive principle, counterpointing the permanency of the rooms that had been ossified by decades of official functions.11 The modifications made to the king’s cabinets became, in 1738, an occasion that brought Louis XV and his antlers closer together. That year, the former salle de billard was transformed into a new bedroom. The king had been complaining about the cold and humidity of his predecessor’s Grande Chambre, and this smaller

10 In the oft-esoteric vocabulary of French venery, the word massacre signifies more than a slaughter: it designates both a cervid trophy, and the severed head of a stag laid on its hide when offered to a pack of excited hounds during the curée. 11 William R. Newton described this development of architectural intimacy at Versailles as a growing disintegration of the protocolar activities that burdened the king’s daily life. See William R. Newton, L’espace du roi. La Cour de France au château de Versailles. 1682–1789, Paris: Arthème Fayard, 2000, p. 131.


 Catherine Girard

and easier to heat room was cozier.12 This transformation was indicative of a significant change in the relationship between private and public life at Versailles during the eighteenth century, and the revolution of intimacy in aristocratic interiors.13 It gave Louis XV, in a sense, his own appartement de commodité, a retreat where the master of the house could sleep on cold days or during recovery.14 An alcove was built in 1738 to expand the king’s new bedroom.15 These spaces, tailored for an unprecedented level of intimacy and comfort, created dialectics of protection and entrapment that intensified the sense of proximity with antlers, which Louis XV also kept in a pile on the floor of the cabinet du conseil adjacent to his new bedroom.16 In order to accommodate the alcove, builders had to break into and partially destroy the newly decorated stag courtyard. The destruction of a part of this south wall also meant that the head of the king, while sleeping in his new, carpeted alcove, was now lying more or less where the antlers attached to Hardy’s sculpted heads had been previously installed. When the hounds of the royal venery caught another stag with deformed antlers on July 3, 1741, the typical destination for atrophied antlers was not an option anymore: the small stag courtyard at Versailles had been completed in 1737 and it was now crammed with erect tines; the deformed antlers from 1735, which Louis XV evoked in his letter cited above, were probably amongst the last to be added to the small space of the cour des cerfs.17 A different strategy of display—and displacement—was imagined: about a dozen deformed cervid antlers, most of which Louis XV himself had killed, were painted by Oudry and Jean-Jacques Bachelier (1724–1806) between the 1740s and the 1770s.18

12 On the bedroom built for Louis XV in 1738, see Newton 2000 (as in note 11), pp. 129–131; Marie 1984 (as in note 5), pp. 327–333; and Le Guillou 2010 (as in note 3), p. 88. 13 For enlightening discussions of aristocratic interiors and intimacy during the eighteenth century, see Katie Scott, The Rococo Interior, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995; and Denise Amy Baxter, Meredith Martin (eds.), Architectural Space in Eighteenth-Century Europe. Constructing Identities and Interiors, Farnham: Ashgate, 2010. 14 On appartement de commodité, see Jean-François Blondel, Architecture française, vol. 1, Paris: Charles-Antoine Jombert, 1752, p. 27. 15 Whether or not the 1738 alcove was connected, at first, to the balcony of the stag courtyard remains unclear, and different plans produced at different times during the following decades give contradictory information. What is certain, however, is that the purpose of the balcony was that the staff could steer clear of the semicircular staircase and its adjacent toilet, which were both meant to be exclusively used by the king. 16 Luynes 1862 (as in note 7), vol. XIII, p. 143. 17 Not only was the décor of the stag courtyard completed by 1737, but also many stag heads were taken down over the next decades. 18 Bachelier officially took over the commission after Oudry’s death. The last painting of the group, dated ca. 1778, was made for Louis XVI, who did not perpetuate the commission further. Five paintings of antlers made by Oudry are now at Fontainbleau (INV 7061, 7062, 7063, 7064, and 7065). The painting INV 8888 was attributed to Oudry by Georges de Lastic in 1967, who believed it to be his 1752 version of the royal commission, a hypothesis that Oudry specialist Hal Opperman corroborated.

Space, Intimacy, and Deformity: Stags at Louis XV’s Versailles 


Soon after the first deformed antlers of this commission were caught during the summer of 1741, an otherwise-engaged Oudry was asked to report for duty.19 He, in turn, executed a painting that was favorably received only a few weeks later at the Salon. This was the first of a group of striking, life-size paintings featuring malformed antlers that recorded unusual specimens caught by the king.20 The original destination for the paintings of this commission would have been the semicircular staircase of the king’s cabinets at Versailles, which is located on the west side of the stag courtyard (fig. 4).21 Beyond laconic, late eighteenth-century inventories, however, no direct account of their presence in that space exists.22 The difficulty one finds in retracing their physical journey before their reemergence in the nineteenth century could be surprising, given that they remained in the royal collections until the end of the ancien régime. Paradoxically, it was their very proximity to Louis XV that created this blind spot in the archives pertaining to their early provenance. In all probability, Louis XV kept them with other objects, whose disposition was never documented, in the most private rooms of Versailles. The spaces that surrounded the semicircular staircase of the stag courtyard, such as the cabinet that is known as the cabinet doré, were exclusively for the royal presence, and thus escaped

I doubt this attribution for stylistic and compositional reasons: the INV 8888 antlers are suspended, and not resting on a shelf, which was more typical of Bachelier’s pictures; see de Lastic, Louis XV. Ses trophées de chasse peints par Oudry et Bachelier, in: Connaissance des arts 188 (1967), pp. 110– 115; and Opperman, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, vol. 2, New York, NY: Garland, 1977. On Oudry’s paintings, see also A.N. O1 1907 A and A.N. O1 1922 B1; and Vincent Droguet, Oudry et Fontainebleau. Une rencontre posthume, in: Droguet, Xavier Salmon, Danièle Véron-Denise (eds.), Collection des ducs de Mecklembourg-Schwerin. Animaux d’Oudry, Paris: RMN, 2003, pp. 37–43. 19 The conditions of the commission can be deduced from the payment records of the 1750 painting, which I discuss later. 20 The records of the Bâtiments du roi show that Oudry was commissioned in 1741, 1742, twice in 1749, 1750, and 1752. It should be noted that Fernand Engerand referred to the wrong classificatory number (A.N. O1 1932, instead of A.N. O1 1922 B), a typo that was repeated in his book and in the literature. Engerand, Inventaire des tableaux commandés et achetés par la direction des Bâtiments du Roi (1709–1792), vol. II, Paris: E. Leroux, 1901, pp. 373–374. 21 Historian Alfred Marie believed that Oudry’s and Bachelier’s pictures were in the semicircular staircase of the west side of the cour des cerfs at Versailles. Unfortunately, Marie passed before completing the volume of his history of Versailles intended to cover the year 1746 to the end of the ancien régime. See de Lastic 1967 (as in note 18), p. 115. I would like to thank Yves Carlier, chief curator at Versailles, for allowing me to visit the rooms that surround the cour des cerfs, and for pointing out that Louis XV did accumulate objects, such as paintings, stag antlers, and porcelains in that space. 22 Archives des musées nationaux, Inventaire des tableaux de la surintendance, 1DD3, p. 150, pp. 366–368, and 1DD5, p. 22; and Louis-Jacques du Rameau, Inventaire des tableaus du Cabinet du Roi, placés à la Surintendance de Sa Majesté à Versailles […], vol. 2, 1784, p. 12. The two first paintings made by Oudry for this commission in 1741 and 1742 were clearly identified in the 1DD5 inventory, and Rameau’s inventory confirmed that they were still a part of the king’s cabinet at Versailles in the 1780s.


 Catherine Girard

Fig. 4: Versailles, Semicircular Staircase.

the scope of what memorialists and the Maison du roi archivists were able to see and chronicle. The semicircular staircase ensured the king’s privacy when he circulated between the first and second floor. Thanks to adjustments made to the balcony surrounding the stag courtyard, the staff could avoid the area of the semicircular staircase. It was on the walls of this section of Louis XV’s cabinets that the paintings of Oudry would have been kept. This hypothetical display of deformed antler paintings in a staircase would have been in line with the increased number of stairwells decorated with illusionistic paintings in Parisian hôtels particuliers.23 The wall painting realized by Paolo Antonio Brunetti in 1748 for the Hôtel de Luynes, for example, created the illusion of a gallery filled with onlookers projecting over the actual staircase, breaking the fourth wall of the image and engaging the passerby in a playful and immersive environment.24 The pictures of deformed antlers that Louis XV had in his possession were more invasive, trapping the spectator into a one-on-one encounter in a claustrophobic space. The question remains: Why were these malformed antlers caught by the sovereign replicated in painted form, while real antlers were already subjected to strategies of accumulation and display? What did these paintings accomplish that the collecting

23 On the subject of trompe l’œil in the stairwells of Parisian hôtels particuliers, see Scott 1995 (as in note 13), p. 24. Pictures with a general hunting theme were also installed in the staircase of the library facing Versailles’ stag courtyard during the eighteenth century. 24 The three panels are now at the Carnavalet Museum in Paris.

Space, Intimacy, and Deformity: Stags at Louis XV’s Versailles 


of their models could not? I now turn to the pictorial achievements of these depictions of deformed antlers painted for the private consumption of Louis XV, which merged natural deformations—and their sexual etiology—with Rococo principles of surface, asymmetry, and unintelligibility.

2 Visualizing Deformity The conditions of the deformed antlers commissions were fraught with violence. Soon after the stag had been killed by the royal venery, and in the presence of the king, a request was sent to Oudry, who was ordered to head for the site of the hunt. Payment records for his depiction of the stag head caught on November 16, 1750, for example, telegraph the authoritarian nature of the actual commission: the very day of the kill in the forest of Fontainebleau, the painter was summoned to meet the king at Choisy.25 Oudry brought a number of different canvases so the king could pick a size according to his desire. Oudry then made a painted sketch, and returned with the decapitated head to Paris, where he completed the painting. By the twentieth, the king asked that Oudry return the stag head. Two days later, the painting was at Versailles. These commissions, therefore, generated a sense of urgency: Oudry received the antlers soon after the head had been scalped or severed and held on to them for only a few days. He manipulated tines covered with fur, often still attached to bloody strips of decomposing flesh, in order to balance the antlers on a flat surface. He touched their forms directly, sometimes in front of the king who had the habit of watching him work. This tactile and voyeuristic process marked the paintings, with Oudry sometimes painstakingly depicting the remnant of the stag’s scalp. In the 1742 painting, a lump of skin emerges from between the dark tines of the antlers, this magma of bloodsoaked flesh pouring from the scalp directly onto the marble surface of the shelf (fig. 5). In another painting, Oudry oriented the king’s inescapably phallic antlers to expose the wound from below (fig. 6). Oudry addressed the problems that rotting carcasses posed to his painting technique in his second conférence, a version of which was read at the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture on December 2, 1752.26 In the midst of his reflections on the application of color, both on the palette and on the canvas, Oudry singled out the depiction of dead animals as something that challenged his meticulous painting practice. Given that the carcasses decomposed rapidly, especially during the summer,

25 A.N. O1 1922 B1. 26 Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Discours sur la pratique de la peinture et ses procédés: ébaucher, peindre à fond et retoucher (1752), in: Eugène Piot, Le cabinet de l’amateur et de l’antiquaire 1861–1862, Paris: Firmin Didot, 1863, pp. 107–117. The manuscripts of Oudry’s 1752 conférence on painting will be published by ENSBA in a series edited by Christian Michel and Jacqueline Lichtenstein.


 Catherine Girard

Fig. 5: Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Deformed Stag Antlers against a Stone Wall, 1742, oil on canvas, 98 × 73 cm, Fontainebleau château.

Oudry wrote that he had to learn how to “peindre au premier coup”.27 It is tempting to believe that the conditions under which he had to paint deformed antlers were what put the most pressure on his pictorial practice: he had to act quickly, touching these phallic, bloody things, and probably avoiding the mixing of blood and paint on his fingers. The distance between model and the pictorial act was thus collapsed in the immediacy of Louis XV’s commission. The letter from 1741 cited in the epigraph conjures up how Oudry’s first painting made for this unique, and rather strange, commission was indeed a “very striking piece” that elicited a contact with the hand, the initial haptic shock triggering a desire to touch a passively available thing (fig. 7). This contemporary comment reified a platitude of the nascent discourse of art criticism, i.e., that successful paintings emulate the deception achieved by Parrhasius’s curtain. The trompe l’œil device that Oudry chose for the 1741 painting, which served as a model from which he did not deviate for the commission, exacerbated this effect by violently compressing the illusionistic space, and by prompting the antlers to bulge into the spectator’s environ-

27 Ibid., p. 114. Steve Stella translated the phrase “peindre au premier coup”, which Oudry italicized, with “immediate painting”, thus evoking the Italian technique of alla prima. See Oudry, Discourse on the Practice of Painting and its Main Processes: Underpainting, Overpainting and Retouching, The Getty Conservation Institute, discours_en.pdf (accessed September 1, 2013), p. 19 and p. 27, n. 12.

Space, Intimacy, and Deformity: Stags at Louis XV’s Versailles 


Fig. 6: Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Deformed Stag Antlers against a Background of Planks, 1749, oil on canvas, 117 × 103 cm, Fontainebleau château.

ment.28 Oudry placed the antlers in front of vertical backgrounds that coincided with the surface of the canvas, their dysmorphic and hairy tines pressing forward against

28 The literature on trompe l’oeil in art is vast; in the context of this analysis, I want to emphasize three characteristics of the trompe l’oeil. First, the effects of the trompe l’oeil are transient. Second, this (rapid) shift from deception to awareness threatens the picture by exposing how it operates. This is what Omar Calabrese called the “injonction paradoxale” of the trompe l’oeil; see his L’art du trompe-l’oeil, Paris: Citadelles & Mazenod, 2010, p. 13. Third, trompe l’oeil paintings pose a threat to spectators themselves by introducing death and animality to their relation with the picture, temporarily assimilating them to the birds of Zeuxis crashing at the surface of the canvas; see Louis Marin, Représentation et simulacra (1978), in: De la représentation, Paris: Seuil/Gallimard, 1994, pp. 303–312.


 Catherine Girard

Fig. 7: Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Deformed Stag Antlers against a Background of Planks, 1741, oil on canvas, 115 × 69.3 cm, Fontainebleau château.

Space, Intimacy, and Deformity: Stags at Louis XV’s Versailles 


this vertical plane. In all three paintings reproduced in this article, the deformed part consists of swollen rods with bulbous ends, around which a human hand would perfectly fit, and which jut out, stimulating an embodied reaction of sympathy to phallic shapes. Oudry’s treatment of space in the 1741 painting created a contradiction between the rendering of specific antlers and the illegibility of their forms. The composition is, at first glance, compellingly clear: the healthy right branch stands erect against a wall of pine planks, whereas the misshapen section of the antlers, with the rounded tip of the atrophied left side, rests on a thin, horizontal shelf. Deformity and the signature of the artist are thus confined to a horizontal band, while the vertical plane that accommodates the healthy, ascending tines, carries the reminder of the king’s hunting prowess. Because they lie prone, however, the deformed tines are unrecognizable; Oudry twists the outgrowth and submits it to a dramatic foreshortening. And yet deformity was the raison d’être of the picture, which the inscriptions on the painted cartellino pinned to the wall confirm. For his first painting of deformed antlers, Oudry deviated from the standard frontal view one has when facing a stag, which was typical of illustrations for hunting treatises and natural history books. By pivoting the antlers away from their “natural” axis of reading, Oudry not only made the silhouette of Louis XV’s antlers impregnable to classificatory systems, but also further defamiliarized them. The painter probably had no other choice but to put them in unusual positions in order to balance them on precarious surfaces, as he never suspended the antlers with strings like Bachelier opted to do. Instead, contingency played an intrinsic role in Oudry’s pictorial act, by pushing it to its limits. Not only was deformity confined to this horizontal band, but it was also produced by it, turning deformity into a pictorial principle, a process of visualization through which painting could emulate Nature.

3 The Testicular Failure Hypothesis The complex and perpetual cycle of growth and shedding of stag antlers intrigued hunters and scientists equally, and they both explored the possible connection between testicles and antlers. Early modern hunting treatises and eighteenth-century natural history books established that the morphology of stag antlers externalized internal processes. Antlers were, therefore, conspicuous tokens of age and health, an index of a stag’s life story that the proficient huntsmen learned to interpret. Many visitors to the 1741 Salon where Oudry’s first antler painting was displayed had been exposed to these anecdotes and were well equipped to discuss the crookedness of the king’s antlers. Deformed antlers had added value due to their relative rarity, although they were found often enough to warrant a category of their own. Their bizarreness generally 


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consisted in the malformation of a segment (e.g., an elongated and slanting palm), in an unusual number of tines, or in their asymmetrical arrangement. The appearance of irregularly shaped antlers was often attributed to old age: antlers tend to shrink and flatten in elderly stags. Malnutrition and accidents were also blamed, for a bullet, a fight with another stag, or a collision with a sturdy trunk or rock formation could all significantly damage antlers. A more obscene idea—which I call the testicular failure hypothesis—had also been in circulation since at least the sixteenth century.29 It relied on a connection established in the hunting literature between the correct functioning of a stag’s testicles and the morphology of its antlers. Jacques du Fouilloux (1519­–1580), for example, laid out in a widely read and copied hunting treatise the argument that castration actually stopped the development of antlers: “[…] if a stag is castrated before it grows its antlers, never will they grow: and on the contrary, should you castrate a stag wearing its antlers, never will they fall. No more no less will it be should you castrate it when its antlers are flabby & covered in blood, for they will stay as such forever, without drying or darkening. This leads one to believe that testicles have great power, for they often are the cause of men’s wearing nice antlers that never molt or fall, as is for all […].”30 Through an allegorical mode typical of early hunting treatises, thoughts about stags were extended to men, and a causal relation between the growth of antlers and the functioning of sexual organs was made, bolstering the belief in the mysterious powers of testicles.31 The French language conveyed the preoccupation of hunters and naturalists with stag testicles by assigning a word, daintiers, exclusively to them. Stag testicles also played a prominent cultural role. During the ritual of the curée, they were the first anatomical part to be cut by the hunt kennel attendant, and Louis XV reportedly ate stag testicles.32 When a stag with deformed antlers was caught, it was common to first inspect its genitals. The atrophied, deformed antlers ordered by Louis XV to be duplicated in paint, therefore, conveyed this sense of inept virility through the prospect of damaged male genitals.

29 The correlation between sperm production and the size and form of antlers, which was a trope of early modern hunting treatises, has since been proven; see Aurelio F. Malo, Antlers Honestly Advertise Sperm Production and Quality, in: Proceedings: Biological Sciences 272.1559 (2005), pp. 149–157. 30 Jacques du Fouilloux, La vénerie, Paris: Abel l’Angelier, 1614 [1561], pp. 17b–18a. 31 The naturalist Buffon, who used the heuristic knowledge contained in hunting treatises to elaborate his article on deer, was adamant about the connection—the “intimate analogy”—between the outgrowth at the vertex of stags and their genitals. 32 Denis Diderot, Chasse, in: Robert Morrissey (ed.), Encyclopédie, University of Chicago, IL: ARTFL Encyclopédie Project, (Spring 2011 Edition), p. 16:946.

Space, Intimacy, and Deformity: Stags at Louis XV’s Versailles 


4 Trapping Bizarreness The visual vocabulary of Rococo art made the silhouettes of the deformed antlers commission, with their tentacular outgrowths, more legible. The eighteenth-century public had developed a sensibility to networks of decorative lines, and to fine-drawn dissymmetry and irregularities, acquiring a certain level of literacy when it came to the morphological subtleties of deer antlers. In other words, ornamental volutes had created a fertile context of reception for this very kind of silhouette. The ornamental quality of the pictures of deformed antlers was even spelled out on the painting, as the word “bizarre” was written in paint. By the eighteenth century, the term “bizarre” had acquired, in the French language, two primary meanings: it referred to something “odd”, and it designated deformed antlers. 33 By the time Oudry painted his first tête bizarre, however, the word “bizarre” was also becoming an aesthetic category that operated on two levels: it described the workings of the line, of forms, and of the composition of the rocaille, and it encompassed the sense of disorientation created by the logics of asymmetry, irregularity, and superficiality of its visual experience.34 As such, the word “bizarre” was both a descriptive and discursive term, which the nascent anti-rococo discourse rapidly appropriated. It is through an ideological transaction that the word bizarre therefore acquired a derogatory signification. As a discursively created category of artistic production, bizarrerie was associated with feminized principles that could contaminate the artist, the forms, and the taste of the patrons.35 Strategies of isolation, self-reflection, and confrontation—which are all at play in the pictures of deformed antlers by Oudry— coalesced as forms, radicalizing in paint the kind of ornamental silhouettes that were concomitantly coming under attack in the anti-rococo discourse. The Rococo thus became the metonymy of a certain aristocratic way of life concerned with adornment. These attacks similarly relied on the idea that bizarreness, as a pure product of imagination, was in opposition to natural forms.36 Deformed antlers, however, confused

33 Different terms, such as tête bizarre, tête mal semée, and tête faux marquée (found in various spellings), were used to designate deformed antlers in French. Although tête bizarde has been the accepted term since the nineteenth century, tête bizarre and teste bizarre were more common during the eighteenth century. 34 Marianne Roland Michel traced the origins of the association of the word “bizarre” with the Rocaille to a March 1734 article in the Mercure de France dedicated to a series of prints by Meissonnier. See Marianne Roland Michel, Lajoüe et l’art rocaille, Neuilly-sur-Seine: Arthena, 1984, pp. 127–129. 35 The question of the feminization of the Rococo has been critically examined by feminist art history. See, for instance, Melissa Hyde, Confounding Conventions. Gender Ambiguity and François Boucher’s Painted Pastoral, in: Eighteenth-Century Studies, 30.1 (1996), pp. 25–57. On the discursive formation of sex in eighteenth-century art, see Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, Sex and Gender, in: Philip Conisbee (ed.), Genre Painting in Eighteenth-Century France, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007, pp. 200–219. 36 As such, it reified the Lockian split between imagination and judgment.


 Catherine Girard

this split between imagination and Nature: their deformity was not a figment of the imagination. Têtes bizarres were found as such in nature. Stags produced them, and they were related to male genitalia through obscure mechanisms. They were real-life rocaille ornaments, growing on the heads of the most coveted, yet untouchable game. Oudry’s most striking pictures of deformed antlers linger in that interstice created between nature and artifice by maintaining the intermediary state of the antlers, stuck between their status as the objects of a ritualized carving during the curée, and their transmutation into trophies over which time has no hold. While kept in this existential limbo, their deformities are slightly lifted from the surface of the canvas toward our space, vigorously sensitizing the line that separates the picture from the viewer. As we linger on these trompe l’œil paintings that do not release us once the initial shock has passed, we are subjected to the cross-contamination of the sexual charge of deformed antlers and the effects of disorientation created by the principles of the Rococo. For the deformed antlers painted for Louis XV were cut phalluses of male specimens whose testicles were expected not to be intact, and this succession of cuts acted on the very idea of castration. By going missing, the testicles of the stag suggest a separation from the penis, and the phallic antlers created by this testicular failure have been detached from the head of the animal, by the king himself. Furthermore, morphological and spatial deformity caused these antlers to expel the religious symbolism of the apparition of the cross to Hubertus: What kind of conversion could be stimulated by this kind of deformity? Practically, the paintings commissioned for Louis XV, by flattening the otherwise cumbersome antlers, allowed antlers to fit in very confined rooms as it would have been impossible to install real antlers in a narrow semicircular staircase without physically endangering its user. Oudry’s trompe l’oeil, in return, exacerbated the sense of being invaded, while emphasizing the absolute impossibility of a real contact. These features reinforced both the sense of intimacy that was created in these private interiors, and the confrontation with the spectator that was established by the pictures. Just like Louis XV’s new alcove encroaching on the stag courtyard, Oudry’s pictures put pressure on their own spatial borders, sensitizing that edge where the violence of the image is located, their own obscene coming into being resting like open wounds.

Charlotte Klonk

Non-European Artifacts and the Art Interior of the Late 1920s and Early 1930s The last decade or so has seen several controversies regarding the exhibition of nonEuropean artifacts. The debates following the opening of the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris and the heated discussion around the Humboldt Forum in Berlin, for example, suggest that there is currently no agreement on how to exhibit non-European artifacts. In this situation, it seems useful to reflect on the rich and varied reception of foreign objects in the past. The interior spaces of the late 1920s and 1930s that are at the center of this essay constitute just a small, albeit decisive, part of the varied life led by those objects in the Western world. In the light of their eventful history outside their countries of origin, the usual question as to whether or not non-European artifacts should be staged in an ethnographically appropriate or an aesthetically pleasing manner appears to lose some of its urgency. Instead, I will argue that the way these artifacts have been interiorized in the Western world constitutes a key to very European desires and dreams, which, moreover, are subject to dramatic changes over time.

1 The European imagination How time-bound and fascinatingly foreign this European imagination itself can be is well illustrated by the 1920s apartment of the film director Fritz Lang and his partner, scriptwriter Thea von Harbou. In 1923, the famous couple allowed the photographer Waldemar Titzenthaler to take pictures of their private home at Hohenzollerndamm, Berlin, for the society magazine Die Dame.1 At the time, the couple was writing the script for Lang’s famous film Metropolis (1927). One of the photographs shows Lang and von Harbou at work—not at the desk but on the sofa, Fritz lying on his stomach, Thea beside him in a flowing reform dress, bent over the text. Although Titzenthaler photographed numerous interiors for Die Dame in those years, no other photograph shows such a consciously staged artistic household.2 East Asian pieces stylishly rub shoulders with African masks, South Sea artifacts with antique German furniture and erotic drawings by the contemporary Viennese artists Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt (fig. 1). However, this side-by-side display makes the old German Lüsterweibchen above the dining table—a chandelier in the form of a

1 Die Wohnung eines Sammlers. Das Berliner Heim des Filmregisseurs Fritz Lang, in: Die Dame 11 (1923/24), pp. 4–7. 2 See Enno Kaufhold, Berliner Interieurs. Photographien von Waldemar Titzenthaler, Berlin: Nicolai, 2001.


 Charlotte Klonk

woman’s torso with antler wings that was popular in southern Germany in the late Middle Ages—look rather grotesque (fig. 2). Equally, the dragon chandelier based on a model by the Renaissance artist Veit Stoss appears strangely alien above the pool table in the room next door. It is difficult to say which appears more suggestive, more foreign: the old German imitations or the non-European colonial trophies which, as in the case of the South Sea artifacts, have been used with surprising nonchalance as fixed room elements, such as door mountings or wall coverings in the apartment. The diversity of the objects assembled in this household is extreme; no longer indicating a specific place on the map, they have become immersed in the realms of the fantastic. In Thea von Harbou and Fritz Lang’s apartment, semantic planes are uncovered that, while not transcending conscious intentions, nevertheless reach below the surface of daily life. The focus of Lang and von Harbou’s imagination is on deeper levels of meaning, meanings inaccessible via the mere functions of the objects. At the start of Metropolis, to which von Harbou contributed the script, the protagonists watch as the enormous subterranean production plant transforms itself into a metallic, superhuman demon. Similarly, Lang and von Harbou’s staging of art objects in their Hohenzollerndamm apartment imbues the objects with a magical life of their own. While quasi-religious fetishes and idols worked their charm in Lang and von Harbou’s apartment, their films depicted modern society steeped in archaic feelings, “as if the magical spell of prehistory”, writes the cultural historian Hartmut Böhme, “was finding fresh expression in the highly developed capitalist rationality of the time”.3 Yet the photographs of the apartment also reveal something else: in the 1920s and 1930s, ideas regarding the significance of foreign cultural objects in Western industrialized societies varied substantially. Our view of the reception of non-European artifacts in the art world of the interwar years is dominated by one particular exhibition: Cubism and Abstract Art, staged by Alfred Barr in the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1936 (fig. 3). Yet the MOMA exhibition and the staging of the artifacts in Thea von Harbou’s and Fritz Lang’s apartment are worlds apart. If one also considers the arrangement of non-European objects and modern art at the Folkwang Museum in Essen in the early 1930s (fig. 4), or even the Exposition Surréaliste d’Objets in Paris in 1936 (fig. 5), it becomes very clear that many different perceptions of the significance of foreign objects existed side by side in the West at this time. In my view, this range of perceptions—probably at its very broadest in the late 1920s and early 1930s—has not been sufficiently analyzed. When differences are noted, if at all, it is usually only those between the reception of artifacts in the art context and their display in ethnological museums. It has frequently been argued that exhibitions of objects in the ethnological context were based on criteria rooted in cultural and most of all evolutionary history,

3 Hartmut Böhme, Das Fetischismus-Konzept von Marx und sein Kontext, in: Volker Gerhardt (ed.), Marxismus. Versuch einer Bilanz, Magdeburg: Parerga, 2001, p. 289. Here and throughout, all translations from the German are my own unless otherwise attributed.

Non-European Artifacts and the Art Interior of the Late 1920s and Early 1930s 


Fig. 1: Waldemar Titzenthaler, Study and Billiard Room in Fritz Lang’s and Thea von Harbou’s Home.

Fig. 2: Waldemar Titzenthaler, Dining Room in Fritz Lang’s and Thea von Harbou’s Home.

whereas in art museums a purely formal-aesthetic approach apparently dominated.4 However, such functional or formal displays were only two of several appropriation strategies employed with respect to non-European artifacts in the 1920s and 1930s. The breadth of this variety only came to an end when the National Socialists in Germany began to polarize and restrict the discussion of non-European artifacts and modern art in a way that reverberated around the world. From around 1935, the

4 See, e.g., Uwe Fleckner, Carl Einstein und sein Jahrhundert. Fragmente einer intellektuellen Biographie, Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2006, pp. 293–307; also Wendy A. Grossman, Man Ray, African Art, and the Modernist Lens, exhibition catalogue, Philips Collection Washington, Washington, D.C.: International Arts & Artists, 2009, p. 14.


 Charlotte Klonk

Fig. 3: Installation View of Cubism and Abstract Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1936.

Fig. 4: Installation View with Erich Heckel’s triptych Die Genesenden, Folkwang Museum, Essen, 1928.

Fig. 5: Installation View of Exposition Surréaliste d’Objets, Galerie Ratton, Paris, 1936.

Non-European Artifacts and the Art Interior of the Late 1920s and Early 1930s 


Nazi propaganda machine proclaimed a misunderstood naturalism which perceived contemporary artists’ references to African works as nothing more than a process of degeneration. In fact, when the Degenerate Art exhibition opened in Munich’s Hofgarten-Arkaden in July 1937, the catchword Verniggerung (niggerization) was used in an attempt to demonstrate that modern art had appropriated “negroes and South Sea Islanders” as a racial ideal.5 Employing an astonishingly twisted logic, it was argued that modern artists’ dramatic experiments with form were not the result of a drive towards abstraction but instead followed a mimetic impulse, one that led to allegedly underdeveloped peoples being taken as a model of beauty rather than the traditional classic Greek ideal. “It must be pointed out, though,” the exhibition catalogue argued with a twisted logic, “that this niggerized art is so barbaric in terms of handicraft that some negroes would rightfully rebel against recognizing themselves in the portrayed figures or being accused of having created such sculptures.”6 Such a naturalistic understanding of non-European art was, it must be emphasized, a perverse innovation by the National Socialists which had no precursor in the various and multifaceted appropriation strategies of the 1920s and 1930s. There, instead, a formalist, expressionist, or even surrealist Africa dominated.

2 Formalist, expressionist, and surrealist Africa Cubism and Abstract Art may well have been MOMA’s most sophisticated exhibition in the 1930s. It was intended to give the American audience a greater understanding of the significance of the move toward abstraction in modern art. In his famous diagram, displayed on the catalogue cover and on panels around the exhibition, Barr emphasized the aesthetic influences and consequences of this development.7 One installation—right at the beginning of the exhibition—became particularly famous. The first room exhibited Picasso’s paintings and sculptures from 1908 to 1910 (fig. 3). These were, of course, the years when the artist began to develop his Cubist mode of depiction. In the exhibition, Picasso’s works framed an ancestral figure from Gabon and a mask from Cameroon, which were also placed on pedestals, but in contrast to Picasso’s works without any dates or further identification. Mary Anne Staniszewski has pointed out that this form of staging was not new in New York at

5 Führer durch die Ausstellung Entartete Kunst, Berlin: Verlag für Kultur- und Wirtschaftswerbung, 1937, reprint ed. by Eberhard Roters, Cologne: Walther König, 1988, p. 16. 6 Ibid., p. 18. 7 See Charlotte Klonk, Spaces of Experience, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 138– 143.


 Charlotte Klonk

the beginning of the twentieth century.8 As early as 1914, the photographer Edward Steichen exhibited so-called primitive objects in the gallery 291 against a background of colorful wall panels almost in imitation of the facets of a Cubist painting, and, one year later in the same gallery, Alfred Stieglitz displayed a Kota figure between a Picasso and a Braque drawing.9 In 1923, the Whitney Studio again exhibited works by Picasso and Braque side by side with non-European artifacts. Since the publication of Carl Einstein’s influential 1915 book Negerplastik, if not even earlier, the reception of African artifacts in connection with the radical simplifications of form in Cubist art had no longer been considered provocative in either New York, Paris, or Berlin.10 Like Stieglitz and Steichen in New York a year before, Einstein emphasized the artistic character of non-European objects and their similarity to the radical space perception pioneered in modern art by the Cubists.11 Einstein’s interest was stimulated not least by a meeting with Picasso during his first stay in Paris in 1907. Around this time the artist had discovered the allure of African artifacts in the Ethnographic Museum in the Palais du Trocadéro, and traces of this encounter were famously already visible in his painting Demoiselles d’Avignon.12 Accordingly, Einstein’s starting point was the radical conception of space common to both modern art and African artifacts.13 At this time, neither Einstein nor Picasso were particularly interested in the objects’ original cultural context. Although Einstein accords them a quasi-religious and hence transcendental significance, his interest was crucially aroused by their uncompromising forms, which he regarded as an important influence in the development of modern art. The staging of Picasso’s works in conjunction with African objects in Cubism and Abstract Art was Barr’s attempt, twenty years after the artist’s momentous introduction to African artifacts, to show the formal reception that Einstein had made explicit ten years earlier. At the time when Thea von Harbou and Fritz Lang were furnishing their Hohenzol­ lerndamm apartment with an entirely different intention in mind, a formal reception similar to Barr’s was also on display in Berlin. In 1921, Alfred Flechtheim, a friend of

8 Mary Anne Staniszewski, The Power of Display. A History of Exhibition Installations at the Museum of Modern Art, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998, p. 81. 9 See Grossmann 2009 (as in note 4), p. 15. 10 Carl Einstein, Negerplastik, Leipzig: Verlag der Weißen Bücher, 1915. 11 Although Einstein was not the first critic who declared African artifacts to be artworks, he was the most influential writer to do so before the First World War. Fleckner 2006 (as in note 4), p. 71. 12 William Rubin (ed.), Primitivism in Twentieth-Century Art, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1984. For a more critical view of the reception of African artefacts, see Patricia Leighten, The White Peril and l’Art Nègre: Picasso, Primitivism, and Anti-colonialism, in: Art Bulletin 72.4 (1990), pp. 609–630; Anna C. Chave, New Encounters with Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Gender, Race, and the Origins of Cubism, in: Art Bulletin 56.4 (1994), pp. 597–611; Christopher Green (ed.), Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 13 Einstein 1915 (as in note 10), pp. v–vi.

Non-European Artifacts and the Art Interior of the Late 1920s and Early 1930s 


Fig. 6: Marta Huth, Alfred Flechtheim’s Apartment in Berlin.

Carl Einstein’s, had opened a Berlin branch of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler’s Parisian gallery. Until his emigration in 1933, Flechtheim was the most influential representative of the Cubists in Germany. While his gallery exhibited a wide range of contemporary modern art, his apartment in Bleibtreustrasse contained everything that, in his own words, “pertains to Picasso’s circle”.14 In an almost museum-like display, and as if in anticipation of Barr’s staging in New York in 1936, Flechtheim arranged two bronze heads by Picasso (Fernande, 1906, and Fernande, 1909) flanking a nonEuropean mask on the salon’s mantelpiece below a recent Picasso painting (Verre, Bouteille, Poisson, 1922). Working closely with Einstein, Flechtheim expanded his collection over the following few years, making it one of the most significant of its kind. It is noticeable that, in contrast to Thea von Harbou and Fritz Lang, he did not integrate the African masks and totems from New Ireland into the apartment’s furniture, but rather exhibited them as individual pieces just as he showed works by modern artists. The apartment’s Biedermeier-style furniture appears quite separate from the objects. As if on a pedestal, for example, an Uli figure from New Ireland is displayed on a small table in the library in front of works by Juan Gris, Fernand Légers, Georges Braque, and Pablo Picasso (fig. 6). Even the masks above the opening between the rooms do not merge with their environment. In contrast to the case of Lang and von Harbou, bourgeois culture and art appreciation do not enter into a symbiotic relationship in Flechtheim’s world. While Flechtheim appreciated the works in their powerful capacity to influence modern artists, Lang and von Harbou valued them for different

14 Quoted in: Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin und Landesbildstelle Berlin (ed.), Berliner Lebenswelt der zwanziger Jahre. Bilder einer untergegangenen Kultur, photographiert von Marta Huth, Frankfurt am Main: Eichborn, 1996, p. 46.


 Charlotte Klonk

reasons. They took their cue from German Expressionists who sought spiritual and emotional, rather than formal, renewal in so-called Primitivist objects.15 As is well known, even before the First World War, the Brücke artists, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel, Otto Mueller, and Max Pechstein, were interested in both the decorative and spiritual aspects of non-European artifacts. Inspired by the simple forms and erotic motifs of, among other objects, the beams from the Palau islands in the Dresden Ethnological Museum in 1909/10, these artists transformed their studios into Gesamtkunstwerke, total works of art, that were intended to offer an unalienated and more direct way of living and working, like the one assumed to exist among the “primitive peoples”. Several pictures of the Brücke studios have survived, among them Kirchner’s studio at Berliner Strasse 80, Dresden, in 1910/11.16 One of the pictures shows Sam, a circus artist whom the Brücke members had befriended during those years. He is posing in the nude in front of door curtains painted with South Sea motifs, his right arm leaning on a homemade framing element. To his left, on a pedestal, stands a wooden dancer carved by Kirchner. In this case, the imagery of unbridled eroticism, like that found on the Palau beams, has been fully assimilated, transferred to the real black body and transformed into the vital energy of the artist’s own work. Although his book Negerplastik would subsequently be a significant influence for the Brücke artists, Einstein himself despised such content-oriented, emotional appropriation of non-European objects.17 However, the staging of the objects in the apartment of Lang and von Harbou demonstrates that such Expressionist understandings were being emulated by a particular section of the German elite in the 1920s. The Expressionist gesture with which Lang and von Harbou furnished their apartment set them apart from other contemporary collectors of non-European artifacts, such as Flechtheim or Eduard von der Heydt.18 It distinguished their interior and signaled their belonging to an exclusive artistic elite that collected Expressionist work.19 It was only much later that this Expressionist approach to non-European art reached a wider

15 See Jill Lloyd, German Expressionism. Primitivism and Modernity, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991. 16 Hanna Strzoda, Die Ateliers Ernst Ludwig Kirchners, Petersberg: Michael Imhof, 2006. 17 Einstein 1915 (as in note 10), p. I. 18 See for comparison the photographs of the displays in the homes of Flechtheim, Eduard von der Heydt and Curt Claser in Berlin. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin und Landesbildstelle Berlin 1996 (as in note 14), pp. 46–48, 58–61, 84–87. 19 The article in Die Dame states that the East Asian works in the collection belonged to Fritz Lang, while Thea von Harbou owned the artifacts from Africa and New Ireland (Die Wohnung eines Sammlers 1923/24 [as in note 1], p.4). Later Lang stated that he had assembled the collection while traveling as a student. However, there is little evidence that Lang left Europe before the First World War, and it is likely that the couple bought the pieces in the 1920s, when it had become fashionable to collect non-European artifacts. Rolf Aurich, Wolfgang Jacobsen und Cornelius Schnauber (eds.), Fritz Lang. Leben und Werk. Bilder und Dokumente, exhibition catalogue, Filmmuseum Berlin, Berlin: Jovis Verlag, 2001, p. 16.

Non-European Artifacts and the Art Interior of the Late 1920s and Early 1930s 


general public, when the Folkwang Museum in Essen, which evolved from one of the first substantial private collections of non-European objects and modern art, was extended to include a new building in 1929.20 The extension enabled Ernst Gosebruch, the director at the time, to present the collection in a radically new light. In 1932, a detailed article appeared in the magazine Museum der Gegenwart describing the innovations: The new building, which has been cleverly sub-divided into many sections, differs substantially from the usual run-of-the-mill halls with skylights and surrounding display cases that have been in fashion for the last 100 years. In its rooms, which vary in shape and size, visitors are presented with an amalgamation of that which, in other places, experts would systematically have placed in different museums—entirely ahistorical, subject to no other law than the artistic: New German art together with creations by primitive peoples; Turfan wall paintings with works by French Impressionists; East Asian with medieval German sculpture. Thus combined, the selected creations from a wide range of cultures enhance each other. One might assume that, as a consequence, the purely artistic aspect comes to the fore; instead, however, aside from the clear expression of each work’s national roots, it is their universal value that becomes more visible and palpable than elsewhere.21

Thus, the crucial point of Gosebruch’s display in the Folkwang Museum was not formal inspiration and similarity, but a deeper dimension: a common universal spirituality. Emil Nolde’s pictures, for example, were displayed together with masks from the South Sea region against a black wall to allow them, in Gosebruch’s words, to shine like medieval church windows. A photograph published around the time of the opening of the new building shows the entrance to the great hall, above which Erich Heckel’s 1913 triptych Genesende can be seen, surrounded by Asian stone figures, bronzes, and vessels (fig. 4). Unlike the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition a few years later, this staging did nothing to emphasize the objects’ external formal echoes and similarities; instead, it concentrated on their internal emotional and spiritual connection. Yet the modes of reception that served as a basis for integrating non-European objects into the context of contemporary art exhibitions in the 1930s were not limited to either exterior similarity or interior connection. At the same time as Barr and Gosebruch made the strangeness of foreign objects familiar, one via formal similarities, the other by establishing a spiritual kinship, the Surrealists dramatized their strange, their unexpected aspect.

20 The collection was originally assembled by the art patron and industrial reformer Karl Ernst Osthaus, who commissioned the art nouveau architect Henry van der Velde to build a museum for the education of workers in his hometown of Hagen. See Lloyd 1991 (as in note 15), pp. 8–12. 21 “A.H.”, in: Ernst Holzinger (ed.), Neue Erwerbungen des Folkwang-Museums, Museum der Gegenwart 1 (1932), p. 8.


 Charlotte Klonk

It is well known that the journal La Revolution surréaliste frequently showed non-European objects in the context of the artists’ own work. It is also known that the works of Man Ray were exhibited in conjunction with South Sea artifacts at the opening exhibition of the Galerie Surréaliste in 1926.22 However, the most distinctively different staging took place in Charles Ratton’s gallery in May 1936 (fig. 5). Just when Cubism and Abstract Art was being dismantled in New York to make space for the sprawling Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism exhibition scheduled for the winter, an experiment involving a radically opposing view of the value of non-European artifacts was tried out in Paris.23 The show’s lengthy title expressed what was deemed important and, especially, what was exhibited: Exposition surréaliste d’Objets mathématiques, naturels, trouvés et interpretés, mobilés irrationnels, objets d’amérique et d’océanie. Mathematical models, objects of nature and sculptures, such as Max Ernst’s Objet mobile, Meret Oppenheim’s fur-covered cup, and Marcel Duchamp’s Bottle Rack, were displayed without distinction alongside Kachina dolls from North America, ancestral figures and masks from New Ireland on loan from the by then extensive private collections of Charles Ratton, André Breton, and Paul Éluard, next to a wall relief in the form of a Picasso-esque Cubist guitar.24 This is how the natural turned artificial, the artificial strange, and the strange alarming.25 Put succinctly, in contrast to other contemporary art exhibitions displaying non-European artifacts, the crucial point in the Exposition surréaliste was not assimilation and incorporation but alienation. Of course, indigenous art production was thereby radically enriched with dimensions that were not intrinsically its own. In this sense, the non-European objects were as much misunderstood, and to some degree even misused, as they were in other art exhibitions of the time, despite the celebrated attempt of the Surrealists to make them strange.26

22 A year later Yves Tanguys’s paintings were displayed together with pre-Columbian works. See Sophie Leclercq, The Surrealist Appropriation of the “Indigenous” Arts, in: Arts & Societies, Letter of Seminar 13, Centre d’Histoire de Science Po, November 23, 2006, html (accessed October 15, 2013). 23 Grossmann 2009 (as in note 4), pp. 108–109. 24 I have so far been unable to establish whether the object shown in the exhibition photograph was indeed one of the various versions that Picasso produced between 1912 and 1914. It does not resemble any of the objects documented in Anne Umland’s exhibition of Picasso’s Guitars at the Museum of Modern Art in 2011. Anne Umland, Picasso Guitars, 1912–1914, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, 2011. 25 On the Surrealist Object in general, see Haim Finkelstein, Surrealism and the Crisis of the Object, Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1979. 26 On the ambiguous status of the Surrealists’ objects as both resisting mainstream commercial culture and capitalizing on an emerging style colonial, see Romy Golan, Triangulating the Surrealist Fetish, in: Visual Anthropology Review 10.1 (1994), pp. 50–65.

Non-European Artifacts and the Art Interior of the Late 1920s and Early 1930s 


3 Coda The Musée Dapper in Paris houses a remarkable wooden figure from Cameroon, eighty-five centimeters in height. It represents a bare-breasted queen from the Bangwa kingdom, caught in proud and full-blooded song and dance. Her knees and arms are bent; in her right hand, she holds a shaker. Her head is turned slightly to one side. Her severely combed hair forms a large pointed cone at the back of her head. Its linear pattern is repeated in the rings stacked around her neck and ankles. The figure arrived in Europe at the end of the nineteenth century. The Bangwa queen’s impressive journey to Berlin, Paris, New York, and finally back to Paris is another case in point for the wide range of reception, alienation, and incorporation of foreign cultural objects at the beginning of the 1930s.27 In the process of migration, she lost all connections with the country where she was once considered sacred. In 1897 or 1898, the German colonial entrepreneur Gustav Conrau brought the queen to Berlin, presenting her to the local ethnological museum. Conrau was the first European to travel to the Bangwa region in Cameroon. According to his diary, the Bangwa people called the statue njuindem: wife of god and mother of twins endowed with divine gifts. The sculpture is thought to have been created for the coronation of a new royal couple, for Conrau purchased a male figure at the same time, which had probably been carved as a companion piece.28 In the 1920s, the figure passed from the ethnological museum into the collection of a Berlin dealer who, in turn, sold it to Charles Ratton, the gallery owner and representative of the Surrealists in Paris. Ratton loaned it to an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1935, which Alfred Barr organized together with James J. Sweeney under the title of African Negro Art. For Barr, the show was a preparation for Cubism and Abstract Art (and for Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism). In fact, it became the first exhibition displaying exclusively non-European artifacts in an art museum (fig. 7). Moreover, and perhaps even more remarkably, it was also the first time that all objects, without exception, were displayed against white walls and thus intentionally reduced to their formal qualities.29 The installation photograph from the exhibition shows the Bangwa queen at the rear wall of the next room, seen through a glass case functioning as a room divider. Barr had left the staging mostly to Sweeney, who emphasized the diversity of forms rather than the objects’ origins or functions.30 Ratton, however, as one of the main lenders, used the exhibition as an opportunity to sell his collection. This is how the queen

27 See Maureen Murphy, Voyages d’une reine bangwa dans l’imaginaire occidental, in: Afrique: Archéologie & Arts 4 (2006), pp. 23–24. 28 Grossmann 2009 (as in note 4), p. 160. 29 For the emergence of the white exhibition wall, see Klonk 2009 (as in note 7), pp. 137–148. 30 Virginia-Lee Webb, Perfect Documents. Walker Evans and African Art, 1935, exhibition catalogue, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams, 2000, p. 16–23.


 Charlotte Klonk

Fig. 7: Installation View of African Negro Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1935.

came into the possession of Helena Rubinstein, the cosmetics entrepreneur, from whom it was bought in 1966 by the dealer Harry Franklin. In 1990, it finally came back to Paris and into the Musée Dapper via an auction at Sotheby’s. At the time of the Museum of Modern Art exhibition, the sculpture’s picture was taken by two famous photographers whose different photographic approaches once again demonstrated the dramatic range of modes of reception prevalent during this period.31 Around 1934, the American photographer and surrealist Man Ray took several pictures of the figure while it was still in Ratton’s collection in Paris. Standing alone for enhanced dramatic effect, in one example, the figure is photographed at a slight angle from above against a dark background and under spotlight so that it casts heavy shadows to the left and right. Man Ray also photographed the queen set against a light-skinned beauty in the nude. One version of this arrangement shows the woman half-sitting, half-lying in front of the dark figure placed on a pedestal (fig. 8). However, due to the sculpture’s slight twist and the shadow cast on its right arm, the Bangwa queen appears to be moving into the foreground of the photograph while the naked woman, really at the front, is pulled back by her arm, which rests between the sculpture’s feet. In the dramatic, larger-than-life shadow on the wall, the two women even appear as one. The catalogue of the Man Ray exhibition in Paris in 1926 had already declared the South Sea to be the Athens of Oceania.32 It was a reversal of the Western classical ideal of beauty that was typical for the Surrealists. In this photograph, the

31 See Grossmann 2009 (as in note 4), pp. 19–22. 32 Tableaux de Man Ray et Objets des Iles, exhibition catalogue, Galerie Surréaliste, Paris, 1926, no page.

Non-European Artifacts and the Art Interior of the Late 1920s and Early 1930s 


Fig. 8: Man Ray, Untitled, photograph, ca. 1934.

two ideals become one, with the Bangwa queen dominating. Her dancing motion appears to animate the passivity of the nude beauty. Not long after, the New York photographer Walker Evans showed the figure in a very different light (fig. 9). In 1935, he had been commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art to document the exhibits of the African Negro Art show, which is how the Bangwa queen became the subject of another famous photographer so soon after Man Ray. Evans’s photographs were published in a coffee-table book and in this form sent on tour to colleges that had a majority of African-American students.33 At the time, Evans was just beginning to make a name for himself as a documentary photographer with a focus on rural poverty, working on behalf of the Farm Security Administration during the time of the Great Depression.34 Evans’s African Negro Art photographs are distinguished by their strong factuality as well as their extreme concision and enlargement, making it almost impossible to imagine the original size of the sculptures. He avoids the striking expressive exaggerations that Man Ray created with light and shadow. The sculptures were photographed against a uniform background—a width of paper which, curving forward, robbed the sculptures of any spatial positioning. The Bangwa queen appears twice,

33 Webb 2000 (as in note 30), pp. 40–42. 34 Ibid., pp. 27–39.


 Charlotte Klonk

Fig. 9: Walker Evans, Untitled, photograph, 1935.

once pictured from the front emphasizing her noticeable asymmetry, and once at an incline from behind. In the second picture, her right elbow forms the center of the photo. Her big, ostentatious bosom, and thus her demonstrative sexuality, is barely visible. As a result of the emphasis on the figure’s angularity and the grey tonality of the photo, which uses highlights to bring out the most angular and protruding parts of the carving, the sculpture almost appears like a Cubist work. It seems as if Evans wanted to show that a photograph can offer everything at once: the threedimensionality of sculpture, the two-dimensional faceting of Cubist paintings and the documentary quality of photography itself. What Man Ray grippingly contrasted in his pictures, Evans subsumes in what seems to be perfect harmony. The strangeness of foreign objects and the abstractions of modern art had finally found a new, all-encompassing form in the era of photography. The differences in the approaches taken by the two photographers are striking. Nevertheless, in both cases, the Bangwa queen is equally removed from the central African kingdom whose soil she originally evoked with her dance. Similarly to all 

Non-European Artifacts and the Art Interior of the Late 1920s and Early 1930s 


other non-European artifacts in art exhibitions of the late 1920s and early 1930s, she appeals to a quintessentially European fetishism. Instead of searching for “otherness in others”, she was used, in Hartmut Böhme’s apt formulation, to find “otherness in oneself”.35 The interiors of the 1920s and early 1930s are a particularly rich source of evidence for this phenomenon.

35 Hartmut Böhme, Fetischismus und Kultur, Reinbek: Rowohlt, 2006, p. 20.


Holger Kuhn

From the Household of the Soul to the Economy of Money: What Are Sixteenth-Century Merchants Doing in the Virgin Mary’s Interior? 1 Introduction In the following, I will deal primarily with a group of paintings that show merchants in their offices and that were painted in Antwerp during the sixteenth century. One of them is a painting in the Louvre from 1514 by the Antwerp artist Quentin Massys that is usually titled The Gold Weigher and His Wife or The Moneychanger and His Wife (fig. 1/ Plate 9). This interior with a merchant (and his wife) seems to stand for economics in such a general sense that it can be projected onto practically any form of economic activity in any period of its history. It is especially popular as a cover for books dealing with the history of economy.1 We can easily imagine why this painting would enjoy such popularity in illustrating the “economic”. As we know, the word “economy”, or oikonomia, is composed of the Greek words oikos (house) and nomos (law, distribution), and so it refers to the law of the household. It is a reassuring idea that something as complicated as the unpredictable events of a globalized business world can be reduced to something as clear and simple as a house or interior. Especially since the painting displays a near-obsession with ideas of equilibrium and balance. As such, it is particularly adaptable to all the states of—and hopes for— balance that have preoccupied the economic sciences since the eighteenth century: the balance between supply and demand, between market prices and the intrinsic value of products, etc. When the law of the household is composed of a balance in which everything can be weighed against everything else as in Massys’s painting,

1 It is very often cited in connection with economic subjects in the broadest sense, like on the cover of a collection of texts on the History of Economics (Johannes Burkhardt, Birger P. Priddat (eds.), Geschichte der Ökonomie. Texte und Kommentare, Frankfurt am Main: Dt. Klassiker Verlag, 2009) or of a book by Jacques Le Goff on merchants and bankers in the Middle Ages (Jacques Le Goff, Kaufleute und Bankiers im Mittelalter, Berlin: Wagenbach, 2005). The variants of Massys’s composition that Marinus van Reymerswaele produced occur equally often: eg., Wolfram Weimer, Geschichte des Geldes. Eine Chronik mit Texten und Bildern, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1992; Ernst A. Swietly, Große Finanzkrisen. Ein Kompass aus der Wirtschaftsgeschichte, Wien: Edition Steinbauer, 2009; Till Düppe, The Making of the Economy. A Phenomenology of Economic Science, Plymouth: Lexington Books, 2011.


 Holger Kuhn

Fig. 1: Quentin Massys, The Gold Weigher and His Wife, oil on oak, 71 × 68 cm, 1514, Paris, Louvre.

when the household is governed by a fair quid pro quo, this has an especially reassuring effect. The interior space in the Massys painting therefore depicts—and this is also the tenor of the research on this picture—a scene involving economics. Or, to put it another way, the usual interpretation of the painting is based on the thesis that there is a contrast between economic and religious behavior. The painting is treated as an economic scenario that is purged by religious iconographical details. Although I rely on this research to a certain degree, I want to emphasize that I diverge from this basic thesis. In my opinion, it is essential to stress the aspects that economy and religion 

From the Household of the Soul to the Economy of Money 


have in common.2 To this end I will examine the meaning of the pictorial space occupied by the merchant and his wife on two levels: First, this interior can also be understood as a devotional space, a scene of prayer. As such it fits into a continuity of pictorial spaces in which the Annunciation was staged in the fifteenth century. Second, I would like to show that both interiors—Mary’s ‘cubiculum’ as well as the merchants’ interiors in some Antwerp paintings during the sixteenth century—are spaces in which different kinds of fertility play an important role. The subject of the Annunciation interiors involves supernatural procreation, God becoming man and an image in Mary’s flesh. The interiors of the merchants also have to do with procreation, namely the procreation of money, which, although it was not considered supernatural in the Middle Ages, was branded as ‘unnatural’. As Thomas of Aquinas apodictically put it, “Nummus non parit nummos”: coins do not beget coins. Consequently it may be feared that coins can do exactly that: i.e., produce offspring. Accordingly, the question that can be raised in connection with the interiors of both the Virgin and the merchant couple is: What in fact is being “incubated” within the inner spaces of paintings? To what extent are we dealing with procreative and reproductive scenarios here?

2 In this paper I will show that they share certain interior spaces of fertility. In my doctoral thesis I focused on the similarities between religious media—especially the codex—and financial media— especially coins. See Holger Kuhn, Die leibhaftige Münze. Quentin Massys’ Goldwäger und die altniederländische Malerei, Paderborn: Fink (publication probably in 2015). A very important text by Joanna Woodall was published while this article was in the press: Joanna Woodall, De Wisselaer. Quentin Matsys’s Man Weighing Gold Coins and His Wife, 1514, in: Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art, 64 (2014), which she has generously allowed me to see before publication. The mostly accepted interpretation of this painting was given by Larry Silver in his seminal study on Massys: Larry Silver, The Paintings of Quinten Massys, Montclair, N.J.: Allanheld & Schram, 1984, pp. 136–140. According to him, the picture shows a scene of economy (with the male figure as protagonist) that is purged by the religious scenario (as represented by the female figure). The painting “asked the viewer to make a moral choice” (ibid., p. 138) between greedy economic behavior on the one hand and acceptable business practices in keeping with church morality on the other. Recent studies subscribe to this thesis: Peter Schmidt, Der Finger in der Handschrift. Vom Öffnen, Blättern und Schließen von Codices auf spätmittelalterlichen Bildern, in: Stephan Müller, Lieselotte E. Saurma-Jeltsch, Peter Strohschneider (eds.), Codex und Raum, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2009, pp. 219–239, pp. 107–108. John F. Moffitt, Quentin Metsys’s The Money Changer and His Wife (1514) and the Christological Speculum humanae salvationis, in: Arte Cristiana 96 (2008), pp. 359–364. Ulrike Middendorf, Moralische Gesinnung, in: Weltkunst 75.8 (2005), pp. 73–75. More time-honored interpretations focused on a rather straightforward contrast between any kind of economy and religion: Max J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting (1934), vol. 7: Quentin Massys, Leyden: Sijthoff, 1971, p. 25. Georges Marlier, Erasme et la peinture flamande de son temps, Damme: Édition du Musée van Maerlant, 1954, p. 239.


 Holger Kuhn

2 The interior and the recreation of the “imago Dei” I will start off with the thesis that this mercantile interior is also connected in many different ways with the interior spaces occupied by the Virgin in the fifteenth century. This is the story that is told by, among other things, the objects that Massys represented on the shelves: a glass pitcher, an apple, a splint box, and a candle. These are the kind of objects that Panofsky interpreted in the Marian depictions in Early Netherlandish painting in terms of the concept of “disguised symbolism”.3 Without going into the details of their interpretation,4 I would say that they all can stand for the Virgin’s purity (the apple even has a halo of sorts); respectively —like the splint box— they can stand for Mary’s function as “vessel” for the Incarnation. Mary is a shrine herself, an interior inhabited by the Holy Ghost or Christ. Then you might notice that the woman wrapped in a splendid red robe who is leafing through a prayer book looks like a postfiguration of all the figures of the Virgin reading or leafing through books in fifteenth-century art. These figures of Mary can also be interpreted as devotional models: the faithful should imitate their devoutness in an “imitatio pietatis”.5 The merchant’s wife has already gone quite far in this direction. She almost looks like the reflected repetition of the Mother of God in the illumination that she is holding, with the bottom edge of the book creating a sort of axis of symmetry between the two figures. The Madonna wears a red cloak, which corresponds to the woman’s red tabard. Like the figure of the Virgin, the woman also has a white headdress, and even Mary’s golden halo has its pendant in the strange light brown folded material that covers the woman’s white peaked headdress. Both figures have black sleeves that emerge from the red mantle, both hold a book, and even the up and down gestures and movement of their arms are similar. Now I would like to backtrack to the Marian spaces of the previous century to which Massys’s picture points. Although the idea of economy is not manifestly involved, we find certain forms of housekeeping in them that are eminently associated with pictorial spaces of the Virgin. A good example is the Mérode Altarpiece (fig. 2), which was painted about a century earlier. The main panel depicts an Annunciation, which here means: an interior in which the Virgin receives the glad tidings that she

3 See Erwin Panofsky, Early Netherlandish Painting. Its Origin and Character, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1953. Erwin Panofsky, Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, in: The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 372 (March 1934), pp. 117–127. 4 See for a detailed iconographical analysis: Larry Silver 1984 (as in note 2), p. 137 and p. 212. Ingvar Bergström: Disguised Symbolism in “Madonna” Pictures and Still Life: II, in: Burlington Magazine 631 (October 1955), pp. 342–349. 5 See Frank O. Büttner, Imitatio Pietatis. Motive der christlichen Ikonographie als Modelle zur Verähnlichung, Berlin: Mann, 1983. Klaus Schreiner, Marienverehrung, Lesekultur, Schriftlichkeit. Bildungs- und frömmigkeitsgeschichtliche Studien zur Auslegung und Darstellung von Mariä Ver­ kündigung, in: Frühmittelalterliche Studien 24 (1990), pp. 314–368, pp. 339, 353.

From the Household of the Soul to the Economy of Money 


Fig. 2: Robert Campin (workshop), Annunciation Triptych (Mérode Triptych), oil on oak, 64 × 63 cm (central panel), 64 × 27 cm (each wing), ca. 1425–30, New York, Metropolitan Museum, Cloisters Collection.

is to be the Mother of God. However, even if it resembles a dollhouse, this interior is not just the stage on which this event, or, if you will, this Albertian “historia”, is being enacted. This interior as a whole further designates Mary’s interior space, the one that the philologist Friedrich Ohly so aptly called her “heart-womb” (Herzensschoß).6 The interior also stands for this definitely somatic-physical soul-space in which the spiritual-psychic and fleshly conception simultaneously take place.7 The main evidence for this is the figure of the infant Jesus shouldering a cross that has penetrated into the room on a beam of the Holy Ghost while leaving the windowpane intact. In so doing, the Mérode Altarpiece transforms a symbol for the virginal conception formulated in many hymns and prayer books into a pictorial interior situation. Bernard de Clairvaux described this in the following terms: Just as the brilliance of the sun fills and penetrates a glass window without damaging it, and pierces its solid form with imperceptible subtlety, neither hurting it when entering nor destroying it when emerging: thus the word of God, the splendor of the Father, entered into the virgin chamber, and then came forth from the closed womb.8

6 Friedrich Ohly, Cor amantis non angustum. Vom Wohnen im Herzen, in: Friedrich Ohly, Schriften zur mittelalterlichen Bedeutungsforschung, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1983, pp. 128–155, p. 140. 7 See Felix Thürlemann, Robert Campin. A Monographic Study with Critical Catalogue, Munich / New York, NY: Prestel 2002, p. 68. 8 Quoted in: Millard Meiss, Light as Form and Symbol in Some Fifteenth-Century Paintings, in: The Art Bulletin 27 (1945), pp. 175–181, p. 176.


 Holger Kuhn

Yet this interior is not just a stage, and it does not stand only for Mary’s body as ‘God’s abode’. It is also the pictorialized interior space of the devout spectator. To explain this, I must digress somewhat. In this I am subscribing to the ideas of Reindert L. Fal­ kenburgs, who re-discovered several devotional treatises, “do-it-yourself-manuals” in which the proper arrangement of the soul is discussed: the worshipper’s soul is considered as a “household” or “dwelling” that is to be furnished with festive objects in preparation for the conception of the groom.9 These objects, for example, flowers, stand for all kinds of virtues that are supposed to blossom within the chamber of the heart. The groom with whom the worshipper can be united in the “bridal suite” is of course the “Heavenly Bridegroom”—i.e., Christ himself. We have therefore come to a point where the interior is connected not only with issues of representation but also with the subjectivity of the spectator. For those who contemplate images such as the Mérode Altarpiece should interpret the objects therein in spiritual-devotional terms and retreat into their own heart-shrine. In the act of contemplation itself, I could think about the fact that the pitcher and towel stand for purity, the lilies for virginity, and Mary’s position on the floor for humility, and so charge my own spirit-household with precisely these virtues. It is to be hoped that the same thing happens to me at the end of this exercise that happened to Mary: that I receive the fruit of the Virgin’s womb within the chamber of my own heart. For the question of what characterizes an interior in a painting, this procedure is not to be underestimated. The interior in the picture is in fact the mirror of my own interiorized spiritual household, and contemplation of pictures is therefore a technique that should permit relationships between these two inner spaces to be established: the pictured—and therefore exteriorized—interior should be transplanted back into the inner spaces of the heart. In this way, the contemplation of the painting should communicate how a picture of Christ is to be received in the heart. It therefore also involves a “reformation”; namely, a reformation of the image of God, the “imago Dei”. The God-like image that is Man after being created “ad imaginem et similitudinem Dei” (Gen. 1:26) and that was soiled by the Original Sin must be reset to the image of God, to the state of a “conformitas”—a “medeformicheit”,10 as it was called in the devotional treatises. Since Christ himself can be understood as “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15),

9 See Reindert L. Falkenburg, The Household of the Soul. Conformity in the Mérode Triptych; in: Maryan W. Ainsworth (ed.), Early Netherlandish Painting at the Crossroads. A Critical Look at Current Methodologies, New York, NY: Metropolitian Museum of Art, 2001, pp. 2–17; Reindert L. Falkenburg, The Fruit of Devotion. Mysticism and the Imagery of Love in Flemish Paintings of the Virgin and Child, 1450–1550, Amsterdam / Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1994. 10 See the treatise: Hier begint een ghenoechlick hoefken deer devoter zielen/ Hier beginnt ein wohlgefälliger Garten der andächtigen Seelen. Nijmegen, Gemeente-Archief, Ms. Weeshuizen, folios 123r–153v, here folio 131v. Qtd. in: Falkenburg 2001 (as in note 9), p. 16, note 26.

From the Household of the Soul to the Economy of Money 


receiving Christ in the inner shrine or chamber of one’s heart is a method of restoring the soiled “imago Dei” in oneself.11 This idea of the reformation of the image of God can also be linked to a further interpretation of the Mérode Altarpiece that is defended above all by Felix Thürlemann.12 According to him, it was a votive image by which the commissioners wanted to underscore their prayers for an offspring. Of course both interpretations—receiving a reformed image of God (Falkenburg) or receiving actual offspring (Thürlemann)—do not necessarily exclude each other. Instead they have to be put together: Receiving a child was the proper way to recreate and proliferate the “imago Dei”. The fifteenth century was a time when genealogical procreation, and therefore sexual reproduction, was still associated with the redemptive meta-narration of the procreation of the image of God. This is clearly expressed in a manuscript illumination (fig. 3) that was executed in Bruges between 1486 and 1493 that shows a married couple in bed and the Holy Trinity in a cloud sending them a child.13 The pictorial construction is evidently analogous to the Annunciations that show the conception taking place in the “thalamus Virginis”, in the Virgin’s bedroom.14 In between the Trinity and the bedroom—that is, between transcendence and immanence—there hovers a scroll with the inscription: “Faciamus hominem ad ymaginem et similitudinem nostram” (We created Man in our image and with our likeness). The creation of Man in the image of God can also be seen as a cipher of the procreation and ongoing reformation of the “imago Dei” in biological offspring.

11 Falkenburg 2001 (as in note 9), pp. 10–11. See for more detailed information about the concepts of the ‘imago Dei’ and its assumed reformation by pictorial contemplation: The chapters “‘In His Image and Likeness’. John in the Legatus divinae pietatis” and “Images and the ‘Imago Dei’. Vision and the Theology of Deification” in: Jeffrey F. Hamburger, St. John the Divine. The Deified Evangelist in Medieval Art and Theology, Berkeley, CA / Los Angeles, CA / London: University of California Press, 2002, pp. 179–183, pp. 185–201. 12 Thürlemann 2002 (as in note 7), pp. 70–74. Thomas Lentes, Inneres Auge, äußerer Blick und heilige Schau. Ein Diskussionsbeitrag zur visuellen Praxis in Frömmigkeit und Moraldidaxe des späten Mittelalters, in: Klaus Schreiner (ed.), Frömmigkeit im Mittelalter. Politisch-soziale Kontexte, visuelle Praxis, körperliche Ausdrucksformen, Munich: Fink, 2002, pp. 179–220; Marius Rimmele, Das Triptychon als Metapher, Körper und Ort. Semantisierungen eines Bildträgers, Munich: Fink, 2010, pp. 93–101. 13 See Thomas Kren, Scot McKendrick (eds.), Illuminating the Renaissance. The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe, exhibition catalogue, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA, 2003, pp. 340–341; Panofsky 1953 (as in note 3), p. 439. 14 See David Ganz, Weder eins noch zwei, in: David Ganz, Felix Thürlemann, Das Bild im Plural. Mehrteilige Bildformen zwischen Mittelalter und Gegenwart, Berlin: Reimer, 2010, pp. 41–66, p.  50. Carol J. Purtle, The Marian Paintings of Jan van Eyck, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982, pp. 31–39.


 Holger Kuhn

Fig. 3: Master of Edward IV, The Procreation of the Human Soul. In: Jean Mansel, Vie passion, et vengeance de nostre seigneur Jhesu Christ, vol. 2, and two further treaties, Bruges, 1486–93, Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Ms. 5206, fol. 174.

3 The uncannily procreative powers of money But now I would like to return to the merchants of the beginning. Around 1500 a development began that is still continuing today and in which another form of reproduction became an effective metaphor for the procreation of man; namely that of money. Of course, the topos that money seems to plagiarize the procreative powers that God gave to mankind already existed. These powers were abhorred, usually in a fairly straightforward manner. But around 1500, the attitude toward the fertility of money became more ambivalent. To cite some examples: in a fifteenth-century illumination (fig. 4) we see a merchant who has amassed a considerable amount of money. If we imagine the tabletop being gone, we would see that he not only has his bag of gold in hand, but also his sexual parts. It reminds us that the topos that money has uncanny procreative powers, powers that enable it to reproduce offspring, is of course not a new idea. The condemnations by which the Scholastics in particular discredited money as a sort of travesty of creation were drawn directly from Aristotle, who wrote in his Politics: “Usury is most reasonably detested, as it is increasing our fortune by money itself.” This is why it was called tokos, a term that was also used 

From the Household of the Soul to the Economy of Money 


Fig. 4: Anonymous, The Banker, Miniature from a French Manuscript, 15th Century, Chantilly, Musée Condé.

for progeny: “For as offspring [tiktomenon] resemble their parents, so usury is money bred of money. Whence of all forms of money-making it is most against nature.”15 Some famous incantatory formula that had been popular during the Middle Ages are attributed to Thomas of Aquinas: “Nummus nummum non gerit” (Coins do not incu-

15 Aristotle, Politics. A Treatise on Government, trans. by William Ellis, London / Toronto: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1912, book I, chapter X, 1258b.


 Holger Kuhn

bate coins) or “Nummus non parit nummos” (Coins do not breed other coins).16 But when—contrary to these pious wishes—money does become creative on its own, then it must be in a pact with the devil. Martin Luther himself still thundered: “Gellt est verbum diaboli” (Money is the word of the devil),17 through which Satan makes a parody of the creation. Already in the thirteenth century, one could read that, with demonic assistance, money could take on a life of its own, working untiringly, even on Sundays. It was further judged that what was really being sold with the interest was time, something that money can only have stolen from God—yet another theft from God’s creation.18 Whether in the sermons, or in medieval images and sculptures, the way of the usurer, who exploits the forces whereby money becomes creative, usually leads to hell. In Dante’s Inferno, for example, the usurer’s place is directly next to the sodomite.19 This condemns the artificial procreation of money, its assiduous pseudofertility, which, like homosexuality, was considered just an unnatural pleasure and only the illusion of a form of procreation. In research on cultural history and, interestingly enough, in literary studies, it has often been pointed out in recent years that the period around 1500 marked a reevaluation of money that continues until this day.20 Indeed, the discourses on the fertility of money in the early days of the modern era became ambivalent. On the one hand, the strangeness of the procreative sign could always be projected onto figures of the Other. The forms that this took ranged from ostracized usurers as they were already portrayed in the Middle Ages to “Jewish” financial capital, in which the abstractions of the modern financial world were abhorred.21 On the other hand, since 1500 the procreativeness of money could also be legitimately associated with the procreativeness of the Christian merchant. A famous example of this can be found in one of the first German prose novels, Fortunatus, which was published in 1509 in the mercantile city of either Augsburg or Nuremberg. The plot involves the protagonist—one of the first protagonists in literature who can be said to have a career22—in a court intrigue that puts him in a difficult situation in which he is in danger of being castrated. Fleeing

16 See Jacques Le Goff, Your Money or Your Life. Economy and Religion in the Middle Ages, New York, NY: Zone Books, 1990, p. 29. 17 Martin Luther, Tischreden (No. 391, 1532), in: Martin Luther, Werke. Kritische Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 2.3, Weimar: Böhlau, 1914, p. 170. 18 See Le Goff 1990 (as in note 16). 19 Dante Aligheri, The Divine Comedy, Vol. I, Inferno, trans. by Allen Mandelbaum, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1980, Canto XI, lines 95–111. 20 See Christina von Braun, Der Preis des Geldes. Eine Kulturgeschichte, Berlin: Aufbau-Verlag, 2012; Joseph Vogl, Das Gespenst des Kapitals, Zürich: Diaphanes, 2010; Marc Shell, Art and Money, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1995. 21 See Vogl 2010 (as in note 20), pp. 126–127. 22 It is Joseph Vogl’s astonishing thesis that the anthropological figure of the homo economicus has been invented in literature and not—as one might expect—in economical thought. See Joseph Vogl, Kalkül und Leidenschaft. Poetik des ökonomischen Menschen, Zürich / Berlin: Diaphanes, 2008.

From the Household of the Soul to the Economy of Money 


Fig. 5: Frontispiece of: Anonymous, Fortunatus, Augsburg, 1509.

from the potential loss of his reproductive organs, he encounters deep in the forest a “junckfraw des glücks”23 (Maiden of Fortune) who gives him the famous magic purse out of which he can take whatever sum of money he wishes in any currency. However, he gains his monetary potency under two conditions. On the anniversary of the day on which he was given the magic purse he has to provide a poor virgin with a dowry so that she can marry and have children. Secondly, the inexhaustible

23 Anonymous, Fortunatus, in: Jan-Dirk Müller, Romane des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts. Nach den Erstdrucken, mit sämtlichen Holzschnitten, Frankfurt am Main: Dt. Klassiker Verlag, 1990, pp. 383– 586, p. 431.


 Holger Kuhn

power of the purse will work only if he has male heirs and can perpetuate his own family. Money as a symbol has switched sides here. It is no longer accused of being a sodomistic travesty of the creation that not only plagiarizes God’s creation but also mocks the reproductive power of his human image. On the contrary, the crux of the novel is the idea that the cycles in which both money and families reproduce themselves can be brought harmoniously into unison.24 In the frontispiece (fig. 5), the purse is no longer depicted as an accursed object that pulls the usurer down into hell, but as a quasi-royal attribute.

4 The interior and the procreation of money and man We will soon see what happens when the purse—together with the scribal technique of bookkeeping—makes its appearance in interiors. But first, it is worth looking once more at the picture that Massys painted in 1514 (fig. 1). As I suggested, it still contains the memory of the interiors of the Annunciation. I described these Marian interiors as the breeding place of supernatural procreations. However, even if the mysterious procreation of the Son of God is still suggested on many levels, Massys took great care to suppress any idea of illegitimate procreation. That goes for the rather listless heterosexuality displayed by the couple, as well as for the fact that the figures are not busy being reproductive through the manipulation of signs. A coin is being weighed, that is, its value is being determined. But no interest or additional value is being produced. A book is being read, or looked at. That might point to a weighing of the meaning of the text and image, but no new meaning is being produced. Marinus van Reymerswaele took up Massys’s composition in the 1530s and seems to have had much success with it, for there are about twenty different variants that show a man and a woman (e.g., fig. 6) in an interior, and some sixty variants that show two male figures (e.g., fig. 7).25 It has consistently been suggested that both variants include some kind of critical or satirizing comment on the greedy banker, tax gatherer, or whatever kind of businessman might be depicted.26 I will argue that this

24 See Vogl 2010 (as in note 20), pp. 127–128; Vogl 2008 (as in note 22), pp. 177–183; Stephan L. Wales, Potency in Fortunatus, in: The German Quarterly 59 (1986), pp. 5–18. 25 See for a complete catalogue: Brigitte Völker, Die Entwicklung des erzählenden Halbfigurenbildes in der niederländischen Malerei des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts, Göttingen: Univ., Diss., 1968. 26 The discussion is summed up in: Marloes Huiskamp, Van wisselaars en woekeraars, tollenaars en vrekken. Het wegen van geld in de Nedelandse schilderkunst van de zestiende en zeventiende eeuw, in: Marloes Huiskamp, Cor de Graaf, Gewogen of Bedrogen. Het wegen van geld in de Nederlanden, Leiden: Rijksmuseum Het Koninklijk Penningkabinet, 1994, pp. 11­–47. Basil S. Yamey, Art and Accounting, New Haven, CT / London: Yale University Press, 1989, pp. 44–92. See for the older interpretations of van Reymerswaele’s composition as a satire: Peter H. Schabacker, Petrus Christus’ Saint Eloy: Problems of Provenance, Sources and Meaning, in: The Art

From the Household of the Soul to the Economy of Money 


Fig. 6: Marinus van Reymerswaele, The Banker and His Wife, oil on oak, 74 × 110 cm, ca. 1539, Valenciennes, Musée des Beaux-Arts.

may be true, at least to a certain degree, for the variant with two male figures. To be more precise: this variant may actually evoke the uncanniness of early modern financial practices, although it is difficult to tell who is being criticized. On the contrary, the variant with a conjugal couple pictures financial operations in a positive way. It is rather an apology of monetary practices than a critique of them. In order to underscore this, the paintings conjure up the interior space that was once inhabited by the

Quarterly 35.2 (1972), pp. 103–120, p. 117, notes 45 and 47. Keith P.F. Moxey, The Criticism of Avarice in Sixteenth Century Netherlandish Painting, in: Görel Cavalli-Björkman (ed.), Netherlandish Mannerism, Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, 1985, pp. 21–34. James Snyder, Northern Renaissance Art. Painting, Sculpture, the Graphic Arts from 1350 to 1575, New York, NY: Abrams, 1985, pp. 442–443. In the more recent literature, assumptions about the depicted merchants’ professions are made (municipal tax collectors, city treasurers, customs officials) on the basis of the book entries which are sometimes legible. Against this background, they question whether these depictions reactivate the allegorical critique of avaritia as it was common in the Middle Ages: see Paul Ackroyd, The ‘Two TaxGatherers’ by Marinus van Reymerswale. Original and Replica, in: National Gallery Technical Bulletin 24 (2003), pp. 50–63. Adri Mackor, Marinus van Reymerswale. Painter, Lawyer and Iconoclast?, in: Oud Holland 109.4 (1995), pp. 191–200. Adri Mackor, Are Marinus’ Tax Collectors Collecting Taxes?, in: Bulletin du Musée national de Varsovie 36.3–4 (1995), pp. 3–13.


 Holger Kuhn

Fig. 7: Marinus van Reymerswaele (workshop), Two Tax-Gatherers, oil on oak, 92 × 74.6 cm, ca. 1540s, London, National Gallery.

Virgin Mary. As I have already stated, the discourses on the fertility of money were ambivalent from the sixteenth century onwards. I think that this ambivalence—on the one hand, the continuing aversion to the procreative sign as it was known in the Middle Ages, and on the other hand, the attempt to bring the fascinating fertility of the medium in unison with the fertility of the Christian body as it is expressed in the Fortunatus novel—is expressed in the difference between the two variants of merchants’ pictures that Reymerswaele painted. Let us first look at the variant with the two men (fig. 7): In the version in the London National Gallery, for example, one of the figures has opened the quiver that 

From the Household of the Soul to the Economy of Money 


was closed in Massys’s picture and is busy writing in his ledger. The pictorial space is conspicuously filled with objects. The documents on the shelf have not only become larger, but literally bulge out of them. Even the headpieces have expanded into a sort of plant-like growth that winds around the heads, shoulders, and down the sleeves of the two figures. Whatever financial operation the two protagonists are occupied with, we do not expect much good to come of it. The skin of their aged faces is as dry as the surface of their paper, full of folds and furrows, as if their greed had eaten into their physiognomy. It seems to have dug or inscribed itself in their skin like a living parchment. The fingers of one of the hands grasp at nothing, or possibly at the coins next to it. It is possible to assume that we are looking at the products of an unlawful appropriation. In short, the old prejudices about the diligent, but ultimately sterile sodomistic potency of money have been condensed in this image. These figures represent the aversion against the disquieting productivity of money.27 On the other hand (fig. 6), Marinus also transplanted a matrimonial (re)production community into this mercantile interior, following Massys’s example fairly closely in doing so. However, he updated the depiction somewhat by showing, for example, contemporary weight cases instead of the nested weights that already seemed somewhat old fashioned around 1500. Apart from that, he gave the woman a ledger instead of a prayer book. But most of all, we see a purse making its appearance. Some authors have rightly pointed out that the very shape of this purse, with that strange projecting part, hints at the potency of money.28 It looks as if the money had poured out of the bag like precious semen, leaving the purse flabby and empty. I believe, however, that the role of the purse here should be interpreted in more ambivalent terms. It may be open to phallic connotations, as in Fortunatus’ Glücksseckel or the mythological scene in which Danaë is fertilized by Zeus in the form of golden rain. But this purse seems to shift between connotations not only of the scrotum as an organ of a dubious phallic fertility but also of the uterus as an organ of conception where actual progeny—monetary and biological offspring—is received. Bearing this in mind it becomes clear that the whole right side of the picture, which

27 Burr Wallen’s arguments are quite similar to mine: He notes that especially the depicted proliferating papers allude to the fascination and aversion that were provoked by the use and misuse of new financial instruments during the 1530s, which on the one hand offered more liquidity to the monetary market but on the other hand increased the possibilities for different kinds of manipulation. Burr Wallen, Jan van Hemessen. An Antwerp Painter between Reform and Counter-Reform, Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1983, p. 70. For the history of banking and monetary instruments which were characteristic of Antwerp’s “feverish capitalistic boom” during the 16th century see Herman van der Wee, The Growth of the Antwerp Market and the European Economy. Fourteenth – Sixteenth Centuries, vol. 2, The Hague: Nijhoff, 1963, p. 317. Helma Houtman-De Smedt, Herman van der Wee, Die Entstehung des modernen Geld- und Finanzwesens Europas in der Neuzeit, in: Hans Pohl (ed.), Europäische Bankengeschichte, Frankfurt am Main: Knapp, 1993, pp. 75–175. 28 Bettina Matthes, Under Cover. Das Geschlecht in den Medien, Bielefeld: transcript, 2006, p. 102.


 Holger Kuhn

is assigned to the woman, has been marked as a scene of conception in many ways. All these ways of alluding to conception on different levels support my thesis that monetary procedures are not only considered as the frightening potency of demonic media whose fertility has to be denigrated as a kind of ‘sodomistic’ pseudo-fertility but also as a kind of legitimate procreative power that harmonizes with the ‘natural’ procreative powers of the Christian merchant. Looking from top to bottom, the picture displays the following scenarios and objects of conception: there is a little boy at the upper right who is coming through a door holding a letter. In a sense, he is a repetition of the archangel Gabriel, who was sometimes represented bringing the divine tidings in the form of a document or letter. Below him is the figure of a woman draped in a red robe. In Massys, the female body was a postfiguration of the Virgin. Could Reymerswaele’s female figure also serve as a “post”-postfiguration of the Madonna from the Annunciation interiors? Her body and the ledger cross through the strange position of the hands. The book is certainly also a receptive medium, since it receives writing and records what should be given or received in keeping with the system of credit and debit. In addition to the writing, we see on the book the filigree shadow of a hand. In the Gospel of Luke, the only one in which the historia of the Annunciation is told, we read that Mary was literally “overshadowed” by the power from on high (Luke 1:35). Does this merchant picture also involve a procreative adumbration? At the bottom edge of the picture, the purse waits to be filled again. During the Middle Ages not only the testicles but also the uterus were compared to a purse. To cite Thomas Laqueur: “The uterus is a tightly sealed vessel, similar to a coin purse [Seckel].”29 Even Mary’s uterus is sometimes addressed as a purse in which Christ—as the “true currency of salvation”—was conceived.30 There occurs a doubling of receptive media in this picture that actually also has a precedent in the scene of the Annunciation. The Holy Ghost was not only conceived by the Virgin but also by Luke, or as Manfred Schneider puts it in more medium-specific terms: like the Virgin, Luke also received the Holy Ghost: “she as a womb and he as a letter block for duplication”.31 There is a wonderful Annunciation by Benedetto Bonfigli (fig. 8) in which this simultaneous bodily and scriptural conception is reflected. Bonfigli’s painting deals with a number of empty media: The book on Luke’s knees is waiting for the letters of the Holy Ghost. The faked marble fields in the background do look like the painter’s palette; they figure as the material of color waiting to incarnate an image. And if we imagine the

29 Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex. Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996, p. 63. See for more sources on the similiarity between purse and uterus: MarieChristine Pouchelle, The Body and Surgery in the Middle Ages, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990, p. 133– 134. 30 Shell 1995 (as in note 20), p. 22–30. For Christ as the ‚verus denarius‘ see ibid., pp. 7–16; Gerhard Wolf, Schleier und Spiegel. Traditionen des Christusbildes und die Bildkonzepte der Renaissance, Munich: Fink, 2002, p. 10, p. 70, p. 107. 31 Manfred Schneider, Liebe und Betrug. Die Sprachen des Verlangens, Munich: Hanser, 1992, p. 249.

From the Household of the Soul to the Economy of Money 


Fig. 8: Benedetto Bonfigli, Annunciation, tempera on wood, 227 × 200 cm, 1450–1453, Perugia, Galleria nazionale dell’Umbria.

dove finally reaching its nosedive’s target, we can also imagine the virgin sitting down like a sculpture in the empty niche that is waiting directly behind her and presenting Christ as the bodily image of God.32 So this is what the Annunciation is all about concerning its media a priori: the reception of Christ as abstract transaction (script media) and as materialized image (painting and sculpture). We find this doubling again in

32 Christiane Kruse, Wozu Menschen malen. Historische Begründungen eines Bildmediums, Munich: Fink, 2003, pp. 15–19. Georges Didi-Huberman, Fra Angelico. Dissemblance and Figuration, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1995.


 Holger Kuhn

Reymerswaele: there is a purse (or a uterus) that will take in the material coins, and also a book in which the abstract transactions can be recorded and proofed. Now where do all of these observations that ultimately point to a continuity between the Marian and mercantile interiors lead to? In other words, why have the merchants settled in the Virgin’s cubiculum? Until the fifteenth century, churchmen and physicians believed that the wives of moneylenders had to be sterile.33 Accordingly, usury, or the unnatural production of monetary offspring, excluded natural reproduction. I believe that Reymerswaele’s paintings were meant to express exactly the opposite. The procreativity of money and the procreation of a genealogical descent were no longer to be mutually exclusive. On the contrary, as in the Fortunatus novel, they should refer to each other and be in harmony. As I mentioned, in recent years there has been a lot of cultural historical research that claims that the financial economy at the beginning of the modern era was not characterized by a radical break with the religious concepts of the Middle Ages, but that it appropriated and adapted them instead to its own needs. As Walter Benjamin put it in a posthumously published fragment, we should consider “capitalism as a religion”.34 I do not want to go into this here, but only to make a remark: Money is faced with the complex task of justifying its ability to generate offspring by means of operations with signs. Yet this is something very improbable and incredible. Just as incredible or improbable as the story of the child who was born of a virgin mother and whose father was none other than God, and so on. The pictorial spaces of the Annunciation helped the story of a well-nigh incredible fertility to become believable. A similar interior now helps to make the belief in the similarly unnatural or supernatural fertility of money believable. Money appropriates the pictorial space that was once the province of Mary in order to prove its supernatural procreativity. (translated from the German by Jean-Marie Clarke)

33 Shell 1995 (as in note 20), page 126. Marc Shell, The End of Kinship. “Measure for Measure”. Incest, and the Ideal of Universal Siblinghood, Stanford, CA: Leland Stanford Junior Univ., 1988, pp. 29­–30, pp. 124–127. 34 Walter Benjamin, Kapitalismus als Religion (1921), in: Dirk Baecker (ed.), Kapitalismus als Religion, Berlin: Kadmos, 2004, pp. 15–18.

A Room with a Temperature

Wolfgang Kemp

A Room with a Temperature: On some Interiors of the 1830s/40s and the Discovery of the Energy Laws* “A Cabinet particulier in the Riedhof. Comfortable elegance. The gas oven is burning …” (Arthur Schnitzler, Stage direction for “Reigen”)

In the spring of 1845, a year crucial for this paper, Karl Marx wrote his “Theses on Feuerbach”. Thesis 1 says: “The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism is that the thing, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object or of the conception of it, (unter der Form des Dinges oder der Anschauung), but not as sensuous human activity, practice…”1 And in Thesis 9 he comes back to his first argument and talks about and against “anschauender Materialismus”, “that is, materialism which does not comprehend sensuousness as practical activity, is conception (Anschauung) of single individuals and of bourgeois society.”2 So: “Feuerbach does not see that […] the abstract individual whom he analyses belongs to a particular form of society.”3 The 1840s saw the emergence of a type of theory and science that can easily be labeled as the paradigmatic theory shift of the Industrial Age. Like all great inventions or discoveries it was found out twice, some scholars say three times—independently. In 1842 Julius Robert von Mayer and in 1843 James Prescott Joule published two papers on a new topic that became formulaic through the title of Joule’s contribution: “The mechanical equivalent of heat”. Kinetic theory was translated into caloric theory. The decisive breakthrough study came out in 1845, the year when Marx wrote his “Theses”, and: Robert von Mayer his “Die organische Bewegung in ihrem Zusammenhang mit dem Stoffwechsel” (The organic movement in its relationship to the metabolism). The law of the conservation of energy was definitely stated: motion and heat were understood as mutually interchangeable. Energy cannot be created or destroyed but changes form. The proof of this astonishing thesis needed the confirmation of a higher authority, though, and that was Hermann von Helmholtz, who in a way sanctioned the laws of energy, respectively contributed to and furthered the ongoing research in this field. His first approval came in 1847. In 1844 William Robert Grove widened the realm of what he called “forces” and we call energy by including

* My thanks go to Ralph Ubl who was my respondent at the Interiority Conference at Harvard in 2011 and added important thoughts and references. 1 Karl Marx, Thesen über Feuerbach (1845), in: Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Werke, Berlin: Dietz, 1969, vol. 3, p. 5. English trans. by W. Lough at: theses.htm (accessed January 9, 2015). 2 Ibid., p. 7. 3 Ibid.


 Wolfgang Kemp

mechanics, electricity, light, heat, and magnetism and declared the “correlation of physical forces”.4 Energy became the third hypostasis next to time and space. Caloric theory and historical materialism not only emerge at the same time but are also “equivalents”. It was Oswald Spengler who saw it that way, and he, born in 1880, was still able to feel the impact that thermodynamics and historical materialism made on the whole worldview of an epoch. According to him the nineteenthcentury progress in the sciences and especially in physics meant “that the religious deed-idea (religiöser Tatbegriff) has been replaced by the irreligious work-idea (irreligiöser Begriff der Arbeit). In the Nature-picture of modern physics Nature is doing work, for every ‘process’ within the meaning of the First Law of Thermodynamics is or should be measurable by the expenditure of energy to which a quantity of work corresponds in the form of ‘bound energy.’” Now Spengler does without references. But he could have quoted one of the leading scientists of his time, Nobel Prize-winner Wilhelm Ostwald. The chemist declared in a famous series of lectures, held in Leipzig in 1901: “Everything we know about the outer world we can represent in the form of statements about the given energy. So the concept of energy turns out to be the most general term that science has stated so far. […] We will define energy and everything that is generated by work and can be transformed into work as work.”5 Spengler adds to this his historical insight and, being no scientist, he nevertheless also claims “natural” laws for his discovery: “Naturally, we find the decisive discovery of J. R. Mayer coinciding in time with the birth of the socialist theory.”6 Both theories, the physical as well as the socialist, concentrate on work and on its equivalents: heat (for instance) on the one hand, and wages, working conditions, social formation, and the history of mankind on the other hand. Both define laws: physical laws versus laws of social evolution, Bewegungsgesetze. What do these groundbreaking developments have to do with our genre, with the painting of domestic interiors? To say the obvious but not always realized: the interior can be a challenge as it is a work-place, a thermal system, a repertory of objects. Does the genre stay with the position, here associated with Feuerbach, with “anschauender Materialismus”, a phenomenological approach with no interest in “laws” and “forces”? How, in any case, would “conceptual” and even “contemplative materialism” appear in visual, pictorial terms? And did artists focus on the “form of the object”, the latter written in italics, obviously a matter of central concern in materialism and one that carries last but not least the interior? Who were the Feuerbachs

4 See among many other studies D. S. L. Cardwell, From Watt to Clausius. The Rise of Thermodynamics in the Early Industrial Age, London: Heinemann, 1971; Crosbie Smith, The Science of Energy. A Cultural History of Energy Physics in Victorian Britain, London: Athlone Press, 1998. 5 Wilhelm Ostwald, Vorlesungen über die Naturphilosophie, Leipzig, 1902, p. 153, 156. 6 Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West. An Abridged Version, vol. 1, New York: Modern Library, 1965, vol. 1, p. 212.

A Room with a Temperature 


respectively, the Marxes or the Mayers of painting, and how did the latter go further than Feuerbach? Did they accept the new interest in the categories of work, of social practice, and of energy?

1 The heat is off I will take a shortcut and start with the image of a “single individual” in minimalist surroundings—the lab situation, so to speak, which I will maintain also for the following examples. And I begin with the most unlikely of all painters, the epitome of petty realism or Biedermeier, Carl Spitzweg and his famous painting The Poor Poet (fig. 1).7. The iconography of the poor poet or artist was a mainstay of interior painting in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.8 It began with William Hogarth and his painting of about 1736 The Distressed Poet in Birmingham, but we find the same topic later as well in Italy and in France,9 and back in England where J. M. W. Turner painted in 1809 The Garreteer’s Petition to his Muse and Henry Wallace created the iconic The Death of Chatterton in 1856.10 The Poor Poet was a subspecies of the motive of the brainworker in his studio, so well known from the Saint Jeromes in Renaissance painting. But in the modern period it always had to be not a scholar but a poor person and an artist. Spitzweg’s painting was the first work he exhibited; it dates from 1839 and from a period that bridges the romantic and the realist program and redefines a whole set of conditions: of material, commercial, social, political, and ecological conditions. Like St. Jerome, Spitzweg’s poet works in a world of his own, a closed system, two times and yet provisionally closed by the opened umbrella and the ceiling, a profane version of the embeddedness of Jerome’s carrel as we see it in Dürer’s or Antonello da Messina’s version of the subject. Within this frame in a frame, the poet is totally absorbed in the act of dictating to himself, as he counts with one hand expressively the rhythm, the meter of a hexameter written nearby on the wall, trying the measure of the verse out before he writes it down. Introducing this step between the inspira-

7 There exist three versions: one in Munich, Neue Pinakothek, one in Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmusuem, and one in Berlin, Neue Nationalgalerie—the latter one was stolen in 1989. 8 The iconographic tradition in relation to Spitzweg: Hans-Joachim Raupp, Carl Spitzweg. Der Arme Poet, in: Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch XLVI (1985), pp. 253­–271. 9 Tommaso Minardi, Self-Portrait in a Garret, Florence, ca. 1813, Galleria degli Uffizi (Fig. 7 in Raupp 1985 [as in note 8]); Octave Tassaert, Ma chambre en 1825, Montpellier, Musée Fabre (Cat. Nr. 29) in: Sabine Schulze (ed.), Innenleben. Die Kunst des Interieurs. Vermeer bis Kabakov, exhibition catalogue, Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, Frankfurt am Main (Ostfildern, 1998), p. 119. 10 J. M. W. Turner, The Garrateer’s Petition to his Muse, 1808/09, London, The Tate Britain, a sketch in the British Museum (Fig. 5 in Raupp 1985 [as in note 8]); Henry Wallace, The Death of Chatterton, 1856, London, The Tate Britain.


 Wolfgang Kemp

Fig. 1: Carl Spitzweg, The Poor Poet, 1839, oil on canvas, 36.3 × 44.7 cm, Berlin, Staatliche Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Alte Nationalgalerie, (stolen).

tion and the writing, Spitzweg makes us feel the preciousness and precariousness of the poetry in action—or is it the preciousness and precariousness of the paper and the ink the poet is going to use? Already here the chasm opens between Greece and the garret, idealism and materialism, freedom and necessity. But that is generic nineteenth century, post-Goethe in Germany—how do Feuerbach, Marx and Mayer fit in? In opposition to Jerome, the father of the church, the poet not only works but lives in his den. It is always an attic or a garret, from Hogarth on. The garret is the quintessential habitat of Bohemia, a place out of reach, not in the middle, and framed only by provisional means—but it lies on top: ironically the title of the folio volume to the right, close to the door, is “Gradus ad Parnassum”. In opposition to its precursor, the scholarly interior, things have been added that deal with the survival of the inhabitant: the tile stove, the clothes and one shoe, the pots, leftovers of food, etc. Living and working clash in dire straits. Books and manuscripts abound but there are two bundles of manuscripts and a couple of loose pages that lie dangerously close to the stove’s empty and cold interior. On one of the bundles we read: “Operum meorum fasciculum III”, “Third fascicle of my works”, on the other bundle one recognizes a “IV”. 

A Room with a Temperature 


Fascicle means handwritten, not printed, means unique and perishable. Presumably fascicles I and II have been already sacrificed, transformed into heat. In this typical nineteenth-century work, contingency becomes an order. Spitzweg, who started out as a pharmacist before he became a painter, exposes a good deal of Einfühlung when he paints his patients, so to speak, and he is extremely orderly, when he puts the necessary ingredients together; he is an honest caretaker of his paraphernalia. When we laugh not about the poet but about his creator then it is about his pedantry, “ein Hauptstück der Ontologie bürgerlichen Geistes”, as Adorno once said, “a main feature of the ontology of the bourgeois spirit”.11 So Spitzweg stays with the eighteenth-century tradition of the “milieu portrait” (following Donat de Chapeaurouge) and renews it for his specialty, humorous genre painting.12 He needs plenty of things in order to verify poverty. Remarkable is the prominence and centrality of the stove. In a preparatory drawing, Spitzweg put the poet in the center and the foreground, and removed the stove (only a section of it) to the background.13 An oil sketch that was sold at auction in 2011 presents the stove in its present position, but shows it from the side, making it much narrower.14 In the final version the stove becomes the second leading character and blocks our entrance to the room. Vincent Van Gogh shows us how differently the same size and function of a room can be visualized in his famous Bedroom in Arles15— the room portrait of another poor artist. Yet in this case the painter and inhabitant of the room defies the absolute depth of only three yards and evokes an open, dynamic space. The stove then. We look into it and see there is no fire, no inner life, and then we recognize why this is relevant: we look out, out of the window where we realize snow-covered roofs. Not a world, not a star-spangled heaven stretches out as in the open windows of a romantic painter,but indicators of a climatic condition are given, and a chain of reasoning is kicked off: snow, cold, cold room, cold stove—possible heat sources: the collected works of the poet, the energy of the poet. The history of painting is noncaloric, neutral in its temperature, eternal homeostasis. Very few works show us the positive effect of burning fires, chimneys, ovens, etc. In the iconographic vicinity of Spitzweg’s stove, we find Delacroix’s quite active stove, a work from the 1830s.16 The only painting that I know where the title refers to a stove is Felix Vallotton’s La Salamandre of 1900—this special type of high temperature stove was

11 Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialektik, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1966, p. 31. 12 Donat de Chapeaurouge, Das Milieu als Porträt, in: Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch, XXII, (1960), pp. 137–158. 13 Munich, Staatliche Graphische Sammlungen (Raupp 1985 [as in note 8], fig. 3). 14 Sotheby’s New York, January 26, 2012, Lot 84. 15 Versions in Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, in Paris, Musée d’Orsay, and in Chicago, Art Institute. 16 Eugène Delacroix, Corner of the artist’s studio with stove, 1830, Paris, Musée du Louvre (Cat. Nr. 53 in: Schulze 1998 [as in note 9], p. 191. See Nr. 54­–55 for more studios with a burning stove.)


 Wolfgang Kemp

called La Salamandre.17 And then there is Spitzweg who foregrounded the cold stove and explained through it the cold room and the freezing inhabitant. We have gotten a room with an explanatory view, and we have gotten a room with a temperature. So far I have dealt with a rather matter-of-fact, better: matter-of-conditions affair. As Walter Pater summed it up: “To the modern spirit nothing is, or can be rightly known, except relatively and under conditions.”18 How does the poet react to these conditions? The inner interiority, if we may call it that, forms a parenthesis, an inserted statement, formally defined by the umbrella and thematically pitted against the inserting statement, that is the discourse on conditions, the prose and not the poetics of space, the circumstantialities of life. The outer interiority says: no thermal energy; the inner says thermal energy transformed into mental production expressed through movement in its seminal form, that is rhythm. The First Law of Thermodynamics can be stated like this: the increase in internal energy of a body is equal to the heat supplied to the body minus work done by the body. How long will that last? The nineteenth century insisted on an essential difference between physical and psychic energy. In the latter realm, the principle of equivalence does not rule but the principle of growth. Psychic energy knows only qualitative transformation, its measure is qualitative efficiency, its impact factor, so to speak. That the aesthetic existence of a poem is reducible to shear physical existence is Spitzweg’s crucial point. And this was the point where he lost his audience and received so much flak that he never again signed with his full name as he did so proudly in his first painting. No growth but possible transformation of the “opera omnia” into heat. No afterlife. In a clever move Spitzweg tells us about an ultimatum: see the slanted ink-pot. On the brink it indicates that the means of production are running out. No ink, no “opera omnia”, no inflammable matter. (Opera! We think back to Spengler’s “Work-Idea”.) Having said this, I hope it is understood why I do insist on the reading of the peculiar hand gesture as an outer sign of the inner workings of poetry—tapping the rhythm. There is a contrasting interpretation available: that the poor poet is killing a flea.19 That sense would mean a diversion from the poetical act and the flow of energy and would make the outer world infiltrate the inner in its core and break down its raison d’être. Spitzweg’s world is, a world of interruptions, that is granted, so the flea-hypothesis has its merits, but at the same time interruption presupposes absorption, and Spitzweg is equally strong in this respect.

17 Felix Vallotton, La Salamandre, 1900, Private collection. A reproduction is available on Wikimedia Commons. 18 Walter H. Pater, Appreciations, London: Macmillan, 1910, p. 66. 19 Siegfried Wichmann, Spitzweg. Der arme Poet—ein Flohfänger. Ein Beitrag zum frühen Mal- und Zeichenstil Spitzwegs und zur Zipfelmütze, Munich: Karl M. Lipp 1982. For a critical discussion of this thesis see Raupp 1985 (as in note 8), p. 267.

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2 The interior as a field of forces In 1845, the year of the “Feuerbach Theses”, Adolph Menzel painted his sensational “Balcony Room” (fig. 2/ Plate 10).20 Just space, few things, a lot of atmosphere, not much of a milieu. Emptiness of paraphernalia was the hallmark of romantic interior painting, as Beate Söntgen has demonstrated.21 But atmosphere was written large— yet more in the sense of mood e.g., melancholy, loneliness, contemplation, etc. Menzel’s atmosphere is different. Again questions of energy are raised. Light is no longer a neutral factor. In some ways we can compare it with Spitzweg’s stove: if the stove is given, it must be on or out, with consequences, and cannot remain an inert piece of furniture. In Menzel light is not allowed to enter, it enters by force. And it definitely comes from the otherwise invisible outside and energetically transforms and dictates the visibility of objects (the doorframes behind the curtains!) and the coloring (the increase in cold tones to the left!).22 The emphatic invasion of daylight is coordinated with the secondary energy sources: wind and air. Both inputs, light and air, represent the outside under and on behalf of the conditions of the inside. On behalf means that there would be no image of an interior without light and there would be no life in an interior without air. In this respect it is quite important to stress the directional sense of curtains and light: they point inward. The outlook, the third task of the window, after its light source and its insulating functions, is negated, and it is not channeled through first viewers. The inwardness of interiors was a characteristic feature of Biedermeier paintings. Beate Söntgen describes them as “folded inwards and compacted in their own installations”. “Windows and doors only promise the possibility of openness, vista, and accessibility.”23 In Spitzweg we have found this density and compactness of the object world but detected at the same time a highly instructive opening. In Menzel the outside world is present only in its energetic nature whereas its visible properties are missing. The first reason is: energy in the form of light and wind is a normal feature of the outside. It goes without saying that the landscape painters of the period got more and more interested in these aspects—Turner is the best example and Baudelaire the prophet. In the “Salon of 1846”, chapter III “On color”, Baudelaire characterizes the world, as Ralph Ubl said in the discussion, “as an eternal combustion machine”:

20 Werner Busch, Adolph Menzel. Das Balkonzimmer, Berlin: Mann, 2002. 21 Beate Söntgen, Entleerung und Re-Möblierung. Zur Einrichtung des Innenraums in Bildern der Romantik und des Biedermeier, in: Christiane Holm, Günter Oesterle (eds.), “Schläft ein Lied in allen Dingen…”. Romantische Dingkulturen in Text und Bild, Tübingen, 2011, pp. 263–281. 22 A point clearly made and developed by Caroline Bohlmann in her catalogue entry in: Schulze 1998 (as in note 9), p. 160. 23 Söntgen 2011 (as in note 21), p. 276.


 Wolfgang Kemp

Fig. 2: Adolph Menzel, The Balcony Room, 1845, oil on paper, 58 × 47 cm, Berlin, Staatliche Museen Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Alte Nationalgalerie. “Let us suppose a beautiful expanse of nature, where there is full license for everything to be as green, red, dusty or iridescent as it wishes; where all things, variously colored in accordance with their molecular structure, suffer continual alteration through the transposition of shadow and light; where the workings of latent heat (travail interieur du calorique) allow no rest, but everything is in a state of perpetual vibration which causes lines to tremble and fulfils the law of eternal and universal movement.”24

24 Charles Baudelaire in: Jonathan Mayne (ed. and trans.), The Mirror of Art. Critical Studies, Garden City, NY: Double Day & Company, 1956, p. 45.

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Well, it still took some time until such an imaginative picture became a painted picture, pace Turner. Menzel’s curtains, though, definitely move in the direction of “continual alteration”, “no rest”, and “trembling lines”. But the point is, painters could hardly have both: the impact of the forces on the outside and on the inside at the same time. Menzel not only keeps the possible outside factors under the laboratory control of the interior but he also explains their workings by opening an internal dialogue between the window as the medium of the forces and the mirror as the medium of mimesis, maybe one can say as the medium of picturing as a force. Before I come to this complex relationship let me first stress a crucial difference between Spitzweg and Menzel in regard to the location of their rooms. In The Poor Poet the position of the garret is clearly indicated by the look through the window: it’s a Dachkammer, on top of an urban Mietskaserne, a tenement house. As the curtains act as a moving veil, Menzel’s room is a non-localized site. The strong influx of light suggests an upper story, but in any case and especially in the case of an upper position the room starts to float, becomes a kind of liquid space in which even the wall at the back seems fluid.25 One has to understand that Menzel rented new quarters more or less every year, as many contemporary city dwellers did. The tenant’s year was arranged around a fixed date for moving out and in. It was the time when Möbel (the German word for furniture) was still mobile. The missing enclosure of the space, the critical relationship between the inside and the outside of the building, the diminished endurance of the objects, and the spare furnishing—all that seems to suggest a conjuncture of social and phenomenological mobility. Yet the mirror functions in comparison to the fluidity of the inner–outer relationship as a kind of anchor. Which is a paradox because also in its case the other side, the mirrored world is not given. But the mirror enacts its own type of energy: as a provider of a second image it supports or rivals the first in widening the field of vision and tending to complete the interior.26 The energy of movement and influx, expressed through the blurred rendering of the curtains is countered by the relatively sharp, autonomous and somehow strong-willed “playback” of the mirror. Such a register change is always a commentary, a self-reflective device, comparable to the inscriptions in Spitzweg’s Poor Poet, especially to the model of the hexameter. The hexameter exists independently of every poetic realization; it is indestructible. A poem remains the same whether it is written and copied six times or printed and edited one thousand times. In the realm of entities, there is only one critical, one breaking point:

25 When he painted the Balcony Room, Menzel lived on the second floor of Schöneberger Straße 18. For Menzel’s various domiciles in Berlin see Irmgard Wirth, Mit Adolph Menzel in Berlin, Munich: Prestel, 1965. 26 For a different view on the “analogy-plus-difference between windows and mirror” see Michael Fried, Menzel’s Realism. Art and Embodiment in Nineteenth-Century Berlin, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002, pp. 84–94.


 Wolfgang Kemp

the poem that exists only once. Spitzweg contrasts the perishability of the poem in progress with the eternal model of the hexameter on the wall. The mirror is in its own way also a model, a model of painting in general and of an interior painting in particular, as mirrors normally are interior objects. It combines in its reflection a focussing and a fragmentary view, partial like all views, at least under the conditions of realism, which is an art of conditions. And what it provides is a kind of summary of interior things. It is further remarkable that the second image is produced by a countermovement: It emerges from an invisible position on the inner left, whereas light and wind stream in from invisible sources on the outer right. We have “anschauender Materialismus” at its best, dedicated to the “form of the object or of the conception of it” and conceived by a “single individual” in the seminal room of bourgeois society, in the Wohnzimmer, the living room. The Balcony Room belongs to the category of Menzel’s “private images” which were never exhibited during his lifetime—a fate comparable to the Feuerbach-Theses, also kept “private” for a long time. Nevertheless there is more to the Balcony Room than materialism: Firstly the minimalism of the concentration on very few objects, and secondly the sense of how important a painterly inquiry into the “forces” becomes, some functioning as equivalents (light and wind), others as counterparts (window versus mirror). The Balcony Room acts as a field of forces.

3 House-Warming 1845 is also the year in which another poor man, Henry David Thoreau, moved into his ten-by-fifteen-foot one-room cabin and wrote an inventory of the things he kept there, of the things which kept him there—alive: “a bed, a table, a desk, three chairs, a looking-glass three inches in diameter, a pair of tongs and and irons, a kettle, a skillet, and a frying-pan, a dipper, a wash-bowl, two knives and forks, three plates, one cup, one spoon, a jug for oil, a jug for molasses, and a japanned lamp.”27 This was absolutely not the first time somebody itemized his biography. In earlier periods these lists were put together for the descendants and more often after the death of the owner, but in the early Nineteenth century so-called Zimmerbilder, room portraits, became very fashionable.28 They drew a cross-section through a private person’s living conditions—in watercolors, drawings, and lists. These documents and documentary drawings exhibit the same art of the list, the same immersion in things and their vital, social, narrative potential that we find in Spitzweg. But Thoreau went two steps

27 Henry David Thoreau, Walden; or, Life in the Woods, Boston, 1854, p. 71. 28 For this genre see Beate Söntgen in: Schulze 1998 (as in note 9), p. 124; and in: Söntgen 2011 (as in note 21), p. 264 seq.

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further and made firstly an inventory public that as a Zimmerbild belonged essentially to private memorabilia. And secondly he put together his list of furnishings in order to prove how little he needed. In the context of an experiment in autonomy and subsistence living not many things are needed but each object becomes extremely symbolic and representative. So it goes without saying that the chimney and the stove play an important role in Walden. Chapter 13: “House-Warming”, is dedicated to “the fireplace, as the most vital part of the house”. Thoreau built the chimney with his own hands from used bricks. “I now first began to inhabit my house, I may say, when I began to use it for warmth as well as shelter.”29 Chapter 13 is the typical Thoreaumixture, an essayistic movement from a positivistic and scientific approach to ethical, historical, and aesthetic perspectives. He talks about the availability of wood, the caloric value of its varieties and states, and the market value of fuel, comparing New York and Philadelphia with Paris, and concludes: “In this town the price of wood rises almost steadily, and the only question is, how much higher it is to be this year than it was in the last.”30 Then he goes on writing a short cultural history with man as a heating creature in its center: “The animal merely makes a bed, which he warms with his body, in a sheltered place; but man, having discovered fire, boxes up some air in a spacious apartment, and warms that, instead of robbing himself, makes that his bed, in which he can move about divested of more cumbrous clothing, maintain a kind of summer in the midst of winter, and by means of windows even admit the light, and with a lamp lengthen out the day. Thus he goes a step or two beyond instinct and saves a little time for the fine arts.”31

It is very interesting for our purposes how Thoreau develops the theme of “a shelter within a shelter”: first: contact: body warmth/bed = the animal; second: distance, indirection: boxed air, spacious apartment, artificial heat and light = the man. First one closed system, second: two closed systems: the body and the room or the cabin. The warm interior is a provider of freedom, culminating in a cultivation of the fine arts. And what about light, the second atmospheric condition of interior spaces? We think back to Menzel. On the third day at Walden, on July 5, 1846, in the light of its airy cabin, Thoreau sees himself immersed in “the very light and atmosphere in which the works of Grecian art were composed”.32 But the heat sources have also their own aesthetic value. In the second winter Thoreau replaces the open fire-place with a small cooking-stove for economic reasons:

29 Thoreau 1854 (as in note 27), p. 261. 30 Ibid., p. 270. 31 Ibid., p. 272. 32 Henry David Thoreau, Journal. Volume 2: 1842–1848, ed. Robert Sattelmeyer, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984, p. 155 seq.


 Wolfgang Kemp

“Cooking was then, for the most part, no longer a poetic, but merely a chemic process. […] The stove not only took up room and scented the house, but it concealed the fire, and I felt as if I had lost a companion. You can always see a face in the fire. The laborer, looking into it at evening, purified his thought of the dross and earthiness which they have accumulated during the day. But I could no longer sit and look into the fire, and the pertinent words of a poet recurred to me with new force […].”33

And as an Ersatz for the living fire Thoreau goes on quoting a poem by Ellen Hooper on the hearth, warming himself, making the fine arts his radiator. The psychological value of the burning fire is irreplaceable, especially for someone living alone: “My house was not empty though I was gone. It was as if I had left a cheerful housekeeper behind.” And the fire is a source of inspiration: in addition to his historical reflections, Thoreau inserts a poem he had written on the smoke that arises from his chimney: “Light winged Smoke, / Icarian bird, / melting thy pinions in thy upward flight […]”34—take this “upward flight”, this art of living, of dwelling, and this living and dwelling in art together with the economic and ecological aspects of heating, of stoves, and wood, then you get the characteristic Zeitgeist-mix of the 1830s and 1840s, past and not yet free from Romanticism and Idealism, trying out Realism and Materialism, in order to discover “what is real in life” as Thoreau puts it in Chapter 2. “Dwellers on a threshold” they were, flaneurs in interiors and householders at the same time. The American cabin is different from the European attic or garret, but the rest is the same. As Danilo Kiš begins his novel The Attic with a saying by Jean-François Regnard: “Hic tandem stetimus nobis ubi defuit orbis.” (“Here we finally stand, a place that has fled our earth.”)35 But we should not forget: The “hermit” Thoreau lived in viewing distance of a railroad and made good use of the things that the builders of this railroad had left. Ecology thrives on consumption. And even the “hermit” could dream of the end of his “solitary confinement” and the end of the minimalist one-man interior: “I sometimes dream of a larger and more populous house, standing in a golden age, of enduring materials, and without gingerbread work, which shall still consist of only one room, a vast, rude, substantial, primitive hall, without ceiling or plastering, with bare rafters and purlins supporting a sort of lower heaven over one’s head […], a house which you have got into when you have opened the outside door, and the ceremony is over; where the weary traveller may wash, and eat, and converse, and sleep, without further journey; such a shelter as you would be glad to reach in a tempestuous night, containing all the essentials of a house, and nothing for house-keeping; where you can see all the treasures of the house at one view, and everything hangs upon its peg,

33 Thoreau 1854 (as in note 27), p. 273. 34 Ibid., p. 271. 35 Matt Seidel, Skylight Addicts and Private Wonderlands. On the Garret Novel, in: The Millions, (August 2013), (accessed January 9, 2015).

A Room with a Temperature 


that a man should use; at once kitchen, pantry, parlor, chamber, storehouse, and garret; where you can see so necessary a thing, as a barrel or a ladder, so convenient a thing as a cupboard, and hear the pot boil, and pay your respects to the fire that cooks your dinner, and the oven that bakes your bread, and the necessary furniture and utensils are the chief ornaments […]. A house whose inside is as open and manifest as a bird’s nest, and you cannot go in at the front door and out at the back without seeing some of its inhabitants; where to be a guest is to be presented with the freedom of the house, and not to be carefully excluded from seven eighths of it, shut up in a particular cell, and told to make yourself at home there—in solitary confinement.”36

Not only for the historian of the interior is this a fascinating statement, a move from the smallest to the largest of all models, to an Über-interior which at the same time tries to combine qualities of shelter and safe-keeping with those of social life in an open society—or is it “only” from a one-man space to a one-space society?

36 Thoreau, 1854 (as in note 27), p. 261 seq.

Franziska Brons

Photographic Premises: Notes on the Exposure of Interiors around 1900 1 Reading Photographic Interiors Starting in March 1908, the periodical The British Journal of Photography published a series of articles devoted to “The Modern Note in the Design and Fitting of Photographic Premises”.1 Mostly illustrated by engravings designed and executed by the author named Drinkwater Butt rather than photographs due to the then still pervasive difficulty of printing them in larger numbers at feasible costs, this sequence of chapters went into great detail to outline ideal conditions for the production and display of portraiture in the new age of photography. The images range from ground floor and elevation plans through detailed renditions of buildings’ facades and shop windows to glimpses into interiors of various orientations and purposes. For instance, the fourth part of the series, published in mid-April, is devoted to the reception room of a fictitious photographer’s studio and offers a detailed tour around its layout to propose the most desirable conditions for the use and ambiance of such a space. The article provides advice regarding each and every element of the suggested room, including wall and ceiling colors, flower arrangements, friezes, and textiles. The cut (fig. 1) shows an interior furnished with both antiques and then-modern fauteuils and tables, lit not only by natural light entering the room through the large window in the back, but also—as the accompanying text emphasizes—with the help of electric illumination and shaded reflectors that mainly are employed at the service of the photographs to be contemplated on the walls. “It may [...] be noted that the walls are not overcrowded with specimens, a single line running round the sight level, with a few larger ones above. The smaller examples are in frames on the tables and cabinet [...].”2 Not only these hanging instructions for photographic portraits, but the whole array of suggestions contained in this manual amounts to an exercise in moderation: The author urges readers, and thus future studio owners, to limit themselves to “few decorative features” in order to obtain a “simple and almost severe character” and a “general effect [that] would be sober and subdued”.3 Marveling at the “principles of good taste and architectural fitness” on display in the existing reception area of

1 Drinkwater Butt, The Modern Note in the Design and Fitting of Photographic Premises, in: The British Journal of Photography, 55 (1908), I, no. 2499, pp. 231–233; II, no. 2500, pp. 263–265; III, no. 2501, pp. 281–283; IV, no. 2502, pp. 304–306; V, no. 2503, pp. 320–322; VI, no. 2504, pp. 341–344; VII, no. 2506, pp. 378–379, Supplement; VIII, no. 2507, pp. 395–396. 2 Drinkwater Butt 1908 (as in note 1), no. 2502, pp. 304–306, p. 305. 3 Ibid.


 Franziska Brons

Fig. 1: Drinkwater Butt, Arrangement of a Reception-Room, 1908.

“Messrs. Speaight, Limited” on New Bond Street in London, the writer concludes that in “the whole place there is an absence of the restlessness, glitter, and garishness which characterise so much modern work, and which render it usually so very unfit for the surroundings and settings of works of art”.4 The aspirational status of photography as fine art associated with matters of style and taste (rather than mere business and technology) first and foremost expresses itself vis-à-vis the interiors in which its production takes place. Already in the reception area, no signs of craft, business, and equipment shall be discernible. When turning to the studio as the site of the actual making of images by photographic means in the last three parts of the series, the columnist continues to indulge in questions of practicality and outfitting. However, an anonymous entry on a newly opened London studio immediately following Butt’s seventh text published in the British Journal of Photography on May 15 of 1908, casually assesses the results all these efforts have for the creation of portraiture; Mr. Swaine, who has a “hatred of the artificial”, thus we are informed, started to run a studio on Bond Street that “strikes one at once as cheerful and cosy, an effect due evidently to the home-like furnishing and the invisibility of the gaunt and formidable-looking implements often to be seen in a studio. The [...]

4 Ibid.

Photographic Premises: Notes on the Exposure of Interiors around 1900 


studio [...] favours the photographer in [...] indulging his fondness for portraiture with the look of a home-portrait about it, but with a photographic quality which the facilities of a studio enable him to secure.”5 It is the homely environment enveloping the sitter and veiling the technical apparatus and arsenal of the studio that guarantees the wished-for outcome of a likeness which despite its professional character appears as if taken in a domestic space. This series, and the multiple images it contains, on the one hand evidences that the history of the bourgeois interior—and its impact on notions of intimacy and inwardness—cannot be separated from the history of its public exposure, be it in journals and magazines, or in the period’s salons and commercial studios. It is at these modern sites of communication and experience that shifting ideals of good living, fine taste, and individual habitus were not only popularized, but rather first formulated and shaped beyond the confines of private homes for vastly expanding audiences. On the other hand, this publication likewise is indicative of the fact that the rise of photography—as a visual medium and a social practice—not only resulted in the modernization of making and disseminating images. It had equally lasting influence both on the conception as well as the creation of interior spaces and their residents’ modes of conduct and self-fashioning. More overtly than in preceding times, interiority was conceived in terms of the interiors supposedly mirroring it, but actually formatting it. Whereas late nineteenth century treatises dedicated to the design of domestic settings still had engaged with interiors’ ancestral dialectic of inside and outside by elaborately describing or imagining by literary means alone (and comparatively sparse illustrations) how to best integrate paintings, drawings, and prints into harmonious arrangements of furniture, textiles, and decorative objects destined to resonate with the (yet to come) ethical and aesthetic dispositions of their inhabitants,6 two decades later photography made interiors, heretofore shielded from uninvited glances, successively permeable to their exterior. They increasingly were on view for those to see and scrutinize who may never set foot into them physically.

5 Anon., A Newcomer in Bond Street, in: The British Journal of Photography 55.2506 (1908), p. 380. 6 See for example Rhoda Garrett, Agnes Garrett, Suggestions for House Decoration. In Painting, Woodwork, and Furniture, London: Macmillan and Co., 1877; Lucy Orrinsmith, The Drawing-Room. Its Decorations and Furniture, London: Macmillan and Co., 1878; H. R. Haweis, The Art of Decoration, London: Chatto and Windus, 1881; Edith Wharton, Ogden Codman, The Decoration of Houses, New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1897; Paul Schultze-Naumburg, Häusliche Kunstpflege, 5th edition, Leipzig: Eugen Diederichs, 1903. For a general overview on treatises of such a kind see Emma Ferry, ‘Decorators May be Compared to Doctors’. An Analysis of Rhoda and Agnes Garrett’s Suggestions for House Decoration in Painting, Woodwork and Furniture (1876), in: Journal of Design History 16.1 (2003), pp. 15–33; Emma Ferry, The Other Miss Faulkner. Mrs. Orrinsmith and the Art at Home Series, in: Journal of William Morris Studies 23.3 (2011), pp. 47–64; Martha Crabill McClaugherty, Household Art. Creating the Artistic Home, 1868–1893, in: Winterthur Portfolio 18 (Spring 1983), pp. 1–26; Deborah Cohen, Household Gods. The British and Their Possessions, New Haven, CT / London: Yale University Press, 2006, pp. 89–121, pp. 63–88.


 Franziska Brons

By the same token, interiors now not only began to serve as staged backdrops for a new kind of imagery (and imaginary), but also provided the milieus and prerequisites for an altered mode of individual (self-)representation. Portraiture gained a new significance in terms of a relay between the inside and outside under the conditions of an evolving media assemblage—encompassing the entire photographic apparatus as much as printed matter of all kinds, display devices, and ultimately the architecture and decor of interior spaces—that more and more appeared to undermine this very distinction.7 At the turn of the twentieth century, large-scale exhibitions threw this changing relation between photography, interior space, and the modern subject into even more vibrant relief.

2 Interiors on Display If publications such as the British Journal of Photography only theoretically granted an insight into the material and spatial framework of the production and display of photographic portraiture, world fairs and major exhibitions of the same period made it possible to be literally surrounded by it. Interiors were on open display. Indeed, specialist periodicals notwithstanding, the era’s grand expositions in general need to be regarded as the most important sites for the mediation of the technological foundations and diverse applications of photographic images. In a contemporary report from the opening day of the International Photographic Exhibition Dresden 1909—a title for which the acronym Ipha will be used in what follows—a correspondent conveys his impression that “one must indeed call this a world exhibition, a general survey of photography that spans the globe, comprehending and presenting all interests and all goals of photography in unprecedented completeness.”8 The Ipha was an inventory of photography that concentrated the medium’s development as well as the entire spectrum of its applications in research, technology, and art all in one place in Dresden between May and October 1909.9 Alongside galleries devoted to the sciences, media history, ethnography, and reproduction technologies (each establish-

7 On the relation between subjectivity, media and architecture in modernity see the seminal study by Beatriz Colomina, Privacy and Publicity. Modern Architecture as Mass Media, Cambridge, MA / London: The MIT Press, 1996. 8 Anon., Von der Dresdner Ausstellung I, in: Die Photographische Industrie 7.19 (1909), pp. 582–583, p. 582. (All translations by the author unless otherwise indicated.) 9 See Franziska Brons, Exposition eines Mediums. Internationale Photographische Ausstellung Dresden 1909, Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2015. For a discussion of the relation between Pictorialism and scientific imagery in the framework of the Ipha see Vanessa Rocco, Pictorialism and Modernism at the Dresden Internationale Photographische Ausstellung, in: History of Photography, 33.4 (2009), pp. 383–402.

Photographic Premises: Notes on the Exposure of Interiors around 1900 


ing genuine methods of display)10 this world exhibition of a medium—the art historian Ulrich Pohlmann refers to it as the preeminent photography exhibition event in Europe before World War One11—also contained sections on amateur and professional photography—in which portraits, alongside still lifes and landscape images, occupied a central role—in the main spaces and side wings of the Saxon city’s expansive Exhibition Palace. Here the question of the medium’s intricate relation to interiors became particularly tangible. Despite lingering conflicts between proponents of supposedly purely artistic endeavors on the one hand and those entrepreneurs of photography whose studio production followed commercial purposes on the other hand, the modalities of presenting several thousands of images in the respective exhibition segments were indebted to comparable ideas of display and décor.12 In contrast to the ascetic neutrality of modernist “white cubes” implemented only two decades later,13 these premises of the Ipha were obviously modeled after domestic interiors and propagated the values associated with them. Hence a critic states for both sections: “The exhibition of images [...] is housed in an exemplary manner. All rooms have good light, for the most part comfortably muted skylight. The big gallery has been dissected into a number of smaller rooms and decorated with great taste. The monotony of the images is effectively disrupted by furniture, bronzes, foliage plants, etc. There is plenty of seating everywhere.”14 Another periodical informs its readers about Room 13, in which amateur works from North America were on view: “The simple but artistic furniture, the white settees inviting a leisurely study of the works displayed, the finelytoned carpet and the articles of virtu [sic] disposed about the room render the general

10 See Franziska Brons, Fotografie als Weltanschauung. Die Internationale Photographische Ausstellung Dresden 1909, in: Fotogeschichte. Beiträge zur Geschichte und Ästhetik der Fotografie, 29.112 (2009), pp. 15–30. 11 See Ulrich Pohlmann, Das ‘Historische Lehrmuseum für Photographie’ von Hermann Krone. Der museale Blick auf die Fotografie im 19. Jahrhundert, in: Wolfgang Hesse, Timm Starl (eds.), Photographie und Apparatur. Der Photopionier Hermann Krone. Bildkultur und Phototechnik im 19. Jahrhundert, Marburg: Jonas Verlag, 1998, pp. 203–214, p. 208. 12 See Rudolf Goldlust, Internationale Photographische Ausstellung Dresden 1909, in: Alte und Neue Welt, 44.8 (1909/10), pp. 311–315, p. 314; see also Fritz Matthies Masuren, Photographische Kunst im Jahre 1909, in: F. Matthies Masuren (ed.), Die Photographische Kunst im Jahre 1909. Ein Jahrbuch für künstlerische Photographie, Halle: Knapp, 8 [1909], pp. 1–5, p. 1. 13 See Walter Grasskamp, Die weiße Ausstellungswand. Zur Vorgeschichte des ,white cube‘, in: Wolfgang Ullrich, Juliane Vogel (eds.): Weiß, Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 2003, pp. 29–63. 14 Anon., Betrachtungen über die Dresdner Ausstellung. Amateure und Berufsphotographen, in: Sonne. Illustrierte Unterhaltungsschrift für Liebhaberphotographie, 5.11 (1909), p. 321.


 Franziska Brons

effect quite charming [...].”15 Judging from “installation shots”16 it must at times have been virtually impossible to decide whether the furnishing retained any use-value or served as mere decoration; these elements hence oscillated between the poles of extras and exhibits. On the whole, the homely objects accompanied the images on display not in order to accentuate a historical or geographical context (as was the case in other segments of the Ipha, most notably the one devoted to tourism, colonial ethnology, and folklore under the heading of “Länder- und Völkerkunde”). Instead they functioned, as the concomitant catalogue entry on professional photography states, as “Raumausschmückung”, i.e., an embellishment of space.17 In other words, these ornamental objects and decorative devices were employed to convey the sense of a close proximity to contemporaneous domestic spaces; they were suggestive of an uninterrupted continuum between private and public spaces, and the photographs on view therefore appeared inserted into interiors arguably familiar to most of the Ipha’s visitors. However, as parerga these embellishments were hardly neutral or secondary to the images framed and hung on the walls; quite to the contrary, they patently effected the perception of the erga, and at times they would supersede and even inadvertently contradict them.18 Among the exhibitors in the section devoted to professional photography was Hugo Erfurth. The Dresden-based photographer, at the time still associated with Pictorialism in Europe (though unlike his amateur colleagues he pursued a business as a portraitist), presented his images in spaces modeled after variegated kinds of interiors. For example, a view of Room 11 in the professional photography section (fig. 2), apparently taken from a corner position by an anonymous photographer, gives an impression of the vast extent of the so-called Fürstensaal, a gallery dedicated to por-

15 Emil Otto Hoppé, The Dresden Photographic Exposition. English and American Work, in: PhotoEra. The American Journal of Photography, 23.2 (1909), pp. 74–77, p. 76. Also see Frank Roy Fraprie, Impressions of the Dresden Exposition, in: American Photography, 3.6 (1909), pp. 350–354, p. 352. 16 As Manuela Fellner-Feldhaus has argued, the history of imperial exhibitions coincides with that of photography insofar as the latter both is exhibited and serves to document the exhibition; see Manuela Fellner-Feldhaus, Fotografischer Schauplatz Weltausstellung. Dokumentation und Inszenierung, in: Welt Ausstellen. Schauplatz Wien 1873, exhibition catalogue, Technisches Museum Wien, Vienna, 2005, pp. 11–34, p. 11. The term “installation shot”, though in use only since the 1960s, is evoked here as it best conveys this configuration between image type and technology. In his famous analysis of the “white cube” Brian O’Doherty goes so far as to argue that “the installation shot, sans figures” has become “one of the icons of our visual culture” and that it serves as “a metaphor for the gallery space”. Brian O’Doherty, Inside the White Cube. The Ideology of the Gallery Space, expanded edition, Berkeley, CA / Los Angeles, CA / London: University of California Press, 1999, p. 14. 17 See Offizieller Katalog der Internationalen Photographischen Ausstellung Dresden 1909, ausgegeben im Juni 1909, 2nd edition, Dresden: Wilhelm Baensch, [1909], p. 173. 18 On this understanding of the parergon see the classic eponymous chapter in Jacques Derrida, The Truth in Painting, trans. by Geoffrey Bennington, Ian McLeod, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

Photographic Premises: Notes on the Exposure of Interiors around 1900 


Fig. 2: Hugo Erfurth, International Photographic Exhibition Dresden 1909, Exhibition Palace, view into the Fürstensaal.

traits of the era’s rulers. Whereas the foreground of this installation shot is almost entirely dominated by the empty floor plan of the space, which mainly featured gray and yellow tones,19 one discerns a table on the left-hand side of the middle ground as well as a long case clock behind it, both alluding to a salon of sorts. A sequence of large-sized images is architecturally framed by three round arches. A second impression (fig. 3), offering a close-up of this arrangement of pictures and accoutrements, provides further details: We see an elaborately wrought commode with figurines on top, above which Erfurth’s portrait of King Friedrich August of Saxony is installed, engulfed by an entourage of additional likenesses (such as portraits of the Saxon princesses Maria Alix and Anna Pia Monica). Altogether this gallery, highly contested at the time,20 contained portraits of approximately fifty aristocrats and heads of state

19 Hartwig, Durch die Photographische Ausstellung, in: Dresdner Nachrichten, no. 120, May 1, 1909, Evening Edition, pp. 1–2, p. 2. 20 In his report from the Ipha, Jean Paar associates the “likenesses of courtly human beings” with the term “mass-triviality”. See Jean Paar, Sonderliches und Absonderliches aus Dresden. Kritischer


 Franziska Brons

Fig. 3: International Photographic Exhibition Dresden 1909, Exhibition Palace, view into the Fürstensaal.

that had been taken by renowned photographers on the occasion of Ipha—in short “life size photographs of most of the rulers of the world”.21 The mixed contemporary reception of these images was strongly affected by the interior that enveloped and enhanced them: “Completely detached, at least in architectural terms, and held together by a sense of harmony and purity in style from the vantage point of a calm interior decoration through the integration of precious furniture from the royal castle, the 53 mighty meter-high images [...] look just excellent,”22 a more favorable critic in the journal Photographische Kunst appraised the impact of the presentational framework on the perception of the works exhibited. The highnesses were surrounded by stately arcade architecture and apparently also by items from their

Bericht über die Internationale Photographische Ausstellung in Dresden 1909, in: Der Photograph, 19.68 (1909), pp. 269–270, p. 270; see also Anon., Die internationale photographische Ausstellung in Dresden 1909, in: Photographisches Wochenblatt, 35.34 (1909), pp. 335–336, p. 336. In 1909 these large-sized portraits of rulers were also distributed as postcards. See Bodo von Dewitz, Hugo Erfurth, Ein Photograph und die vielen ‘Köpfe seiner Zeit’. Einführung, in: Bodo von Dewitz, Karin SchullerProcopovici (eds.), Hugo Erfurth (1874–1948). Photograph zwischen Tradition und Moderne, exhibition catalogue, Agfa Foto-Historama, Cologne: Wienand, 1992, pp. 10–27, p. 25. 21 Frank Roy Fraprie 1909 (as in note 15), no. 7, pp. 414–416, p. 414. 22 Georg Heinrich Emmerich, Die Internationale Photographische Ausstellung Dresden 1909, in: Photographische Kunst. Halb-Monatsschrift für künstlerische Fach-Photographie 8 (1909/10), pp. 61–70, p. 66. On the loans by the royal family also see Hartwig 1909 (as in note 19), pp. 1–2, p. 2.

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own possession (or objects historically associated with aristocratic splendor). Due to their large format and exuberant framing23— partly ornamented, partly with roundedoff edges—these portraits were even more reminiscent of noble similes from the era of the décor employed to complement and situate them than of photographic prints from the first decade of the twentieth century. The constellation between exhibits and decorative elements was indebted to the attempt to create a correspondence between the motifs’ gravitas and the overriding design of this exhibition area —and resulted in a pastiche that was out-of-synch with the Ipha’s general emphasis on contemporaneity and modernity. This particular gallery of the Ipha seems influenced by the reform process that art museums in Germany underwent at the turn of the century. After all this process had first brought about the format of the museum exhibition as mise-en-scène rather than mere accumulation of works.24 The correspondences between medium, motif, and milieu in the Fürstensaal at first sight expand on the concept of the “period room” as modified by Wilhelm von Bode during the 1880s; inspired by the (comparatively overfull) interiors of contemporary collectors’ mansions,25 Bode had combined paintings, furniture, textiles, and sculptures in ensembles destined to let an allegedly coherent art-historical epoch resurface. When the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum in Berlin was inaugurated four years prior to the opening of the Ipha, this concept still was in place.26 Even if the Dresden exhibition’s display strategies in this section does not reach the visual density of such a homogeneous museum space “as a site of new techniques of presentation”,27 it equally suggested a historical interior housing a matching painting gallery. Yet this impression was tantamount to an anachronism: Within the context

23 Within the section of professional photography, images had to be submitted already framed. See Printed matter, Internationale Photographische Ausstellung, Stadtarchiv Dresden, 2.1, Ratsarchiv. No. AXXIV 122, Vol. 2, 145r–146v, 145v; see also Geschäftsordnung. Internationale Photographische Ausstellung zu Dresden 1909, Dresden: Steinkopff & Springer, [1908], p. 6, §  20. On the transition from artfully crafted to standardized frames see Jeff Rosen, Das große Rahmenkomplott. Zur Institutionalisierung der modernen Fotografie am Beispiel von Alfred Stieglitz’ ‘Photo-Secession’, in: Fotogeschichte. Beiträge zur Geschichte und Ästhetik der Fotografie, 11.42 (1991), pp. 17–30. 24 See Alexis Joachimides, Die Museumsreformbewegung in Deutschland und die Entstehung des modernen Museums 1880–1940, Dresden: Verlag der Kunst, 2001, p. 13. 25 See ibid., pp. 65–80. 26 See ibid., pp. 81–93. On the “Period Room” see Charlotte Klonk, Spaces of Experience. Art Gallery Interiors from 1800 to 2000, New Haven, CT / London: Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 55–58. On its characteristics also see Malcolm Baker, Bode and Museum Display. The Arrangement of the KaiserFriedrich-Museum and the South Kensington Response, in: Thomas W. Gaehtgens, Peter-Klaus Schuster (eds.), Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen, Vol. 38, Beiheft “Kennerschaft”. Kolloquium zum 150sten Geburtstag von Wilhelm von Bode, Berlin: Mann Verlag, 1996, pp. 143–153, p. 144 seq.; also see Visual Resources. An International Journal of Documentation 21.3 (2005), Special Issue on The Period Room Debate and the Making of America’s Public Art Museum. 27 Walter Grasskamp 2003 (as in note 13), pp. 29–63, p. 33.


 Franziska Brons

of an exhibition of photography in 1909, viewers were confronted with what must have registered as the unabashed resurgence of feudal representation. Following the program of an artistic reform of the photograph,28 the very modes of exhibiting works in the context of fully outfitted interiors, in other words, generated an insofar contradictory situation as one medium appeared in the guise of another.29 The interior was so dominant as to supplant the medium-specificity of the images on display. In this respect, the example of the Fürstensaal is of twofold significance: It exposes both the inherent contradictions of the pictorialist movement’s quest for photography’s legitimacy as high art vis-à-vis established painterly genres and traditions, and the tensions potentially arising from a hiatus between the historical indices of a medium and the ones evoked by the historicist setting in which it is presented. Apart from this asynchronous evocation of courtly living, this segment of the Ipha—and hence Erfurth’s presence in it—was largely determined by the increasingly common bourgeois interior as model for the presentation of photographs.30 Upon entering the neighboring gallery, visitors would confront a space with a roughly square layout that had been divided into radial segments.31 In these compartments photographers like Rudolf Dührkoop, Franz Grainer, Frank Eugene, Theodor Ruf, and Erfurth each were given a “one-man-show”.32 A view into this architectural structure (fig. 4), for whose interior design Munich-based Hans Friedmann was responsible,33 shows a seating arrangement at the center—consisting of two chairs, two benches, and a table adorned with a cloth and a flower bouquet—and glimpses of the booths by Erfurth and Dührkoop. Erfurth’s “nicely outfitted cabinet”34 (fig. 5)—containing yet

28 See Offizieller Katalog der Internationalen Photographischen Ausstellung Dresden 1909 (as in note 17), p. 173 seq. 29 “It is a daring endeavor to bring furniture of a former style into a fashionably designed exhibition,” Franz Grainer, Die Dresdner Ausstellung. Vortrag, gehalten vor dem ‘Südd. Photographen-Verein E. V., Sitz München’, am 20. Oktober 1909, in: Photographische Kunst. Halb-Monatsschrift für künstlerische Fach-Photographie 8 (1909/10), pp. 255–259, p. 257. 30 Referring to Martha Ward, Joachimides traces back the approximation of art spaces and the ambiance of intimate living quarters to the 1880s, during the course of which the Impressionists more and more rented vacant apartments in Paris to use them for their exhibitions. See Alexis Joachimides 2001 (as in note 24), p. 116; Martha Ward, Impressionist Installations and Private Exhibitions, in: The Art Bulletin. A Quarterly Published by the College Art Association, 73.4 (1991), pp. 599–622, pp. 610–613. 31 See Georg Heinrich Emmerich 1909/10 (as in note 22), pp. 61–70, p. 66. 32 Frank Roy Fraprie 1909 (as in note 15), no. 7, pp. 414–416, p. 414 seq. For reviews of individual compartments see Anon., The Dresden Exhibition, III, in: The British Journal of Photography, 56.2562 (1909), pp. 453–456, p. 454; Georg Heinrich Emmerich 1909/10 (as in note 22), pp. 61–70, p. 66 seq. 33 Friedman was consigned to the design of the entire section of “professional photography”. See Anon., Internationale Photographische Ausstellung, Dresden 1909, in: Apollo. Central-Organ für Amateur- und Fach-Photographie, 15.333 (1909), pp. 388–389, p. 389. 34 Hartwig, Durch die Photographische Ausstellung. Berufsphotographie, in: Dresdner Nachrichten, no. 152, 3 June 1909, unpaginated.

Photographic Premises: Notes on the Exposure of Interiors around 1900 


Fig. 4: Hugo Erfurth, International Photographic Exhibition Dresden 1909, Exhibition Palace, view into the section of “one-man-shows”.

again a couch, a table, a foliage plant, and a carpet—reflected the supposed domestic accoutrements of the photographer’s clientele, portraits of which were presented at various sizes along the walls of this gallery space.35 The entrance to it was furnished with an opened curtain, stressing even further the idea of entering into the domain of a private interior within a public art venue. Erfurth’s cabinet, in other words, was virtually situated at modernity’s characteristic thresholds between retreat and exposure, privateness and publicity, inwardness and expressivity. If photography’s surrounding had created the patina of a picture gallery in the case of the Fürstensaal, here the bourgeois residence was evoked as a liminal site and the most adequate and

35 As Pohlmann has pointed out, the bromoil prints presented here were aimed at a long-range effect; the framing and single-row presentation at eye level equally caused a sensation at the time. See Ulrich Pohlmann, ‘Im Einklang mit der großen Zeit’. Anmerkungen zur Rezeptionsgeschichte des Erfurthschen Porträtwerkes in Ausstellungen und Publikationen, in: Bodo von Dewitz, Karin Schuller-Procopovici 1992 (as in note 20), pp. 119–138, p. 126.


 Franziska Brons

Fig. 5: Hugo Erfurth, International Photographic Exhibition Dresden 1909, Exhibition Palace, view into Hugo Erfurth’s cabinet.

resonant lieu for Erfurth’s practice. The photographer not only presented his works in galleries-cum-interiors (and vice versa), but erected an operative studio house on the exhibition grounds, equally following design principles of modern domestic dwellings. His contributions to numerous sites of the Ipha thus combined an exposure of the premises, destinations, and results of his image production and by consequence can be seen as symptomatic of the ways in which interiors and notions of interiority were closely intertwined in the photographic practice of modern portraiture.

3 Interiority and the Practice of Modern Portraiture By offering a sequence of different situations throughout the larger photographic process (in technical and artistic terms), Erfurth’s Atelierhaus, or studio house, at the Ipha demonstrated the conditions of taking photographs as well as their subsequent fabrication and handling. Again, the interior was on view as much as (or even more than) the works created within its circumscribed boundaries. For the duration of the show, vast numbers of visitors thus were given the rare opportunity to enter a fully 

Photographic Premises: Notes on the Exposure of Interiors around 1900 


equipped Musteratelier, or “model workshop”, run by the renowned Dresden-based photographer.36 This house, mounted especially for the exhibition, granted “insights into the operations and prerequisites of a modern studio”37 and already in advance of the opening was expected to contain “in an exemplary manner everything the expert needs to practically perform his profession”.38 Since the studio house was not least exhibited as the site at which portraits were taken, this venue of the International Photographic Exhibition Dresden 1909 can be considered as the acme in terms of the exposure of the intrinsic rapport between photography, interiors, and interiority. Upon entering the building and after passing through an anteroom, visitors to the Atelierhaus reached an area—the official catalogue described it as a “reception room and studio”—from which a storeroom and a darkroom branched off. On the exhibition grounds a studio in the guise of a parlor was in turn presented and deployed as a “model workshop for artistic photography at work [...]”.39 Already for his photographic premises at Palais Lüttichau in Dresden, an estate he had moved into in 1906, Erfurth had managed to create an ambiance (fig. 6), in which the subject to be portrayed wasn’t placed against a tightly circumscribed backdrop, but was freely moving through an interior.40 An installation shot from the Ipha provides an insight into the studio created at the Atelierhaus and that (just as the premises of Mr. Swaine on Bond Street) was equally lacking the heretofore usual props and backdrops of vistas, consequently itself serving as a prop (fig. 7). This room as well as the majority of the others in the studio house didn’t serve as casing or background for the exhibits to be contemplated; rather, it both functioned and was exhibited as a modern daylight studio. Facing the studio space, Room 9 restaged another studio premise: “Photographic glasshouse, representing a studio”,41 the respective catalogue entry reads. Through the display of lamps, studio furniture, lightfast curtains, backdrops, and

36 See Anon., Internationale Photographische Ausstellung Dresden 1909, in: Der Photograph 19.7 (1909), p. 27. 37 Anon. I 1909 (as in note 33) no. 333, pp. 388–389, p. 389; see Photo-Sport, 5.6 (1909), unpaginated. 38 Anon., Internationale photographische Ausstellung Dresden 1909, in: Wiener Freie PhotographenZeitung. Zeitschrift für Photographie und verwandte Fächer, 12.4 (1909), p. 32; see Apollo. Central-Organ für Amateur- und Fach-Photographie, 15.326 (1909), p. 303. 39 Offizieller Katalog der Internationalen Photographischen Ausstellung Dresden 1909, ausgegeben am 1. Mai 1909, 1st edition, illustrated, Dresden: Wilhelm Baensch, 1909, p. 292. On the studio see also Anon., Kleine Mitteilungen, in: Photographische Chronik und Allgemeine Photographen-Zeitung. Beiblatt zum Atelier des Photographen und zur Zeitschrift für Reproduktionstechnik, 16.55 (1909), p.  343; Anon., Internationale Photographische Ausstellung in Dresden 1909. (Nach dem offiziellen Berichte in der ,Wiener Zeitung‘ vom 6. Mai 1909. Mit Ergänzungen unseres Spezialkorrespondenten), in: Photographische Korrespondenz, 46.585 (1909), pp. 285–292, p. 290. 40 On Erfurth’s studio see Dewitz, Erfurth, Einführung, in: Dewitz, Schuller-Procopovici (eds.) 1992 (as in note 20), pp. 10–27, p. 16 seq. 41 Offizieller Katalog der Internationalen Photographischen Ausstellung Dresden 1909 (as in note 39), p. 293.


 Franziska Brons

Fig. 6: Hugo Erfurth, View into the studio spaces at Palais Lüttichau, Dresden, around 1908.

their scaffolds, this room as well as the neighboring artificial light studio disclosed its exhibition status far more directly.42 The exhibition of the setting of photographic shooting continued in Room 14, a laboratory characterized as a “model workspace”,

42 There are great discrepancies in terms of the individual rooms’ functions between the ground floor plan included in the exhibition catalogue, the catalogue entry, and Wolf-Czapek’s review. See Groundfloor plan Ateliergebäude, Offizieller Katalog der Internationalen Photographischen Ausstellung Dresden 1909 (as in note 39), unpaginated; ibid., p. 292; K. W. Wolf-Czapek, Die photographische Industrie auf der Dresdener Ausstellung, in: Photographische Chronik und allgemeine PhotographenZeitung. Beiblatt zum Atelier des Photographen und zur Zeitschrift für Reproduktionstechnik, 16.54 (1909), pp. 336–338, p. 338; see Anon., Kleine Mitteilungen, in: Photographische Chronik und Allgemeine Photographen-Zeitung. Beiblatt zum Atelier des Photographen und zur Zeitschrift für Reproduktionstechnik, 16.55 (1909), p. 343. On the exhibits see ibid.; Anon., Von der Dresdner Ausstellung, XII, in: Die Photographische Industrie. Fachblatt für Fabrikation und Handel sämtlicher photographischer Bedarfsartikel, [7] (1909), no. 32, pp. 1051–1052, p. 1052.

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Fig. 7: View into Hugo Erfurth’s studio space at the Ipha’s model workshop, 1909.

in which various cutting machines and mounting presses serving for picture editing were presented.43 Consequently, by the end of their tour, visitors traversed a “delivery room” titled “The completed image”, in which picture frames and cartons were on view. Additionally, here and there, images by professional photographers that could not be accommodated in the respective section at the Exhibition Palace were on display.44 From the moment of exposure, up through the development, up to the

43 On the laboratory see Fritz Hansen, Das Atelierhaus auf der Ausstellung, in: Photographische Kunst. Halb-Monatsschrift für künstlerische Fach-Photographie, 8 (1909), pp. 204–205, p. 204; Anon., Internationale Photographische Ausstellung Dresden 1909, in: Der Photograph, 19.7 (1909), p. 27; Offizieller Katalog der Internationalen Photographischen Ausstellung Dresden 1909 (as in note 39), p. 294. 44 See Anon. II 1909 (as in note 39) no. 585, p. 290.


 Franziska Brons

representative framing, all aspects of the making of a photographic portrait could be followed at the Atelierhaus. In this part of the exhibition—which could also be considered as transposing the exemplary venues of modern portraiture described in the pages of the British Journal of Photography to the exhibition grounds of Dresden— photographic premises once more superseded single works. The container and the influence it exerts on what it contains here became prominent and debatable. As the first fully developed theories of photography in the early 1930s attest, photographic portraits can be considered as revealing symptoms for pivotal shifts occurring in the realm of subjectivity.45 The way individuals were represented in their allegedly familiar environment, i.e., the domestic interior (or recreations thereof) became the focal point of a wider reflection on the subject’s relation to the modern world at large. Hence Erfurth’s practice of photographic portraiture is part of the very development, in which Walter Benjamin in his “Little History of Photography” (1931) detected an emancipation of the medium and its aesthetic insofar as people didn’t have to follow conventions derived from painting when posing in “those studios [...] with their draperies and palm trees, their tapestries and easels [...] which occupied so ambiguous a place between execution and representation, between torture chamber and throne room [...]”.46 On that same score Erfurth himself, in his 1909 remarks on the development of modern photographic portraiture, explains: “Little by little prim poses disappear as well as excessive retouching and false pomp, generally the entire allegedly artistic studio accoutrement with its columns made of plaster, cardboard, etc. To avoid the usual studio accessory and to create something individual, the most able representatives of the new direction have disposed the glasshouse-studio and make their photographic portraiture in common living spaces. Thus not only natural lighting—in contrast to the constructed illumination of the glasshouse-studio—is achieved, but also the model feels more at home and as a consequence acts more naturally and at ease.”47 The space surrounding the subject and the leeway the sitter is provided with by way of its decoration, furnishing, and lighting is here posited as a precondition to the making of a portrait that at least approximates the interiority of the subject to be pictured. At the same time, this insistence on the outer frame of photographic sessions casts considerable doubt on the assumption that a person’s inner dispositions would exist independently of the devices developed and used to

45 It seems generally noteworthy—and worth further exploration beyond the limited scope of the present essay— that most of the relevant theories of photography, from Kracauer and Benjamin to Sontag and Barthes, depart from considerations of portraiture. 46 Walter Benjamin, Little History of Photography [1931], in: Michael W. Jennings, Howard Eiland, Gary Smith (eds.), Walter Benjamin. Selected Writings, vol. 2, 1927–1934, trans. by Rodney Livingstone et. al., Cambridge, MA / London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1999, pp. 507–530, p. 515. 47 Hugo Erfurth, Zur Entwicklung der modernen Bildnis-Photographie, in: Internationale Photographische Ausstellung Dresden 1909 in Wort und Bild, bearbeitet von Redakteur Karl Weiss, Dresden: Wilhelm Baensch, 1909, p. 26.

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render them exterior. Instead interiority would figure as at least partly produced and effected by the media employed to communicate it. As Friedrich A. Kittler famously stated in his lectures on Optical Media: “[W]e knew nothing about our senses until media provided models and metaphors.”48 In this regard, the development around 1900 both of portraiture as a “cultural technique” now available for a wider array of societal strata,49 and the design of the very spaces that facilitated the mise-en-scène and production of these images, i.e., the photographer’s studio and its various accoutrements, is indicative for the mutual imbrication of interiors and interiority in modern visual culture. Photography in this sense not only generated genuine “discursive spaces”,50 but at the same time had palpable effects also on the perception and understanding of actual interiors and subjective interiority. The concurrent presentation of photographic portraits at world fairs and salons, alongside the publication and exhibition of precisely those spaces serving for their production at the era’s grand expositions allowed for a further exploration of these interrelated phenomena, because the novel role and importance assigned to interiors in the creation of interiority here is even exacerbated: As the sections dedicated to so-called amateur and professional photography as well as the studio house at the International Photographic Exhibition Dresden 1909 made manifest, the frame of the domestic dwelling deliberately crafted and rendered accessible for the occasion ceases to be subordinated to the single image on view. Rather, the defining impact of these rooms on those who inhabit and are frequently pictured in them is exposed. Both these exhibition sites and the exhibits they harbored thus can be regarded as exemplary for the status of interiors and interiority under the influence of modern media technology. Interiors around 1900 truly became “photographic premises”.

48 Friedrich Kittler, Optical Media. Berlin Lectures 1999, trans. by Anthony Enns, Cambridge, MA / Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2010, p. 34. 49 On the concept of “cultural techniques” see Bernhard Siegert, Cacography or Communication? Cultural Techniques in German Media Studies, in: Grey Room (2007), no. 29, pp. 26–47. 50 See Rosalind Krauss, Photography’s Discursive Spaces. Landscape/View, in: College Art Journal 42.4 (1982), pp. 311–319.

Robin Schuldenfrei

Contra the Großstadt: Mies van der Rohe’s Autonomy and Interiority Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was committed to the modern city and its capitalist enterprises.1 For the modern metropolis he designed department stores, banks, and office buildings, while exerting scant effort on mass housing for modern workers.2 For the architectural avant-garde, the pressing question of the period was “the housing question”, namely how to adequately and inexpensively house the urban masses. Mies could have translated his skyscraper ideas—with their many stories, amenities located in the core, and repetition—into multi-unit housing for the masses. But by the 1927 opening ceremonies of the Weissenhofsiedlung, an exhibition of new housing built in Stuttgart for the German Werkbund under Mies’s artistic direction, this was no longer Mies’s question, if it ever had been. In the face of the swirling activity of the metropolis, Mies designed houses for the bourgeoisie of modern, capitalist society, and he was singularly affirmative of settings that carved out spaces autonomous from the city and from society at large (fig. 1, fig. 2). Mies’s level of specificity in his domestic interiors underscores his interest in the unique over the universal interior solution—the single design without mass dissemination. Comfortingly, his interiors—and the behaviors engendered by them—coalesced and reiterated class identity, belief systems, and taste. To be considered here are Mies’s private, single-family homes, with a focus on the functioning and meaning of their interior spaces, in light of the modern metropolis.3 In his house commissions, Mies appeared uninterested in everyday life as it was lived by the many, nor does he seem interested in a scalable model with a potential for expansion. That Mies was designing for a very specific clientele certainly allowed him more lassitude in terms of the size and overall cost of his projects, but he was also fettered by his patrons’ tastes or defined needs, which often interrupted his design process. The years in which his practice was based in Berlin—his Berlin career

1 This essay is a condensed version of a longer chapter forthcoming in my book on luxury and modern architecture in Germany, 1900–1933. 2 The one exception was Mies’s Afrikanischestrasse municipal housing block of 1925–27, a fourbuilding public housing complex located in Berlin’s working class district of Wedding. 3 Scholars cite Mies’s tenure with both Peter Behrens and Bruno Paul, followed by his close working association with Lilly Reich, as an explanation for his minute attention to the interior. Throughout this chapter, Mies’s working relationship with Reich must be understood as an essential influence on design decisions made for the commissions executed in this period; though it is impossible to know for certain many of her specific contributions to these projects, her impact must be generally understood as an integral and largely inseparable part of Mies’s oeuvre in this period and key to the development of his ideas of modernism’s domestication generally.


 Robin Schuldenfrei

Fig. 1: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Stefanie Hess Apartment, 1930, Berlin, Interior re-design, photograph by Marta Huth.

spanned the period 1906–1938, the high point of which comprised the 1920s—Mies’s architecture, materials, and furniture continued to appeal to traditional bourgeois cultural values. It will be argued that Mies created a condition of interiority by supplanting an earlier set of aesthetic values—found in the delineation of spaces, materials, and design of his earliest houses—with a different set that appears modern and new but ultimately embodies many of the same ideals. From the stuffy, bourgeois interiors of his early houses to the modern-appearing but equally elite interiors of his later villas, a pursuit of high art can been seen as emerging in his purification of forms and space, and yet traditional bourgeois cultural values remain intact. Through examining this late Weimar interiority one can discern the values expressed or hidden in the architectural fabric of the houses themselves, and the modes of living in them that reinforced period bourgeois values. Mies’s clients weren’t simply capitalists, but captains of industry, and as such, the lives that they lived in their modern domiciles were familiarly bourgeois, and, despite their unconventional surroundings, not especially modern. Although Mies’s houses appeared technically and spatially radical, with their expanses of glass and the liberation of load-bearing walls, they functioned in a traditional manner, bolstered by their commitment to conventional elements as exemplified by the gendered division of female sitting rooms and male studies, separate sleeping arrangements for husband and wife, reception rooms, and winter gardens (fig. 3). In his windowsills, generous to houseplants, and built-in display cabinets for collections, such as those found in the Esters and Lange houses (both 1927–1930), Mies created interiors that were radical in appearance but accommodating of those bourgeois activities nor

Contra the Großstadt: Mies van der Rohe’s Autonomy and Interiority 


Fig. 2: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Tugendhat House, 1928–30, Brno, Czech Republic, View of the library, photograph by de Sandalo, ca. 1931.

mally encouraged by—and reflected in—more traditional upper-class spaces. Mies’s remarkable attention to detail allowed for an interior that initially appeared different from period standards yet functioned in the expected bourgeois manner. Likewise, in the interior of the Tugendhat House (1928–1930), designed for Fritz and Grete Tugendhat and their children, Mies did not attempt to disrupt upper-class modes of dwelling. The house was divided into formal, austere spaces for entertaining and more intimate, private rooms, such as Grete Tugendhat’s small bedroom. By leaving the main living floor open, Mies, upon first glance, was not relying on conventional notions of room use. But in the dark-paneled library area, the study, the winter garden, and the music section with grand piano, traditional bourgeois room designations and their implied activities remained (fig. 2, 3, 4). Similarly, the plan did not provide for a separate reception room, a nineteenth-century tradition already dying by the 1910s, but it did include a furnished reception area by the entrance. In the dining room, unconventional in form and materials, Mies quelled initial concerns by adhering to the bourgeois conventions expected of it—that the smell of food and the sounds of its preparation be sequestered—by employing the traditional device of a thick velvet curtain. 


 Robin Schuldenfrei

Fig. 3: Mies, Tugendhat House, Grete Tugendhat in the winter garden, photograph by Fritz Tugendhat, 1931.

Mies’s choice of luxurious materials intimated quality and timelessness, proffering the legibility of capital and a bourgeois system of values expressed in natural materials such as ebony and zebrawood, travertine and onyx. Other materials used in his commissions of this period, exemplified by the costly nickel-plated or chromiumplated columns, marble slab walls, and hand-wrought furnishings exude the materialist qualities of modernism under capitalism. Certainly the visible surface qualities of these materials were of paramount importance to Mies’s system of representation, but the signification of their material worth is not inconsiderable.4 The use of luxuri-

4 Neil Levine has noted Mies’s interest in surface, through for example, his collage technique which dramatically foregrounded the surface qualities inherent in Mies’s work. See Levine, “The

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Fig. 4: Mies, Tugendhat House, main living floor, photograph by de Sandalo, ca. 1931.

ous materials, of course, was not new to the bourgeois interior; Mies is deploying them within the visual and theoretical paradigm of modernism.5 The range of activities that the Tugendhat children participated in reveal a thoroughly charming but very traditional upbringing, as opposed to that of the Bauhaus members’ offspring or even Mies’s own children. Overseen by their mother, but more often in the care of the family’s beloved nursemaid, the Tugendhat children are seen watering the plants, celebrating holidays, and playing on the travertine terrace; illus-

Significance of Facts”. Mies’s Collages Up Close and Personal, in: Assemblage 37 (December 1998), pp. 70–101, p. 72. 5 Mies employed some of the visual language of industry—which had resulted in the period’s expansion of genuine and pseudo-luxury goods through its rationalized production methods—to create his own version of luxury goods, namely interior finishings and furnishings. For a concise discussion of the industrialization of artistic tradition and the ways in which the middle class produced and consumed luxury, see chapter 2, “The Industry of Tradition”, in: Mitchell Schwarzer, German Architectural Theory and the Search for Modern Identity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995, pp. 88–127, especially pp. 125–126.


 Robin Schuldenfrei

Fig. 5: Mies, Tugendhat House, lower terrace, photograph by Fritz Tugendhat, 1932.

trating the degree to which the house was thoroughly “lived” in (fig. 5).6 Likewise, Grete Tugendhat is captured reading and watering in the conservatory (fig. 3). Though the Tugendhats had the added novelty of electrically-controlled plate glass windows, their lives—like those of their peers—were not particularly “modern”; rather, their daily routine was much more akin to that evoked by Walter Benjamin in Berlin Childhood, his vivid portrait of upper-class domestic rhythms of the 1880s. Period critics charged that the Tugendhat House was ostentatious, rarified, and that it, in effect, suppressed its dwellers. Justus Bier, in the infamous article “Can One Live in the Tugendhat House?” indicted it for preciousness, excessive display, and pretentiousness, which he felt would force the inhabitants into a life of ostentation from which they would rebel internally.7 In response, Fritz Tugendhat pointed out that the patterning of the marble and the natural graining of the wood did not take the place of art; rather, they participated in the art of the space, noting that “‘art’ is permitted to take on a special importance […] just as our personal lives do—more freely than ever. […] It is true that one cannot hang any pictures in the main space, in

6 Architectural critic Justus Bier had questioned the house’s livability, see Bier, Kann man im Haus Tugendhat wohnen? in: Die Form 6.10 (October 15, 1931), pp. 392–393. 7 Ibid., pp. 392­–393.

Contra the Großstadt: Mies van der Rohe’s Autonomy and Interiority 


the same way that one cannot introduce a piece of furniture that would destroy the stylistic unity of the original furnishings—but is our ‘personal life repressed’ for that reason?”8 In her reply, Grete Tugendhat asserted that she had never thought of the spaces as being precious, but as “austere and grand—not in a way that oppresses, but that liberates”.9 The family was, in effect, free of the weight of history, of family heirlooms, of valuable items on every shelf requiring attention and care. Instead their main living room was reduced to Mies and Lilly Reich’s careful selection of specific materials, furniture, and objects, and family members were left to live as they pleased; they were thus granted a new degree of personal autonomy—within the home. Their private life was represented by the habits they acquired and the activities that took place within the spaces, not their familiar material goods—by their actions and not their possessions. New conceptualizations of what it meant to dwell and what role inhabitants might play in new interiors—as well as in society and communities—and how social and material environments constituted their inhabitants—were discussed by modern architects and period intellectuals and philosophers, such as Bertolt Brecht and Walter Benjamin, Martin Heidegger, Helmuth Plessner, and Ferdinand Tönnies.10 For architects in the period generally, and in Mies’s interiors more specifically, the autonomy and agency of the individual subject was an important aspect of “new dwelling”.11

8 Fritz Tugendhat, Die Bewohner des Hauses Tugendhat äussern sich, in: Die Form 6.11 (November 15, 1931), pp. 437–438. Translated in Wolf Tegethoff, Mies van der Rohe. The Villas and Country Houses, New York, NY: Museum of Modern Art, 1985, p. 98. 9 Ibid., 97. Emphasis added. 10 For example, Andrew Wallace notes that “Plessner argues that human existence is lived from within a center, moving out towards and retreating away from a surrounding environment; but, the person is not simply identical with this center, as he can distinguish the center from himself by turning it into an object for himself.” Wallace, Translator’s Introduction, in: Helmuth Plessner, The Limits of Community. A Critique of Social Radicalism, Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 1999, p. 8. 11 The meaning of autonomy in Mies’s architecture and the role of the individual has been discussed in various contexts by scholars. For a nuanced discussion of Mies and individuality, in relationship to modernity, the masses, and period literature, see Detlef Mertins, Goodness Greatness. The Images of Mies Once Again, in: Perspecta 37 (2005), pp. 112–121. Mertins does not, however, distinguish between Mies’s earliest writings and later thinking, presenting a cumulative mission for Mies which, he asserts, was ultimately a failed “battle of spirit” at the end of Mies’s life. Stanford Anderson has argued that architecture remained for Mies a strict and lofty discipline and that Mies held “fully to an architectural autonomy that might serve […] in the idealization of a culture.” Stanford Anderson, The Legacy of German Neoclassicism and Biedermeier. Behrens, Tessenow, Loos, and Mies, in: Assemblage 15 (August 1991), pp. 62–87, p. 83. See also K. Michael Hays, Critical Architecture. Between Culture and Form, in: Perspecta 21 (1984), pp. 14–29 and Donald Kuspit, Report from New York. Mies van der Rohe’s Divided Consciousness, in: Art New England 22.6 (October–November 2001), pp. 12–13. As Kuspit notes, “When Mies speaks of ‘the organizing principle of order as a means of achieving the successful relationship of the parts to each other and the whole,’ he is speaking of social as well


 Robin Schuldenfrei

As the critic Paul Westheim noted in 1927 about Mies’s interior plans, “the character of a single room does not come from the manner of its decor, but rather from its determination through being lived in. In the end, the house is nothing but the clothing for this.”12 That modern architecture was essentially about a manner of living initiated by the inhabitants was promoted by enthusiasts of modern design and Mies alike. Westheim favored the concept of a dweller’s autonomy and presciently rejected the idea that there might be a particular way to live in a modern interior or that the interior itself might dictate behavior, as other critics later argued in the journal Die Form.13 This principle of individual self-realization represented a new form of luxury for those members of the Bürgertum who could afford these dwellings. Critic Walter Riezler pointed out that, as opposed to the machine for living, the Tugendhat was a house of pure Luxus; and as such it was not meant to restrict life in any way, but rather expanded “the sense of what could be”.14 He argued that what counted as luxury now was a complete realization of each and every “singularity”.15 Years later, when asked what kind of house he would design for himself, Mies responded, “I would build a simple but very large house, so that I can do inside what

as architectural management—of a society in which each individual is coordinated with every other individual in a whole that subordinates them all, that is, a collective grid from which there is no personal escape” (p. 13). As Fritz Neumeyer has shown through his demonstration of Mies’s reading of Dietrich Heinrich Kerler, Weltwille und Wertwille. Linien des Systems der Philosophie [World Will and Will to Value. Outline of a System of Philosophy] (Leipzig: Alfred Kröner, 1925), Mies described a position nearly analogous to that of Kerler, in which the “world will” (Mies’s “will of the epoch”) turns to “will to value” (Mies’s “spiritual will”). As Neumeyer cites, Mies’s underlined passages are important in the examination of Mies’s position vis-à-vis the individual, in which the “source of value in the world, the culture, the spiritual” must stem from the “combined effect of purpose-orientated individuals”. Fritz Neumeyer, The Artless Word. Mies van der Rohe on the Building Art, trans. by Mark Jarzombek, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991, pp. 159–160. More generally, as Mitchell Schwarzer has pointed out, middle class social identity revolved around the notion of individuality—a process of differentiation expressed through education, the acquisition of wealth and possessions, cultural expression through lifestyle, and a rejection of imitation—and middle-class architectural identity as an intrinsically differentiating process. Schwarzer 1991 (as in note 5), p. 7. 12 Paul Westheim, Mies van der Rohe. Entwicklung eines Architekten, in: Das Kunstblatt 11.2 (February 1927), pp. 55–62, p. 58. Unless otherwise noted, translations are the author’s own. 13 The full debate and controversy surrounding whether the Tugendhat House was habitable took place via a series of articles and responses over the course of three issues of Die Form. See Walter Riezler, Das Haus Tugendhat in Brünn, in: Die Form 6.9 (September 1931), pp. 321–332; Justus Bier, Kann man im Haus Tugendhat wohnen?, in: Die Form, 6.10 (October 1931), pp. 392–393; Walter Riezler, Kommentar zum Artikel von Justus Bier, in: Die Form, 6.10 (October 1931), pp. 393–394; Roger Ginsburger and Walter Riezler, Zweckhaftigkeit und geistige Haltung, in: Die Form, 6.11 (November 1931), pp. 431–437; Grete and Fritz Tugendhat, Die Bewohner des Hauses Tugendhat äussern sich, in: Die Form, 6.11 (November 1931), pp. 437–438; Hilberseimer Ludwig, Nachwort zur Diskusion um das Haus Tugendhat, in: Die Form, 6.11 (November 1931), pp. 438–439. 14 Riezler 1931 (as in note 13), p. 324. 15 Ibid., p. 326.

Contra the Großstadt: Mies van der Rohe’s Autonomy and Interiority 


I like.”16 In an important 1928 lecture, “The Preconditions of Architectural Work”, Mies stated, “The act of the autonomous individual becomes ever more important,” contending that “the building art is man’s spatial dialogue with his environment and demonstrates how he asserts himself therein and how he masters it.”17 Mies wrote of building a new order that permitted “free play for the unfolding of life”.18 Grete Tugendhat noted that with regard to architecture, the needs of people should be considered in terms of their individuality and personal outlook on life.19 In his varied floor plans, room sequencing, and orientation, Mies was not seeking a universalizing “solution” but rather a unique living space for each family. While Mies laid out a series of spaces and carefully placed his furniture at precise junctures within the rooms, it was the dweller, through his or her own agency, who completed the space. In setting up his interiors as a background for the actions of the autonomous individual, Mies created a realm for his inhabitants to think freely and be free agents: the dwellers were the protagonists and the space merely a setting. This is something that the Tugendhats, especially Grete Tugendhat, understood well, writing eloquently of the experience of living in the main space as one in which the inhabitants were not absorbed by it but rather compelled into action as differentiated individuals. She noted that the austerity forbade merely passing time by “relaxing and letting oneself go” but rather forced the inhabitant to do something constructive, which Tugendhat viewed as liberating.20 She compares how each flower in the room is seen in an uncommon way to the manner in which a person at the Tugendhat house appears, both to himself and to others, to be more clearly set off from his surroundings.21 This phenomenon, of the inhabitant set apart from his surroundings, was a particular effect of Mies’s interiors—the dweller and visitor alike became keenly aware of the placement of the self in relationship to the other objects in the room and the space overall (fig. 6/ Plate 11, LEFT & RIGHT, fig. 7). Mies’s belief in the autonomous individual led him to create a space where the subject could be showcased against the object, in this case the stable elements of the room. With the massive slabs of onyx and wood, Mies created immo-

16 Mies van der Rohe, interview by Graeme Shankland for the BBC, 1959, reprinted in Peter Carter, Mies van der Rohe at Work, New York, NY: Praeger, 1974, p. 181. 17 Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, lecture titled: The Preconditions of Architectural Work (1928), reprinted in Neumeyer 1991 (as in note 11), pp. 299–300. This lecture was given on multiple occasions in February and March of 1928, including at the Staatliche Kunstbibliothek Berlin in February 1928, the Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Frauenbestrebung, Museumsverein und der Kunstgewerbeschule Stettin on March 5, 1928, and the Frankfurter Gesellschaft für Handel, Industrie und Wissenschaft, Frankfurt am Main on March 7, 1928. 18 Mies 1928 (as in note 17), p. 301. 19 Grete Tugendhat, Architekt und Bauherr, in: Was gibt Ihnen der Architekt? Brno: ArchitektenInteressengemeinschaft, 1934, reprinted and translated in Tegethoff 1985 (as in note 8), p. 38. 20 Grete Tugendhat 1931 (as in note 13), translated in Tegethoff 1985 (as in note 8), p. 97. 21 Ibid.


 Robin Schuldenfrei

Fig. 6/LEFT: Poppies in front of the onyx wall at the Tugendhat House, photograph by Fritz Tugendhat, 1930s.

bile, timeless fixtures; he similarly anchored furniture. Against this inert, fixed background, the inhabitants went about the tasks of daily living with the self-awareness of an autonomous individual. In the 1930s, when he ceased to attain larger projects as a result of the financial crises of the late 1920s, Mies managed to obtain commissions for a series of apartment interiors. Their exactness underscores the emphasis Mies placed on all of his interiors and the degree to which he created interior conditions on the same terms, without regard for the size of the commission. His conceptions for the bourgeoisie were consistent, from the smaller apartment to the extant villa; with many of the elements shared between typologies, his vision for the modern interior remained fixed. A typical example is the six-room apartment for Stefanie Hess in which Mies transformed the top two floors of a typically bürgerlich building located in Wilmersdorf, a leafy, affluent section of Berlin, into a modern dwelling (fig. 1).22 Sharing many

22 The Hess correspondence has not survived. For what little is known about this commission, see Jan Thomas Köhler and Jan Maruhn, Less is More, in: Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin und der Landesbildstelle Berlin (ed.), Berliner Lebenswelten der zwanziger Jahre. Bilder einer untergegangenen Kultur, Frankfurt

Contra the Großstadt: Mies van der Rohe’s Autonomy and Interiority 


Fig. 6/RIGHT: Grete Tugendhat with Herbert in front of the maccassar wall at the Tugendhat House, photograph by Fritz Tugendhat, 1930s.

of the same elements of other commissions, the apartment featured white walls, rush matting and floor-to-ceiling drapes which gave the impression that the windows were much larger—and thus more modern—than they actually were. In the main living room, the furnishings, too, were the same constituent elements found in Mies’s villas: cantilever and Barcelona chairs, modern lamps, and veneered wooden tables. The apartment has many typical domestic niceties and also hints at a life of the mind, providing an appropriate space for its autonomous late Weimar denizen, a single female dweller. In a similar vein, sociologist Georg Simmel, in seeking to understand modern life and its products, saw the metropolis as a structure which mediated between the individual and what he termed the “super-individual contents of life”.23 Along with the development of a blasé attitude by the metropolis’s inhabitants, Simmel argues, a

am Main: Gatza bei Eichborn, 1996, pp. 80–81. The authors note that the building was designed by the Berlin architect Wilhelm Gutzeit. 23 Georg Simmel, The Metropolis and Mental Life (1903), reprinted in: Richard Sennett (ed.), Classic Essays on the Culture of Cities, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969, 47.


 Robin Schuldenfrei

Fig. 7: Ernst and Herbert in front of the glass wall in the Tugendhat House living room, photograph by Fritz Tugendhat, 1930s.

more general mental phenomenon arises—that of personal freedom.24 In his succinct reading of the crisis of the individual in the midst of the overwhelming metropolis, he did not regret the loss of Gemeinschaft, or community, but rather looked to the city, specifically Berlin, for new, life-affirming modern values.25 Simmel identified two

24 Ibid., 53. 25 For writing by Simmel on the “individual,” see the following essays: “Vom Wesen der Kultur” [“Subjective Culture”] of 1908, “Der platonische und der moderne Eros” [“Eros, Platonic and Modern”] of 1921, and “Das Individuum und die Freiheit,” [“Freedom and the Individual”], published posthumously, as well as sections from his full-length book Soziologie (1908), such as “Die Erweiterung der Gruppe und die Ausbildung der Individualität” [“Group Expansion and the Development of Individuality”]. See especially Donald N. Levine (ed.), Georg Simmel on Individuality and Social Forms, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1971; and Harry Liebersohn, Fate and Utopia in German Sociology, 1870–1923, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1988, pp. 126–127. For a careful reading of Georg Simmel’s thought, contextualized with German philosophy and sociology, see chapter 5, Georg Simmel: From Society to Utopia, in Liebersohn 1988, pp. 126–158.

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types of phenomena in the metropolis, increased individual independence and the elaboration of individuality itself.26 While Simmel was attempting to resolve the antinomy of the individual and society; Mies placed the emphasis on the individual’s ability to shield himself from society at large. Simmel thought the fragmented and isolated phenomena of modernity could be redeemed by participating in a totality.27 Mies instead created for his subjects spaces of individual interiority that can be read against the city. Seeking to create conditions of autonomy, Mies granted the individual mastery over his own space. More than his peers, Mies lavished exacting attention on the interior, using the very phenomena of modernity, its materials and its surfaces, to seal fragments of the metropolis indoors. The result is a totalized design environment, away from—but in many ways as a reaction to—the city.28 Mies’s interiors both subsumed the metropolis and created an escape from the onslaught of its sensory experiences. Given the cultural transformations taking place beyond the thresholds of Mies’s dwellings, the extent to which they shut out the city and exclude a consideration of mass culture is significant. Unlike the ideology of the Bauhaus or the position of other modern architects who gestured to the masses even though their objects and buildings were often beyond the financial reach of them, Mies’s architecture and interiors, as unique solutions, were ideologically very different than those of his peers. Where Mies considered the role of the masses he saw them as potential capitalist consumers, stating that “each of the many has a right to life and goods”.29 The masses were not viewed by Mies as society’s unfortunate poor

26 Simmel 1903 (as in note 23), p. 53. 27 This characterization is presented by Liebersohn 1988 (as in note 25), p. 127. 28 For an important reading of Mies’s contextualizing of the architectural object to the specific situation of the city, as a critical response to the problem of the debilitating effects of the metropolis, see Hays 1984 (as in note 11), pp. 14–29. Hays argues that in evaluating architecture as an instrument of culture rather than reading it as autonomous form, Mies’s architecture serves to demonstrate a crucial, central premise that his work “cannot be reduced either to a conciliatory representation of external forces or to a dogmatic, reproducible formal system” (p. 17). 29 Mies 1928 (as in note 17), p. 301. With regard to the masses, however, Mies does not approach the question of “die Wohnung,” an issue that the majority of the avant-garde and modern architects of the period attempted to address. Wohnungsnot, the acute housing shortage following World War I and continuing through the 1920s was an area of intense consideration by architects who strove to design the ideal dwelling type for the lower middle and working classes, who were largely confined to substandard living conditions due to continuing financial crises, which included shared toilets, large families crammed into a very few rooms, sometimes with extra boarders, even located below ground level in the basement. For a detailed account of Mies’s extreme depoliticization of architecture and his rejection of the socially oriented modern architectural movement in Berlin during its peak years (for example, he tended to join important architectural groups only once they lost their radical, visionary, or social impetus), see Richard Pommer, Mies van der Rohe and the Political Ideology of the Modern Movement in Architecture, in: Franz Schulze (ed.), Mies van der Rohe. Critical Essays, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989, pp. 97–145.


 Robin Schuldenfrei

who needed to be provided for paternalistically, but rather as self-actualizing figures who were to exercise power over their own actions and destinies.30 Across the social, political, and financial spectrum, Mies called for a mature economic energy—a deep engagement with capitalism—and linked it to the self-assertive individual. Mies’s domestic commissions take into account human subjectivity and individuality, which the modern metropolis was thought to negate on many levels. Reacting to the experience of the modern city, Mies proposed two different architectural solutions: one for dwelling and one for working. In his designs for tall office buildings, banks, and urban plans, he relegates the employee to units of undifferentiated, unrelenting sameness.31 Yet, with just a few exceptions, Mies, unlike his peers, hardly envisioned large buildings with multiple units for dwelling. Although he was bound by the commissions he received, mostly single-family houses, Mies did not envision schemes similar to Ludwig Hilberseimer’s Groszstadt (high-rise) projects, in which the modern metropolis was composed of elementary cells that would multiply to create a whole urban organism.32 Mies was much less engaged with the workings of the city generally, and with the relationship of its inhabitants to it. The worker was a cog in the economic wheel, visualized by repetitive office floors in buildings, whereas the dweller at home was granted an individual solution. In Mies’s formulation, the captain of industry retired home from overseeing his dominion of office units to the open expansiveness of the unique private residence. George Grosz described the city as a rushed, noisy place of nerve-grating, doubtful amusement, with a fake sparkle designed to “rev up tired businessmen”, whose crowning achievement was a big villa in a safe place, a place of “ghastly materialism

30 Other Weimar critics and authors took a similar approach, such as Alfred Döblin who warned against the conformity and subordination of the masses, arguing that it led the single person astray from an obligation to his being, the individual away from his responsibility for his life. Döblin, “Daß der Einzelne unter dem Einfluß der Masse nicht verkrüppelt,” [May the Individual Not be Stunted by the Masses], in: Uhu 8.6 (1932), pp. 7–8, reprinted and translated in Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, Edward Dimendberg (eds.), The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994, pp. 386–387. 31 See Hays 1984 (as in note 11), pp. 20–21. Hays argues that meaning derives not from the placement of these forms, or from formal operations or representational devices, but precisely from these impersonal productive systems (p. 21). As Donald Kuspit has noted, “Mies’s skyscrapers assume the routine conformity of a mass society, just as his private structures assume the exciting nonconformity of the privileged individuals who inhabit them.” Quoted in: Kuspit 2001 (as in note 11), p. 13. Projects by Mies that fit this description include the skyscraper projects of 1919 and 1922, the Concrete Office Building project of 1922, the Stuttgart Bank project of 1928, and the Alexanderplatz project of 1928. 32 See Ludwig Hilberseimer, Groszstadt Architektur, Stuttgart: Verlag Julius Hoffmann, 1927, available in translation in Richard Anderson (ed.), Metropolisarchitecture and Selected Essays, New York, NY: GSAPP Books, 2012.

Contra the Großstadt: Mies van der Rohe’s Autonomy and Interiority 


and boredom”.33 Mies’s architecture can be situated in this oppositional formulation between the frenetic city and the calm oasis of the private, bourgeois dwelling. Yet period critic Paul Westheim described Mies’s interiors as akin to the city, organized around circulation to conduct one’s life in an orderly and frictionless manner.34 Whereas in the city friction was inevitable, in the interior it could, in theory, be eliminated. Taking the materials of the city, Mies inserted a visible urban language into his comfortable, bourgeois commissions, in effect domesticating the city. The plate glass window, a predominant city form, framed in the domestic interior, reduced the outside world to a display contemplated from the sanctuary of the home.35 Harsh metal, refined into chromed cruciform columns, was similarly domesticated. Mies’s interiors left behind the metropolis’s superficiality, tempo, and chaos—as well as encounters with its other residents. And compared to the outside “surface city”, or what Janet Ward has identified as “Weimar surfaces”, Mies’s interiors are anything but superficial or ephemeral.36 Mies produced modern spaces with both physical and intangible boundaries, preserving bourgeois codes that only allowed the few beyond the threshold. These were interiors into which his privileged modern urban subjects could retreat. As Grete Tugendhat reported: “Though the connection between inside and outside is indeed important, the space is nonetheless entirely enclosed and self-sufficient; […] the glass

33 George Grosz, Unter anderem ein Wort für die deutsche Tradition, Das Kunstblatt 15.3 (1931), pp. 79–84, reprinted and translated in Kaes et. al. 1994 (as in note 30), pp. 499–502. 34 Westheim 1927 (as in note 12), pp. 57–58. 35 Through his involvement with the German Werkbund, Mies would have been very aware of the role of the store window in the city. It was a subject that was fiercely debated by the Werkbund and by modern architects generally during this period. With two other groups, the Verband Berliner Spezialgeschäfte [Association of Specialty Stores] and the Verein für kaufmännisches Unterrichtswesen [Association for the Education of Buyers and Sellers] the Werkbund set up a major program and course of study for window design at the Reimann Art School. The Werkbund also sponsored numerous window design competitions. Much was written in the period about window reform—books, articles, and manuals focus on window display—from instructions on how the window ought to be constructed in terms of type and placement of glass panes in relation to the viewer and the street, to constructing architectural display stands on which goods would be placed, to the arrangement of the goods themselves and the effective use of electric illumination. Period journals such as Architektur und Schaufenster (Architecture and Display Window) explored the connection between the practice of architecture and new ideas regarding window design, while the many periodical articles and books such as Elisabeth von Stephani-Hahn’s Schaufensterkunst (Berlin: Verlag L. Schottlaender, 1919) were devoted solely to the topic of the display window. Thus, the large, plate glass store window was perceived in the period to be a key ideological and spatial sphere. On the importance of the display window in the Weimar city, see Janet Ward, Weimar Surfaces. Urban Visual Culture in 1920s Germany, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001. 36 Ward 2001 (as in note 35).


 Robin Schuldenfrei

wall functions completely as a boundary. If it were otherwise, […] one would have a sense of restlessness and exposure.”37 Interiority can be understood as that abstract quality that allows for the recognition and definition of an interior, a possible condition of control.38 In an action of both exclusion and inclusion, enabled by containment, privacy, protection, interiority reveals itself as elitist and selective, a setting of a boundary between the self and the world.39 In creating conditions for interiority at the Tugendhat house, chromed steel columns shimmer, expanses of glass are reinforced by thick, impenetrable velvet, and runners allow nearly every section of the space to be partitioned off with curtains—contained, or as Fritz Tugendhat noted, providing the inhabitant the ability “to completely shut oneself off”.40 The harshness, the rush, the noise, the very “everydayness” of the urban exterior was negated in Mies’s interiors; linoleum or rice-straw matting produced noiseless steps, heavy Barcelona chairs and couches implied permanence and stasis, as did the materials used: calf leather, vellum, velvet. The autonomy of the modern individual in society, as championed by Mies, revealed itself to be premised, paradoxically, on possession of the means to withdraw oneself from—and insulate oneself against—that society. The masses, and their world, were kept out. Unburdened by the past, the inhabitants were ostensibly free to create their own meaning—and yet Mies’s interiors, furniture, and materials were instantly recognizable in their connections to the recent bourgeois past. Mies embraced capitalism and its bourgeois protagonists as a means of fostering innovation, and of furthering culture. And he rewarded them with serene dwellings that left no doubt about the financial means and cultural standing of the inhabitants.

37 Grete Tugendhat 1931 (as in note 13), translated in Tegethoff 1985 (as in note 8), p. 98. 38 Christine McCarthy, Toward a Definition of Interiority, in: Space and Culture 8.2 (May 2005), pp.  112–125, pp. 112–113. My understanding of interiority is very much indebted to McCarthy’s important article. 39 Ibid. 40 Fritz Tugendhat 1931 (as in note 13), translated in Tegethoff 1985 (as in note 8), p. 98.

Surface, Screen, Seam

Anne Hemkendreis

Inner and Outer Realms: Opaque Windows in Vilhelm Hammershøi’s Interior Paintings For the human being the window functions much like a frame that focusses his gaze, thereby localizing and directing it. Considered from the secure confines of the interior, it constitutes an “opening, through which the indweller communicates with the outside world.”1 Italian art theorist Leon Battista Alberti emphasized the analogy between the opened window and paintings that are indebted to the ideal of mimesis.2 In this regard, the painted surface suggests a visual permeability, which, resembling a transparent pane of glass, opens the view into another space. Painted windows in the genre of interior painting thus elicit the “impression that each painted picture [is] in fact a window through which we glimpse a fragment of reality”.3 Vilhelm Hammershøi’s interior Sleeping Room of 1890 depicts a bourgeois living room with two beds at the left and right edges of the picture, between which a female figure is standing at a window with her back turned toward the observer (fig. 1/ Plate 12). The window is partially concealed by two transparent curtains draped to each side, the luminosity of which contrasts distinctly with the black dress worn by the female figure. Through the window, a diffuse view opens out onto a landscape scene defined by a group of slender, lightly curved tree trunks. Their forms, delicately intimated, threaten to dissolve in the pervasive gray tones of the exterior, which also influences the interior of the living room. This results in a flattening of the depicted landscape, thus rendering the distance to the female figure at the window indiscernible. The monochrome dissolution of material forms is taken to an extreme in a smallformat picture mounted on the rear wall of the interior. Thanks to its rectangular frame, the picture within the picture assumes a formal analogy to the white windows. It reveals no further motif, but stresses the monochrome surface. At the same time, the picture within the picture reflects, in an antipodal manner, the relationship of the female figure to the window. Whereas at the window a white frame surrounds a black figure, the relationship is reversed when viewing the picture within the picture, in that a black frame encloses a light surface. Thus, in Hammershøi’s Sleeping Room

1 J. A. Schmoll (gen. Eisenwerth), Fensterbilder. Motivketten in der europäischen Malerei, in: Ludwig Grote (ed.), Beiträge zur Motivkunde des 19. Jahrhunderts, from the series: Studien zur Kunst des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, Ansbach: Prestel, 1970, vol. 6., pp. 13–165. In German: “Öffnung, durch die der behauste Mensch in Kommunikation mit der Außenwelt tritt.” 2 See Leon Battista Alberti, Cecil Grayson (ed.), On Painting and on Sculpture. The Latin Texts of De Pictura and De Statua, London: Phaidon, 1972, p. 55, § 19. 3 Schmoll 1970 (as in note 1), p. 23. In German: “Eindruck, daß jedes gemalte Bild eigentlich ein Fenster [ist], durch welches wir ein Stück Wirklichkeit sehen.”


 Anne Hemkendreis

Fig. 1: Vilhelm Hammershøi, Sleeping Room, 1890, oil on panel, 73 × 58 cm, Private collection.

of 1890, painted windows and picture frames stand in a clearly formal relationship to one another. What strikes one here is that the tension between the two framed pictorial objects signals a progressive opacity of the window motif. This effect is heightened by the semi-transparent curtains, which conceal parts of the already diffuse view. Here one observes the viewer’s gaze oscillating between a representational and an object-free reading of the depicted subject, which is decisive for viewing paintings. The question now is: what kind of experience of reality does Hammershøi’s picture Sleeping Room facilitate? 

 Inner and Outer Realms: Opaque Windows in Vilhelm Hammershøi’s Interior Paintings 


1 Isolation and Interiority This question may be clarified by way of comparative reference to a window drawing from the Romantic era. Felix Krämer points to the proximity of Hammershøi’s interior painting Sleeping Room and Caspar David Friedrich’s 1822 depiction of a Woman at a Window (fig. 2).4 Here, Krämer emphasizes that it cannot be determined whether Hammershøi had viewed Friedrich’s painting in the original.5 Following Poul Vad and Nils Ohlsen, however, Krämer introduces the hypothesis of the indirect influence that Friedrich’s interior painting exerted on Hammershøi. In this connection, Krämer draws on Norwegian art historian Andreas Aubert as a mediator.6 During his research on the painter Johan Christian Dahl, Aubert may well have come into contact with Friedrich’s painting and subsequently described it to Hammershøi in visual terms. Furthermore, Aubert had praised Hammershøi’s aptitude for using descriptions of other works to inspire his own compositions.7 The likeness of both interior paintings is, indeed, conspicuous in that Hammershøi’s as well as Friedrich’s paintings depict the back of a female figure standing before a transom window. In both interiors, the window opens up the view to a landscape exterior that is only visible as a detail. Yet, the pictures clearly differ from one another on two levels: firstly, with reference to the inward-looking disposition of the female figure to the exterior, and secondly, with reference to the viewer’s relationship to the respective picture. Thus, what strikes one when looking at Friedrich’s painting is the brightness of the exterior, which stands in stark contrast to the twilight conditions of the interior and serves to draw the viewer’s gaze toward it. Furthermore, the upper body of the female figure in a forward-leaning posture suggests that she is supporting herself on the windowsill in an endeavor to edge her way closer to the the exterior. The position of her feet underscores this impression, suggestive of a forward-stepping motion. The female figure is thus emotionally drawn to the exterior, much as the viewer’s gaze is attracted by the open window. In spite of the aligned floorboards veering slightly to the right, the viewer perceives himself as relatively centered, behind the female figure, an alignment that conveys the impression that he is able to reenact her gaze. Thereby, both axial perspectives—that of the female figure and that of the viewer—

4 See Felix Krämer, Das unheimliche Heim. Zur Interieurmalerei um 1900, Cologne: Böhlau, 2007, pp. 161–162. 5 See ibid., p. 161. 6 See ibid. This claim is already evident in Nils Ohlsen. See Nils Ohlsen, Skandinavische Interieurmalerei zur Zeit Carl Larssons. Studie zur Darstellung des gemalten Innenraums in der Malerei Dänemarks, Finnlands, Norwegens und Schwedens zwischen 1880 und 1910 (thesis), Berlin: Reimer, 1997, p. 84. However, Poul Vad was the first to consider this explanation. See Poul Vad, Vilhelm Hammershøi and Danish Art at the Turn of the Century, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992, p. 414, note 61. 7 See Krämer 2007 (as in note 4), p. 161.


 Anne Hemkendreis

Fig. 2: Caspar David Friedrich, Woman at a Window, 1822, oil on panel, 44 × 37 cm, National Gallery, Berlin.

fold into one another. In so doing—as J. L. Körner puts it—Friedrich’s paintings with female figures seen from behind emphasize “the encounter of subject with world”.8 Hammershøi’s interior painting Sleeping Room of 1890 behaves differently. While also depicting the back of a female figure at the window, she appears unconnected and detached from the landscape exterior. Hence, the figure’s neck is lowered,

8 Joseph Leo Körner, Caspar David Friedrich and the Subject of Landscape, London: Reaction Books Ltd., 1990, p. 163.

 Inner and Outer Realms: Opaque Windows in Vilhelm Hammershøi’s Interior Paintings 


evoking the impression that she is absorbed by her innermost being and oblivious to the outside world that unfurls below the window. Moreover, the posture of the female figure is not in a forward-leaning position, but upright, inscribed into the vertical and horizontal structures of the inner framing. Due to the artist’s diffuse application of color, the feet of the female figure also remain invisible, blurred in harmonious cool gray shadings decisive for the pictorial space. This leads to the suggestion that the figure (much like the trees in the exterior) is firmly rooted in the interior while her sensuous appearance is in danger of increasing dissolution. Moreover, like the female figure, Hammershøi’s painted window fails to establish a system of reference between the inner and the outer world. While, in contrast to Friedrich’s paintings, the window is closed, the interior and exterior in Hammershøis’s Sleeping Room remain interwoven by virtue of their common gray tones and sensuous rendering. The window, therefore, no longer serves to establish an internal communication between two rooms, but rather interior and exterior appear as phenomena of one and the same surface, namely, that of the main picture. This assumption is emphasized by the viewer’s relationship to the painting. The absent representation of aligned floorboards counteracts the imaginary accessibility of the depicted room. In addition, the viewer does not experience himself as centrally positioned behind the female figure, but rather appears to be standing at an oblique angle to her left. The viewer ceases to share the gaze of the female figure; both visual axes are categorically distinct from one another. Accordingly, the viewer is asked to locate himself in front of the picture, since this offers no alternative standpoint. In other words, whereas Friedrich’s picture invites the viewer to participate in the experience of longing, in Hammershøi’s painting the viewer remains excluded.

2 Subjectivity and Experience of the World In his essay “Sehsucht. Die Engführung” [Visual Longing. Constriction], Wolfgang Kemp addresses the question of a subjective nature of perception as it becomes apparent in painted windows around 1900.9 Kemp uses the example of Friedrich’s interior painting Woman at a Window, which may be read as a shift from a “rational system of representation” to an individual manner of observation.10 In this context Kemp does

9 See Wolfgang Kemp, Sehsucht. Die Engführung, in: Uta Brandes (ed.), Sehsucht. Über die Ver­ änderung der visuellen Wahrnehmung, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland GmbH. Forum. Vol. 4, Göttingen: Steidl, 1995, pp. 53–66. 10 Ibid., p. 60. In German: “rationalen Darstellungssystem zum wahrnehmenden Individuum in seinen existenziellen und kategorialen Bedingtheiten”.


 Anne Hemkendreis

not dispute that the general theme of Friedrich’s interior is the visual perception in the context of a window gaze. However, according to the author it is not a general view from a window, but far more the figure's individual experience, which is marked as subjective and reclusive.11 Here, the isolation of the figure with back turned toward the viewer articulates the “painter’s program”, which places the “interior above the exterior”.12 According to Kemp, the concept of a subjective worldview is the result of numerous experiments carried out in the field of optics at the beginning of the nineteenth century, which led to the insight of a “structural impediment in human sensory faculties”.13 The consequence of this is “the [viewer’s] turn inward” and an awareness of a fundamental plurality of perception.14 At a first glance, due to the sectional character of the landscape exterior, Hammershøi’s interior painting Sleeping Room also appears to portray the denial of a mediated access to the world through painting. However, in contrast to Friedrich’s painting, Hammershøi’s female figure (owing to her rigid posture) does not seem to turn inward, and thus absolutely resists becoming a figure of identification and projection.15 Consequently, in Hammershøi’s interior of 1890, the representation of a visualized and emotionally defined view of the world remains absent. From this observation the question arises: does the picture represent a specific form of world view, which may not be that of a painted figure but that of the painter? Recourse to Wolfgang Kemp’s scholarship has proven helpful in the attempt to answer this question. The author considers two paintings by Friedrich where the windows become the protagonists. In his studio in Dresden, Friedrich painted two

11 See ibid. 12 Ibid. In German: “Programm des Malers” / “innere über das äußere Sehen zu setzen”. 13 Ibid., pp. 56–57. In German: “strukturellen Behinderungen des menschlichen Sinnesvermögens”. Kemp pursues detailed research on the natural scientific experimentation in the field of optics and the theory of color. The knowledge of an overlapping of different visual impressions, which originate in a delayed processing of visual stimuli resulted from this. 14 Ibid., p. 57. In German: “Weg [des Betrachters] ins Innere”. 15 See Regine Prange, Sinnoffenheit und Sinnverneinung als metapicturale Prinzipien. Zur Historizität bildlicher Selbstreferenz am Beispiel der Rückenfigur, in: Verena Krieger, Rachel Mader (eds.), Ambiguität in der Kunst. Typen und Funktionen eines ästhetischen Paradigmas, Series: Kunst – Geschichte – Gegenwart, vol. 1, Cologne: Böhlau, 2010, pp. 125–167. According to Prange, the figure with back turned appears in “sophisticated” (welthaltig) pictures, whereby those pictures which suggest a continuity between image and viewer space are meant (p. 125). In this context Prange draws attention toward the fact that figures with back turned involve the viewer into the picture, but nevertheless also mark a visual withdrawal in that they at the same time conceal something (p. 133). In this connection, the figure with back turned serves as a “form of articulation of aesthetic limits” (p. 134), though it must be noted that this concerns a function that is also attributed to the motif of the window.

 Inner and Outer Realms: Opaque Windows in Vilhelm Hammershøi’s Interior Paintings 


window scenes in sepia from different angles (fig. 3; fig. 4).16 Unlike the interior painting of 1822, Friedrich’s drawings do not indicate a female figure’s longing, but rather seem to concern the portrait of figureless rooms in which two open windows speak directly to the viewer. Yet, the fragmented mirror in Friedrich’s drawing of the window to the right reproduces the artist’s isolated eye. Hence, although the drawing does not show a figure at the window, it is nevertheless a concealed window gaze. According to Kemp, Friedrich’s window pictures are evidence of the painter’s former visual impression.17 In the twofold and differing reproduction of the studio, the mobility of the artist’s gaze visualizes itself and its potential of an alternating perspectivation of the world.18 Both interiors seem to be captured from a fixed standpoint, and yet are based on a changed line of vision.19 Consequently, Friedrich’s window sepia shows the “acknowledgement of a plurality of experiential realities.”20 A similar line of argument is adopted by Oliver Kase who, in his essay entitled “Offene und geschlossene Fenster: Mimesis Korrekturen im Atelierbild 1806–1836” [Open and Closed Windows: Mimesis Corrections in the Artist’s Studio 1806–1836], discusses Kemp’s exposition on Friedrich’s pen drawings with sepia.21 The point of departure in Kase’s argument pivots on the thesis of a crisis in mimesis in early nineteenth-century painting.22 Much like Kemp, Kase stresses that Friedrich’s concern was not to mimetically reproduce reality in his window studies. His interest rather lay in the representation of the artist’s perception. According to Kase, it is crucial that Friedrich depicts himself in the act of observing instead of painting.23 Thus, the reflection of the artist’s gaze from two different viewpoints indicates that the sepia drawings are not a result of physical construction, but the capturing of visual impression.24

16 See Kemp 1995 (as in note 9), p. 62 seq. 17 See ibid., p. 63. 18 See ibid. In German: “Anerkennung einer Pluralität von Erfahrungswirklichkeiten”. 19 See ibid. Werner Busch likewise characterizes Friedrich’s sepia studies as programmatic pictures in which the artist was himself present. See Werner Busch, Caspar David Friedrich. Ästhetik und Religion, Munich: Beck, 2003, pp. 28–30. As an example of this Busch refers to the reflected eye of the painter, as well as the letter on the windowsill addressed to Friedrich. In contrast to Kemp, Busch maintains a physical realignment of the painter in relation to the first as opposed to the second window gaze, which he makes evident in the visual axis. Generally speaking, Busch arrives at a similar conclusion to Kemp, in that he defines the programmatic aspect of Friedrich’s sepia drawings as the emphasis of a subjective perception (p. 30). 20 Kemp 1995 (as in note 9), pp. 63–64. 21 See Oliver Kase, Offene und geschlossene Fenster. Mimesis Korrekturen im Atelierbild 1806–1836, in: Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 69, vol. 2 (2006), pp. 217–250. 22 See ibid., p. 217. 23 See ibid., pp. 217–223. 24 See ibid., p. 223 seq.


 Anne Hemkendreis

Fig. 3: Caspar David Friedrich, View from the Artist’s Studio in Dresden (Left Window), 1805–1806, sepia on paper, 31.4 × 23.5 cm, Belvedere, Vienna.

Following Kase, the object of Friedrich’s drawings is therefore the “personal view of the painter expressed from a provocatively selected viewpoint and, [in so doing…], he thematizes the framing of his own gaze”.25

25 Ibid., p. 224. In German: “[...] persönliche Blick des Malers, der sich im provokativ gewählten Standpunkt äußert und [dabei…] die Rahmung des eigenen Blicks thematisiert”.

 Inner and Outer Realms: Opaque Windows in Vilhelm Hammershøi’s Interior Paintings 


Fig. 4: Caspar David Friedrich, View from the Artist’s Studio in Dresden (Right Window), 1805–1806, sepia on paper, 31.4 x 23.5 cm, Belvedere, Vienna.

In this sense, Kase also characterizes Friedrich’s window studies as “subjective […] cut[s]”.26 This has consequences for the assumed mutual perception of artist and viewer.27 Friedrich’s sepia studies depict an inner worldview, not of any kind, but specifically that of the painter, in which the viewer can participate.28

26 Ibid. In German: “subjektive […] Zuschnitt[e]”. 27 See ibid. 28 See ibid.


 Anne Hemkendreis

Fig. 5: Vilhelm Hammershøi, Sunshine. Dust Motes Dancing in the Sunbeams, 1900, oil on panel, 70 x 59 cm, Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen.

With regard to the central question of a reality-mediating function of Hammershøi’s pictures, it is worth taking a look at two interior paintings that indicate a certain proximity to Friedrich’s drawings. Several depictions of single windows in a figureless interior are to be found in the Danish painter’s œuvre. The most well known among them is probably the interior Sunbeams or Sunshine. Dust Motes Dancing in the Sunbeams of 1900 (fig. 5). It shows an entirely empty interior on the reverse side of which a white transom window and a closed door are inserted. The architectonic spatial disposition counts among the artist’s most favored motifs and is also to be found in the interior Study of Sunlight. Strandgade 30 of 1906 (fig. 6). In both paintings, which were not explicitly conceived as pendants, the view

 Inner and Outer Realms: Opaque Windows in Vilhelm Hammershøi’s Interior Paintings 


Fig. 6: Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interior. Sunlight, Strandgade 30, 1906, oil on panel, 54.5 × 46.5 cm, Davids Collection, Copenhagen.

er’s gaze falls frontally on two white windows where sunlight filters through milky panes. While in the painting of 1900 the light penetrates in luminous blue rays into the depicted room, a diffuse shimmering unfolds in the painting of 1906, where the interior and exterior sources remain undefined. In addition, both pictures exhibit a play of light and shadow, which impresses itself on each of the rooms’ floors. In these, the grid-like structure of the transom window is reversed in its own negative, such that the white windows are transformed in dark stanchions, while the opaque windows evolve into quadratic surfaces. Whereas in the picture of 1900 the presence of an urban exterior is hinted at, the painted window in the interior of 1906 is characterized by an almost total opacity. Consequently, once again, the window motif in both 


 Anne Hemkendreis

pictures does not serve to establish a relationship between inner and outer world. The incoming light and the visual exclusion of the outer realm, typical for Hammershøi’s window pictures, rather point to greater concentration on inner space. The way to the inner had already been noted as characteristic of Friedrich’s window pictures. The question that thus presents itself is whether Hammershøi’s interiors of 1900 and 1906 also depict the subjective and changeable nature of perception. Or, differently put: Do his window pictures show a prescribed worldview in which the viewer participates? What initially strikes one is that in contrast to Friedrich’s sepia studies, Hammershøi’s window pictures are completely empty. Thus, they fail to hint at any kind of artistic production. The fact that both pictures are not arranged as pendants and display a similar viewpoint furthermore suggests that Hammershøi was not concerned with the presentation of his own perception. The increasing opacity of the windows rather denies a visual access to an inner view of the world. This thesis is underlined by an analysis of research carried out by Claudia Becker. In her publication “Zimmer-Kopf-Welten” [Room-Head-World], Becker examines the motif of the interior in prose literature around 1900.29 For “Zimmer-Bilder” [Room Pictures], the author points to an aesthetic transformation that had occurred between the early and late nineteenth century. Whereas, in the Romantic era, the interior appeared as a symbolic poetization of life with the ideal of “an inner world directed towards the external world which promised security” at its center, the post-Romantic interior is characterized by the “retreat to an insecured subjectivity”.30 Precisely, ‘Zimmer-Bilder’ around 1900 are indications of a “dissolving self-awareness”as well as a “loss of world consciousness”.31 In Hammershøi’s interior paintings, this development seems to hit its peak.

3 Opaque Windows This assumption may be elucidated by a depicted dialogue between painted windows and a play of light and shadow as it unfolds in Hammershøi’s empty interiors of 1900 and 1906. Both, the white windows and the projections of light emanating from them fail to establish a clear relationship between interior and exterior. Instead, their opposition shows the progressive dissolution of the window, which dissolves into the

29 See Claudia Becker, Zimmer – Kopf – Welten. Motivgeschichte des Intérieurs im 19. und 20. Jahr­ hunderts, Munich: Fink, 1990. 30 Ibid., p. 81. In German: “[...] einer gegen das Außen gerichteten inneren Welt, die Sicherheit verspr[eche]” / “Rückzug auf eine ungesicherte Subjektivität”. 31 Ibid., p. 15 and 20. In German: “zerfallen[es] Ich-Bewußtsein” / “Verlust des Welt-Bewußtseins”.

 Inner and Outer Realms: Opaque Windows in Vilhelm Hammershøi’s Interior Paintings 


bodiless figure of the grid. The blinding of the window and its transformation into a grid was the subject of the exhibition initiated in 2012 entitled Fresh Widow. Fens­ terbilder seit Matisse und Duchamp [Fresh Widow. The Window in Art since Matisse and Duchamp], held at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein Westfalen in Düsseldorf. Hammershøi’s window paintings did not form part of the exhibition, though his interior of 1890 is mentioned in the accompanying catalogue.32 Following Maria Müller-Schareck (the exhibition’s chief curator), interior paintings that include opaque windows that deny a view to the outside world may be evaluated as a new pictorial type in modern painting. In the author’s own words: The depiction of the ‘room with a view’ remained current in the early years of the twentieth century, but was joined at the same time by a type of painting in which a window isolated from its architectural surroundings was made a painting’s central or even only motif. The opening into a pictorial space is revealed to be an illusion when the surface of the layer of paint thwarts the gaze.33

Hence, according to Müller-Schareck, in twentieth- and twenty-first-century art, the representation of the window advances to a central motif, by way of which the suggested transparency of the pictorial surface is unmasked as mere appearance. The ‘deceleration’ of the viewer’s gaze to which the author refers results from the denial of the view through the depicted window, in the place of which an increasing opacity begins to appear. An emerging awareness of the viewer’s own perception ensues, whereby the respective picture no longer appears as a “depiction”, but far more as a “symbol” of reality.34 In her essay “Fenster(-Macher) oder Konstruktionen von Sichtbarkeit” [The Window (Maker) or Constructions of Visibility] Elke Bippus similarly emphasizes a game of visibility, which is introduced through the opacity of modern depictions of the window.35 Here, the viewer’s gaze continuously shifts between a view through the milky windowpanes and a view onto these.36 Thus, the observing subject becomes conscious of the act of perception as a sensuous process.37 Building on Bippus’s line of argument, one may claim that opaque window motifs do not reveal themselves as

32 See Maria Müller-Schareck, Fresh Widow. The Idea of the Window as a “Point of Departure”, in: Fresh Widow. The Window in Art since Matisse and Duchamp, exhibition catalogue, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf (Ostfildern, 2012), pp. 19–33, p. 28. 33 Ibid., p. 22. 34 See ibid., p. 26. 35 See Elke Bippus, The Window (Maker) or Constructions of Visibility, in: Fresh Widow. The Window in Art since Matisse and Duchamp (as in note 32), pp. 47–55. 36 See ibid., p. 50. 37 See ibid., p. 51. With a view of the opaque representations of windows in the twenty-first century, Bippus is specifically referring to “evidence of material surfaces”.


 Anne Hemkendreis

the predefined result of a foreign visual impression, but as a mutable product of one’s own perception. Due to the increasing opacity of the white windows, Hammershøi’s interior pictures may also be allocated to this new picture type, since the viewer’s gaze shifts from an insight into the painted rooms to a consciousness of the pictures’ material surfaces. In Hammershøi’s Sleeping Room, the painting within the painting would also speak in favor of this. In the immediate vicinity of the window and its analogy to the main picture, it emphasizes a progressing opacity at the end of which stands the complete impenetrability of the window motif. Thus, the fluctuation between the visibility of the motif and that of the picture as visual medium is accompanied by a shift between a representational and non-representational perception of that which is depicted.38 Due to this dual tension Hammershøi’s window pictures no longer depict reality, but rather open it up to the viewer’s subjective experience insofar as the blurred forms and sensuous tones appeal to the viewer’s inner condition. The denial of a possible representation of reality in the context of individual perception finds visual expression in the figure of the grid. In terms of structure, this already underlies Hammershøi’s motif of the white transom window. However, the dialogically arranged interplay of light and shadow as it can be observed in the interior of 1906 brings the figure of the grid without any connection to a represented body into the picture. According to Müller-Schareck, the figure of the grid is distinct from the painted window insofar as, from the outset, the expectation of a spatially deep extension evoked by the latter switches in a gaze to the surface formation. In the form of the grid the window loses its frame.39 Following Rosalind Krauss, the grid (or the grating) ultimately replaced the traditional window motif.40 Whereas the opaque window is a symbol of the individual nature of perception, the grid stands for the general impossibility of depicting reality. Scholarship has not overlooked the proximity of Hammershøi’s painted interplay of light and shadow to the figure of the grid.41 The author attests to Hammershøi’s

38 See as an example: Sylwie Chomentowska, Das Bild als Paradox. Warum Munch verdoppelt, Matisse auf der Schwelle steht und Richter farbig spiegelt, in: Markus Rautzenberg, Andreas Wofsteiner (eds.), Hide and Seek. Das Spiel von Transparenz und Opazität, Munich: Fink, 2012, pp. 49–64, p. 55. In this context, the author is also referring to a modern transparency and a modern opacity, whereby she refers to the enhanced visibility of the medium of the picture that accompanies the increasing opacity of the window motif (p. 48–49). 39 See Müller-Schareck 2012 (as in note 32), pp. 26–28. 40 See Rosalind Krauss, The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985, pp. 9–22. 41 See Gertrud Oelsner, Photographic Strategies, perceptual reflections and introvert tendencies in painting around 1900, in: Sven Bjerkhof (ed.), Journal / Statens Museum for Kunst, vol. 6, Copenhagen, 2002, pp. 24–43.

Inner and Outer Realms: Opaque Windows in Vilhelm Hammershøi’s Interior Paintings 


interior picture of 1900 as having an “opaque, physical presence”, which becomes visible when contemplating the monochrome windowpanes.42 Gertrud Oelsner even compares the grid-like structure that underlies both the window as well as the light projection with a filter. This inserts itself between the eye of the beholder thereby thematizing the process of picture creation.43 The figure of the grid as found in the play of light and shadow in the interior of 1900 and 1906 can thus be considered as an indication of a complex process of mediation that not only concerns a subjective perception, but also the process of painting. In contrast to Friedrich’s Romantic interiors, where the possibility of depicting a subjective worldview (namely, that of the painter) is unproblematic, when contemplating Hammershøi’s window pictures this fundamentally becomes subject to doubt. The problem of the experience of reality and the creation of its likeness is further emphasized insofar as in both of Hammershøi’s figureless interiors the relationship between the white window frames and the light projections are differently portrayed. Whereas in the interior of 1900, transparent sunrays connect the motif of the window to the shadow it casts, this is entirely absent in the interior of 1906. Consequently, when viewing both works, a fundamental doubt about the uninterrupted participation of the viewer becomes apparent with respect to the painter’s former perceptual situation. This assumption is supported by the fact that the transformation of the window in a grid-like play of light and shadow leads to a loss of the original frame. Furthermore, the play of light involves an ephemeral phenomenon in which a transient character is already inscribed. The concept of perception underlying Hammershøi’s window pictures thus reveals itself as open and subjective. To conclude, since white windows initially lose their transparent curtains and even their bodily appearance, one may thus speak of a stripping of Hammershøi’s painted windows. What remains is the ‘skeleton’ of an everyday object which, in turn, persists as a memorial for a fundamental experience of loss.

42 Ibid., p. 29. 43 Ibid., p. 31.

Brigid Doherty

Rilke’s Magic Lantern: Figural Language and the Projection of “Interior Action” in the Rodin Lecture* In mid-October 1905, while employed as private secretary to Auguste Rodin at the sculptor’s home and studio in the Paris suburb of Meudon, Rainer Maria Rilke composed a lecture about Rodin’s art that he went on to deliver publicly some nine times, beginning with a presentation in Dresden on October 23 of that year.1 The lecture,

* Versions of this essay were delivered as lectures at Binghamton University (March 2011) and Cooper Union (April 2011), and as contributions to the following events: “Freud and the 20th Century,” organized by Rubén Gallo at Princeton University (December 2010); “Forensic Aesthetics,” organized by Anselm Franke, Thomas Keenan, and Eyal Weizman at the New School (November 2011); “Objecthood. Modernist and Contemporary Perspectives / Dinglichkeit. Moderne und zeitgenössische Perspektiven,” convened by Regine Prange and Ralph Ubl at CIHA 2012; “Subjectivities,” organized by Barbara Will at Dartmouth College (September 2012); and the Lovis Corinth Colloquium on German Modernism, organized by Todd Cronan at Emory University (March 2013). An earlier version of this essay is forthcoming in Lilian Haberer, Annette Urban (eds.), Bildprojektionen. Filmisch-fotografische Dispositive in Kunst und Architektur, 2015; a shorter version was published in G. Ulrich Großmann, Petra Kruitsch (eds.), The Challenge of the Object / Die Herausforderung des Objekts. Congress Proceedings of the CIHA 2012, 2013. Erica DiBenedetto and Mareike Stoll provided invaluable research assistance on this project, and Stanley Corngold offered sage advice at a crucial moment. They have my thanks. 1 See Rainer Maria Rilke, Rodin. Ursprüngliche Fassung des Vortrags, in: Horst Nalewski (ed.), Rilke, Rainer Maria Rilke. Kommentierte Ausgabe in vier Bänden, Schriften, vol. 4, Frankfurt am Main: Insel, 1996, pp. 495–511, with commentary pp. 928–940, 957–958; Rilke, Letter to Clara Rilke-Westhoff, June 28, 1907, in: Ruth Sieber-Rilke, Carl Sieber (eds.), Briefe aus den Jahren 1906 bis 1907, Leipzig: Insel, 1930, pp. 290–291; Ingeborg Schnack, Renate Scharffenberg (eds.), Rainer Maria Rilke. Chronik seines Lebens und seines Werkes, 1875–1926, Frankfurt am Main: Insel, 2009, pp. 223–242, 285–291; Ingeborg Schnack, Zu Rilkes Vortrag “Vom Werke Rodins”. Rilke und Kessler, in: Über Rainer Maria Rilke. Aufsätze, Frankfurt am Main: Insel, 1996, pp. 125–139; Rätus Luck (ed.), Rainer Maria Rilke und August Rodin. Der Briefwechsel und andere Dokumente zu Rilkes Begegnung mit Rodin, Frankfurt am Main: Insel, 2001, pp. 113–170, 201–217; Rätus Luck, Rilkes Rodin-Vortrag in Dresden, in: Blätter der Rilke-Gesellschaft 29 (2008), pp. 51–65; Ralph Freedman, Life of a Poet. Rainer Maria Rilke, Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1998, pp. 230–242, 277–280; Werner Kohlschmidt, Die Berner Handschrift von Rilkes Rodin-Vortrag, in: Dichter, Tradition und Zeitgeist. Gesammelte Schriften zur Literaturgeschichte, Bern / Munich: Francke, 1965, pp. 160–175; Torsten Hoffmann, Rilke als Redner. Publikumskommunikation und Kunstvermittlung in den Vorträgen “Moderne Lyrik” (1898) und “Vom Werke Auguste Rodins” (1905/1907), in: Zeitschrift für Germanistik 20.3 (2010), pp. 543–562. A revised and expanded version of the lecture was published as part two of the third edition of Rilke, Auguste Rodin, Berlin: Marquardt, 1907, pp. 75–116; a preface in that edition explains that the second part of the monograph seeks to retain aspects of the spoken form of the lecture on which it is based (see pp. 73– 74). My thanks to Dr. Franziska Kolp of the Schweizerisches Rilke-Archiv, Bern, for making accessible


 Brigid Doherty

according to Rilke, lasted a little over an hour and was not accompanied by slides.2 “The evening in Dresden,” he reported in a letter to his wife, the sculptor Clara RilkeWesthoff, to whom he had dedicated his 1903 monograph on Rodin and who that autumn was sharing a small house with Rilke on the grounds of Rodin’s property in Meudon, “was not as animated as I had hoped it would be. There was contact, but what kind of contact can be made with old maids and weary employees? […] Nevertheless, from the first words an altogether ready silence established itself, and attention held sway in the very large hall, which was filled with some 650 people, who I sensed from time to time were fully obedient, in thrall to my presentation [tout à fait obéissants (sic) et dans mon geste].”3 A rather more disappointing event attended by a much smaller group took place two days later in Rilke’s hometown of Prague, and

to me a copy of the manuscript of Rilke’s Rodin lecture (Rilke Ms_D_20/Ms_D_21. Rede über A. Rodin, Schweizerisches Rilke-Archiv, Schweizerisches Literaturarchiv, Schweizerische Nationalbibliothek, Bern). Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own. 2 Rilke, Letter to Valdemar Vedel, January 13, 1906, in: Luck 2001 (as in note 1), p. 152. 3 Rilke, Letter to Clara Rilke-Westhoff, October 25, 1905, in: Ruth Sieber-Rilke, Carl Sieber (eds.), Briefe aus den Jahren 1902 bis 1906, Leipzig: Insel, 1929, pp. 266–67. The letter was written in French and indicated that Rilke’s remarks about the Dresden appearance were meant to be shared with Rodin (“quelques mots seulement au hasard du moment pour vous et pour notre Maître”). The letter also appears, in German translation, in: Luck 2001 (as in note 1), pp. 116–117. Rilke described himself at the time as writing “a French for which there is bound to be a purgatory somewhere”. See Rilke, Letter to Lou Andreas-Salomé, November 14, 1905, in: Edward Snow, Michael Winkler (eds. and trans.), Rilke and Andreas-Salomé. A Love Story in Letters, New York, NY: Norton, 2008, p. 153; see the original German in: Sieber-Rilke, Sieber 1929, p. 271. Rilke’s unidiomatic phrase dans mon geste may represent a confusion between, or a conflation of, geste/Geste as gesture, in both French and German, and Geste as story or narration, in German. My translation attempts to capture something of what I take to be the allusive complexity of the poet’s unusual formulation. My thanks to Fabien Capeillères for a helpful exchange regarding Rilke’s geste. Gesture, of course, is a key concept in Rilke’s writings on Rodin, where he regularly uses the term Gebärde and only very rarely Geste. As noted below, gesture figures in a crucial moment of the 1905 manuscript of the Rodin lecture. A newspaper article about the Rodin lecture in Elberfeld on February 26, 1906 noted that Rilke “[…] had a peculiar form of presentation that one must recognize as masterful after its own fashion. The listeners, whom the lecture hall barely contained, were from time to time completely enthralled [ganz in Bann geschlagen].” See Friedrich Kerst, Rilke über Rodin, in: Täglicher Anzeiger für Berg und Mark, March 2, 1906, reprinted in: Hans-Henrik Krummacher, Paul Zech und Rainer Maria Rilke, in: Krummacher, et. al. (eds.), Zeit der Moderne. Zur deutschen Literatur von der Jahrhundertwende bis zur Gegenwart, Stuttgart: Kröner, 1984, pp. 511–512, p. 512. Regarding the presentation in Dresden on October 23, 1905, a review declared that Rilke “did not deliver a lecture, he delivered a lyric poem”. The lecture drew its listeners “into a deep, lyrical absoption [Versunkenheit] . . . one felt how the lecture sought to imitate formally the sounding of a musical instrument, how Rilke reveled in the suggestive effects [suggestive Wirkungen] of a musical lecture”. See Dresdner Anzeiger, October 25, 1905, quoted in: Luck 2008 (as in note 1), p. 62. More remains to be said about the Rodin lecture as having taken the form of a “lyric poem” that induced a “deep, lyrical absorption” in its listeners by means of the “suggestive effects” of its musicality, a quality that would have stood out in marked contrast to the visuality of contemporary art history lectures. In this connection, see also note 34, on Rilke’s notion of the “melody of things”.

Rilke’s Magic Lantern 


lectures in Elberfeld, Berlin, and Hamburg followed in early 1906. A third tour that brought Rilke to Vienna in November 1907 featured a version of the Rodin lecture that he counted, finally, as a huge success. “I have never had a more sympathetic experience than that of my last lecture on 13 November,” wrote Rilke in a letter to Rodin a few days later. “A well-selected audience, not too numerous, accompanied me with perfect attention. The hall remained illuminated: so I could observe the personal impressions of those present; there were faces on which I joyfully perceived animation, awakening, interior action.”4 It would require more space than I have at my disposal here to pursue a reading of Rilke’s Rodin lecture as a whole. In what follows, I offer an account of the emergence of what I take to be a crucial figure within the lecture, the image of the magic lantern that Rilke invokes to represent the audience’s response to his refiguration of Rodin’s sculptures in words—a projection of the “animation, awakening, [and] interior action” of Rilke’s listeners that makes visible an exemplary work by Rodin: “And—your eyes, like the lenses of a magic lantern, cast a gigantic Balzac past me onto the wall. The image of a creator in all his hubris,—erect in his inner movement as if in the vortex of a storm that draws the whole world into this teeming head.”5 Central to the Rodin lecture, I suggest, is the elaboration of a scene in which Rilke’s writing, presented as speech, would supplant both Rodin’s art and the technological media of diapositive photographic reproduction and projection. That elaboration culminates in an assertion of the figurative metamorphosis of his listeners’ eyes into the lenses of a magic lantern, an image of the transformation of the body into an apparatus for the projection of pictures.6

4 Rilke, Letter to Auguste Rodin, November 16, 1907 [in French], in: Ruth Sieber-Rilke, Carl Sieber (eds.), Briefe aus den Jahren 1907 bis 1914, Leipzig: Insel, 1933, pp. 24–25, p. 24. The letter also appears, in German translation, in: Luck 2001 (as in note 1), pp. 216–217. See also the postscript to Rilke, Letter to Sidonie Nádherny von Borutin, November 14, 1907, in: Luck 2001 (as in note 1), p. 216, where Rilke describes the evening of the Rodin lecture in Vienna as having “gone off very well, and with sympathetic contact”. Given that Rilke revised the Rodin lecture in June 1907, it seems likely that the text from which he spoke in Vienna in November of that year would have differed somewhat from the 1905 manuscript. However, I am not aware of the existence of a manuscript related to the November 1907 Rodin lecture in Vienna. 5 Rilke, Rodin. Ursprüngliche Fassung des Vortrags, in: Nalewski 1996 (as in note 1), p. 503. 6 What the Rodin lecture invokes in the image of the magic lantern is “a bodily reproduction of technical processes”, to borrow a term from Friedrich Kittler’s media-theoretical treatment of Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910) in: Discourse Networks, 1800/1900 (1985), trans. by Michael Metteer, Chris Cullens, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990, pp. 315–346, p. 329. Kittler’s analysis situates Rilke’s writing (and that of his novel’s eponymous narrator) within the “discourse network of 1900”, which “rescinds the freedom of the writing imagination” (p. 327). Kittler further describes Brigge’s writing as presented in Rilke’s fiction as “proceed[ing] exhaustively, like technological media” (pp. 327–328). My understanding of the Rodin lecture and of Rilke’s work in general is indebted to Kittler’s post-hermeneutic criticism. Nevertheless, the present essay can only be read as an instance of the persistence of interpretation in the face of (what I take to be) the persistence


 Brigid Doherty

In the wake of his engagement with Rodin’s work during the writing of the first part of the monograph, Rilke felt himself to be “suffering” the effects of the sculptor’s “huge example”. His own art, as he put it in a letter to Lou Andreas-Salomé of August 10, 1903, gave him “no means of following [Rodin] directly”. “The impossibility of creating physically,” he wrote, “turned to pain in my own body and even my fears (whose material content was the proximity of something too hard, too stonelike, too big) arose from the irreconcilability of the two worlds of art.” Rilke’s fears arose, or seemed to him to have arisen, from the irreconcilability of the Kunstwelt of poetry with that of sculpture, and those fears made themselves felt as the looming impingement of a massive, hard, stone-like thing—a thing with the materiality of a sculpture—upon a fragile body that itself seemed incapable of physical creation. And yet, he announced, “I must follow him, Rodin: not by a sculptural transformation of my creative work, but by an inner ordering of the artistic process; it is not shaping that I must learn from him, but a deep collectedness for shaping’s sake. […] I too must find some way to make things; not plastic, written things,— realities that emerge from handwork. Somehow I too must discover that smallest basic element, the cell of my art, the tangible immaterial medium of presentation for everything.”7

of imaginative metaphorization (and, beyond that, to engage Kittler’s terms, of the activity of the writer as a certain kind of literary author rather than a mere transcriber) in Rilke’s work. Here I concur with Eric Santner’s view of Rilke’s writing, which Santner understands to have been dedicated to “sounding out ever more precisely the ways in which, under the conditions of modernity, objects and people manifest [a] needfulness for poetic elaboration”. Santner notes that, in crucial respects, Rilke’s work of the so-called “middle period” (1902–1912) was “inspired by the poet’s growing appreciation for—and envy of—the craftsmanship, the artisanal mode of production, that he associated above all with painting and sculpture”. See Santner, The Poet’s Two Bodies. Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, in: The Royal Remains. The People’s Two Bodies and the Endgames of Sovereignty, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2011, pp. 188–244, p. 188. As its title’s allusion to Ernst Kantorowicz’s classic study, The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology [1957], indicates, Santner’s interpretation of Rilke’s works in “The Poet’s Two Bodies” concerns motifs and implications of the political theology of sovereignty with regard to what he calls “the dimension of the flesh” in Rilke’s novel. In that connection, Santner engages Kittler’s work productively, and criticizes Kittler for “missing” precisely the “dimension of the flesh” and the range of its significance in Rilke’s work (pp. 231–35, p. 234). There is no room in this short text to explore fully the relation of my claims to those of Kittler and Santner. But it bears mentioning here that, among other things, the present essay sees Rilke’s appreciation for, and envy of, Rodin’s art as having been comprehended by Rilke himself with regard to Rodin’s capacity to figure bodily and psychic experience in art, and thereby to exert suggestive influence; crucially, Rilke came to comprehend Rodin’s art in this way through his exchange of letters with Lou Andreas-Salomé, whose own suggestive influence might be said to have effected, by means of writing, the poet’s recognition of his own suggestibility and of the capacity of his writing to manifest, and potentially to transmit, effects of suggestion in specifically poetic form; more on this below. 7 Rilke, Letter to Lou Andreas-Salomé, August 10, 1903, in: Snow, Winkler 2008 (as in note 3), pp. 76– 77. Emphasis in original. Translation modified, based upon the German in: Ernst Pfeiffer (ed.), Rainer Maria Rilke and Lou Andreas-Salomé. Briefwechsel, Frankfurt am Main: Insel, 1975, pp. 103–104.

Rilke’s Magic Lantern 


For Rilke, following Rodin would involve not a bildhauerisches Umgestalten seines Schaffens (a transformation that would be perceivable as a deliberate attempt to imitate sculptural effects in his poems, whatever that might mean in technical and formal terms), but an innere Anordnung des künstlerischen Prozesses (a reconfiguration of the process of artistic production that, because internal to the artist, would determine the mode of composition of the poems as “written things” but would not itself be manifest in their form, whose basic element would be a “tangible immaterial medium of presentation for everything” [greifbare unstoffliche Darstellungsmittel für Alles]). The repudiation of the possibility of a “sculptural transformation” of his writing would establish in Rilke’s poetry a counterpart to what he recognized as Rodin’s indifference with regard to how his sculptures looked. Rodin, Rilke remarked in a letter to Andreas-Salomé, “attempted to make nothing with reference to ‘how it would look’ […] one could almost say that the way [Rodin’s] things look is a matter of indifference to him.”8 A poetic practice modeled on a sculptural practice within which how things look is a matter of indifference would have no need to seem “sculptural”, indeed would be at pains precisely not to do so. In this connection, it is worth noting that in the Rodin monograph, Rilke asserts that poetry (first Dante’s Inferno and then Baudelaire’s Fleurs du mal) revealed to Rodin something he through that revelation came to realize he had already known: that a figural expressivity inhered in the human body, and that the inherent figural expressivity of the body should serve as the foundation for his sculptural production. In Dante, “he found images that bore him out, and when he read of the weeping feet of Nicholas the Third, he found that he already knew there were weeping feet, that there was a weeping that was everywhere, throughout the entirety of a human being, and tears that sprang from every pore.”9 Rodin already knew of the existence of weeping feet, but he was in need of reading a poetic figure invoking that knowledge in order to envision its counterpart in sculpture. Indeed, Rilke further suggests, Rodin needed to read a more extreme and specifically lyrical figuration of the body’s inbuilt capacity

8 Rilke, Letter to Lou Andreas-Salomé, August 8, 1903, in: Snow, Winkler 2008 (as in note 3), p. 71; see the original German in: Pfeiffer 1975 (as in note 7), p. 95. 9 Rilke, Auguste Rodin (Erster Teil), in: Nalewski 1996 (as in note 1), pp. 403–449, p. 413. Dante, Inferno, Canto XIX, line 45, refers to Pope Nicholas III, condemned as a Simonist to spend eternity upside down in a hole, with flames licking at his feet, as quel che si piangeva con la zanca. In preparing the present text I have consulted translations of Rilke’s Rodin monograph by G. Craig Houston (The Rodin-Book, in: Rilke, Selected Works, vol. 1, Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1960, pp. 93–160) and Daniel Slager (Rilke, Auguste Rodin, New York, NY: Archipelago Books, 2004). Reflecting on his engagement with Dante’s Inferno in the Gates of Hell (1880–ca. 1890), Rodin described Dante as “a literary sculptor. He speaks in gestures as well as in words; is precise and comprehensive not only in sentiment and idea but in the movement of the body. I have always admired Dante, and have read him a great deal, but it is very difficult for me to express in words just what I think of him, or have done on the door”, Auguste Rodin, quoted in: Albert E. Elsen, In Rodin’s Studio. A Photographic Record of Sculpture in the Making, Oxford: Phaidon, 1980, p. 164.


 Brigid Doherty

for polymorphous expressivity as a model for poetry. And so from Dante he came to Baudelaire, in whom the sculptor found a “predecessor” in the search for “bodies, in which life was larger, more terrible and more restless” than it merely appeared to be in faces. Moreover Rodin discovered in Baudelaire’s poems “places that stood out from the text [heraustraten aus der Schrift], that seemed not written, but molded [geformt], words and groups of words that were melted in the hot hands of the poet, lines that felt like reliefs to the touch and sonnets that like involuted capitals bore the weight of a fearful thought. He sensed vaguely that this art, where it ended abruptly, abutted the beginning of another art, and that it had been longing for this other art.” Rodin’s art “retrieved a past” from the writings of Dante and Baudelaire, and in the period of his mature production “their figures [ihre Gestalten] rose within him, woeful and real, like memories from his own life, and entered his work as if into a homeland.”10 Thus within the memory of the sculptor whom Rilke intended in one way or another to follow dwelled the figures of poets, figures that, having found a home as if as revenants in Rodin’s art, might move on to occupy Rilke’s writing as well. To Lou Andreas-Salomé, Rilke’s writings following his encounter with Rodin made plain that he was “still stamped by the suggestion that [he] had taken in and reproduced and that became [his] own self: and with stupendous Rodin-eyes [mit unerhörten Rodin-Augen] [he] saw everything [he] saw, with a view toward the corporeal-psychic detail [körperhaft-psychisches Detail], with a concentrated receptivity for whatever spoke of bodily experience, even though in [his] tools, the tools of the poet, the bodily does not find an adequate means for its expression.”11 The poet, AndreasSalomé insisted, was no mere imitator [bloßer Nach-Erschaffer]. Hence his attempts to reckon with the aesthetic effects of Rodin’s art, his efforts to discharge the corporealpsychic overstimulation and the suggestion that came to shape him in the face of the master’s sculptures, “transported [him] into the uncanny dimensions of a foreign world, and drove a wedge between [his] mind and [his] senses.” In this period following his first extended engagement with Rodin’s art, Rilke’s work, so Andreas-Salomé, “stood on the borderline between what was [his] and what was someone else’s”. Moreover, she posited, “the sculptural urges, that is, those stamped by the corporeal,

10 Rilke, Auguste Rodin (Erster Teil), in: Nalewski 1996 (as in note 1), p. 413. 11 Lou Andreas-Salomé, Letter to Rainer Maria Rilke, August 7, 1903, in: Snow, Winkler 2008 (as in note 3), p. 66. Translation modified, based upon the German in: Pfeiffer 1975 (as in note 7), p. 88. Andreas-Salomé’s choice of words in describing the transformation of Rilke’s vision such that he saw everything he saw mit unerhörten Rodin-Augen is echoed, remotely, in the opening lines of Rilke’s “Archaïscher Torso Apollos” (1907), the first poem of Der neuen Gedichte anderer Teil, published in 1908 and dedicated À mon grand ami Auguste Rodin: “Wir kannten nicht sein unerhörtes Haupt, / darin die Augenäpfel reiften.”

Rilke’s Magic Lantern 


unable to find satisfaction through the poet’s means, had to turn their energy against [Rilke’s] own self, had, as it were, to exploit [his] own body like a vampire.”12 If, in Andreas-Salomé’s formulation, confronting the model of Rodin’s creative productivity initially proved incapacitating for the poet and seemed to situate his work in a space between his own authorship and that of another, the sculptor’s suggestive effects also activated in Rilke a receptive capacity for the recognition of details of precisely the sort of “corporeal-psychic” transformation she encouraged him now to acknowledge as his own. For Rilke, to see everything he saw mit unerhörten RodinAugen was to enter into a new kind of corporeal-psychic experience of the world, an experience of the determinative effect of another upon the internal ordering of his artistic process, indeed upon his procedures of perception, cognition, and representation in general. As he saw things, Rilke’s encounter with Rodin and his art reshaped both the poet’s fears (figured as the “proximity of something too hard, too stone-like, too big”) and his ambitions (to invent a mode of writing that would not aim to achieve quasi-sculptural appearances or effects, but would somehow otherwise provide an adequate means of expression for the bodily). It was Rilke’s aim “to make things; not plastic, written things”, written things in which corporeal-psychic details would take shape by means of a “tangible immaterial medium of presentation” in his poetry. The 1903 Rodin monograph, it bears remembering, offered Dante’s quel che si piangeva con la zanca (the one who weeps with the soles of his feet) as the occasion for Rodin’s own recognition of the force of corporeal-psychic details and their originary significance for poetry and sculpture alike. In his response to Andreas-Salomé’s analysis, Rilke drew a distinction between the process of “shaping” or composition [Bilden] and an internal state of “collectedness” or composure [Gesammeltsein] that would allow for the possibility of making “written things” as realities. With regard to the composition of his works Rilke did not see himself in need of a model in sculpture. Indeed already in the monograph as published in 1903 he had presented poetic language as a crucial source for the development of Rodin’s own mature work, an artistic practice in which Rilke recognized, moreover, the sculptor’s lack of interest in how his artworks looked. For Rilke’s own composure, however, Rodin was taken to provide a model, and his suggestive effects an impetus. Andreas-Salomé recognized an acute “suggestibility” as fundamental both to what Rilke did in writing, and to what he was incapable of doing. The encounter with Rodin, she thought, had entailed a “psychic reorientation” on the part of the poet, an experience of “expectations and intensifications pointing into a future”, of an “awakened longing” that could not in the context of the composition of

12 Andreas-Salomé, Letter to Rainer Maria Rilke, August 7, 1903, in: Snow, Winkler 2008 (as in note 3), p. 66. Translation modified, based upon the German in: Pfeiffer 1975 (as in note 7), p. 88. Emphasis in original.


 Brigid Doherty

the monograph “envision its realization”.13 The terms of Andreas-Salomé’s analysis of Rilke’s engagement with Rodin’s art not only made their way into his immediate epistolary responses to that analysis. They also informed the composition of the work the poet himself would come to understand as having “gone beyond” his Rodin book, the Rodin lecture written in October 1905 and revised and expanded in June 1907 for publication in November of that year as the second part of the third edition of the monograph.14 The aim of Rilke’s Rodin lecture, to borrow a phrase from Andreas-Salomé, was “to give further, reflective form to what someone else created [nachzugestalten was ein Anderer schuf]”.15 The lecture summoned the audience’s longing to see Rodin’s art with the aim of envisioning, in its turn, the satisfaction of that longing by means of figural language— or, more precisely, by the presentation of figural language as speech. “I am pleased with my Rodin lecture,” Rilke wrote to Andreas-Salomé in November 1905. “I think it goes beyond my little book,—at any rate it is ‘spoken’ to the same degree that the book is ‘written’.”16 Self-reflexively predicated on the absence not only of the works of art that were its subject but also of projected photographic images of those works, the lecture eschewed description of the unseeable art objects. Instead, Rilke’s presentation made suggestion central to its own expository enterprise, in which (to borrow the terms of Rilke’s letters describing the lecture) the poet’s spoken words were called upon not merely to conjure up Rodin’s sculptures, but, in a space where “attention held sway”, to make “contact” with “obedient” listeners in a state of “altogether ready silence”, and to induce in them “animation, awakening, interior action” that would become visible on their faces. It is as if, following Andreas-Salomé’s analysis, Rilke recognized himself as embodying the effects of Rodin’s suggestion and set out to reproduce those effects in his audience. Hearing his voice, Rilke’s listeners might come, as he had done, to see things with “Rodin-eyes”, to experience the “interior action” of their own perceptions as determined externally, by the suggestive influence of another. For Rilke at Meudon, it was the suggestive influence conveyed through his

13 Andreas-Salomé, Letter to Rainer Maria Rilke, August 8, 1903, in: Snow, Winkler 2008 (as in note 3), p. 67. Translation modified, based upon the German in: Pfeiffer 1975 (as in note 7), p. 88. 14 See Rilke, Letter to Lou Andreas-Salomé, November 14, 1905, in: Snow, Winkler 2008 (as in note 3), p. 154; for the German, see Pfeiffer 1975 (as in note 7), p. 210. 15 Andreas-Salomé, Letter to Rainer Maria Rilke, August 7, 1903, in: Snow, Winkler 2008 (as in note 3), p. 65. Translation modified, based upon the German in: Pfeiffer 1975 (as in note 7), p. 87. 16 Rilke, Letter to Lou Andreas-Salomé, November 14, 1905, in: Snow, Winkler 2008 (as in note 3), p. 154. Translation modified, based upon the German in: Pfeiffer 1975 (as in note 7), p. 210. The quotation marks Rilke places around both gesprochen and geschrieben only hint at the complexity of his presentation of writing in relation to “the power of the voice”. Within the scope of the present text, I can only allude in this connection to chapter six of Jacques Derrida, Voice and Phenomenon. Introduction to the Problem of the Sign in Husserl’s Phenomenology [1967], trans. by Leonard Lawlor, Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2011, pp. 60­–74, especially the discussion of “the operation of hearing-myself-speak as an auto-affection of an absolutely unique type” (pp. 67–69).

Rilke’s Magic Lantern 


viewing of Rodin’s works and his encounter with the sculptor’s artistic practice that transformed the poet’s vision. For the audience in attendance at Rilke’s lecture, only the poet’s presentation of words, over and against any exposition of the sculptures as visual objects, could be deployed to effect such a transformation in them. As in Rilke’s experience of Rodin’s person and his art, the audience’s experience of the poet and his words would elicit a “psychic reorientation” as both an effect of and a condition of possibility for a form of aesthetic experience to which suggestion was fundamental. The logic of Rilke’s understanding of his relation to Rodin—whom he sought to follow not by transposing the sculptor’s mode of artistic composition with the aim of creating seemingly plastic things in writing, but by taking his own psychic composure (located internally but originally determined from outside, by means of Rodin’s suggestive influence) as a condition of possibility for making “written things” in a “tangible immaterial medium of presentation”—dictated that his lecture would have to begin not with an invocation of the appearance of Rodin’s art but with an assertion of its invisibility. “Immaterial” and yet “tangible”, what Rilke envisioned as “the smallest basic element of [his] art” could only convey its own tangibility as an effect of something like suggestion. Presenting his art as speech might heighten that likeness or affinity between the effects of suggestion and of poetic writing. Not the reproduction of the presence of Rodin’s sculptures as projected diapositive photographic images, but the presentation of his own words as vocalized figures would transmit to Rilke’s listeners the significance of the artist’s works as occasions for “psychic reorientation”. Rilke’s audience would have come to the Rodin lecture with a collection of images of the sculptor’s works stored in their memories. By 1905, Rodin’s fame was immense. His art was held in especially high regard in Germany, where, beginning in the mid-1890s, his works were featured prominently in exhibitions and museum collections and reproduced widely in newspapers and magazines. Rilke’s appearance before some 650 listeners in Dresden in October 1905 was not the first well-attended public lecture on the French artist’s work to take place in Germany. In Leipzig in February 1904, the classical archaeologist Georg Treu—who already in the 1890s in his capacity as director of the Dresden Skulpturensammlung had acquired five sculptures by Rodin for the collection, including, and of which more below, The Man with the Broken Nose (1864), The Age of Bronze (1877), and The Inner Voice (1896)—presented a lecture on Rodin to an audience of 1,200 (or perhaps as many as 2,000).17 Regarding his exhibition at the custom-built Pavillon de l’Alma just outside the official grounds of the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1900, Rodin remarked that it was visited by “a

17 See Claude Keisch, Rodin und Deutschland. Fragmente zu einer Chronologie, in: Auguste Rodin. Plastik, Zeichnungen, Graphik, exhibition catalogue, Nationalgalerie Berlin, Berlin: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin/DDR, 1979, pp. 22–34, p. 27. Treu employed two Skioptikon projectors for the presentation of images of Rodin’s works in his lecture. See Luck 2008 (as in note 1), p. 63.


 Brigid Doherty

few Americans, a few Englishmen, but many Germans”.18 The sculptor himself had traveled to Dresden en route to an exhibition of his work in Prague in 1902, and a retrospective of more than sixty of his sculptures was held in Düsseldorf in summer 1904, concurrent with smaller exhibitions in Dresden and Weimar.19 In 1911, Rodin would note in a newspaper interview that his art was even better known in Germany than in France: “I exhibited there often, and I always found the best reception […]. In addition to the works of mine one could see [in German collections and exhibitions], most of them were reproduced in profusion, popularized in print form [popularisées par la gravure].”20 It would have been better to say, precisely, popularisées par la photographie. Beginning in 1896, Rodin worked closely with photographers, including the amateur Eugène Druet, to promote his work publicly—an activity, according to Rodin scholar Hélène Pinet, “to which he devoted almost as much energy as he expended on creating sculpture”.21 In the Pavillon de l’Alma exhibition of 1900, Druet’s photographs were displayed as framed, thirty-by-forty-centimeter-sized gelatin-silver prints inscribed with the names of both sculptor and photographer (fig. 1), and were offered for sale alongside Rodin’s works in bronze and plaster; photographs by Druet and Jacques-Ernest Bulloz also appeared in Rodin’s exhibitions in Düsseldorf, Leipzig, and Weimar in 1904, and Druet’s works were acquired by museums in Berlin and Dresden.22 As if to insist on photography’s capacity to convey the authority of the artist as a virtual presence within an exhibition space, the 1904 exhibition at the Städtisches Museum in Leipzig featured a photographic portrait of Rodin propped on a velvetcovered easel among his sculptures (fig. 2).23 Rilke, in a letter of May 12, 1903, pointed

18 Ernst-Gerhard Güse, Auguste Rodin und Deutschland, in: Auguste Rodin. Zeichnungen und Aquarelle, exhibition catalogue, Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Münster, Stuttgart: G. Hatje, 1984, pp. 13–39, p. 17. 19 See Michael Kuhlemann, Rodin in Deutschland. Kommentiertes Verzeichnis der Ausstellungen 1883–1914, in: Heinz Spielmann et. al. (eds.), Vor 100 Jahren. Rodin in Deutschland, exhibition catalogue, Bucerius Kunst Forum und Staatliche Kunstsammlung Dresden, Munich: Hirmer, 2006, pp. 158–175, pp. 164–167. See Hélène Pinet, Expositions connues de sculptures de Rodin accompagnées de photographies, in: Rodin et la Photographie, exhibition catalogue, Musée Rodin, Paris: Musée Rodin, 2007, pp. 218–219. 20 Auguste Rodin, Interview in L’Intransigeant, February 5, 1911, quoted in: Güse 1984 (as in note 18), pp. 13–38. 21 See Hélène Pinet, Montrer est la question vitale. Rodin and Photography, in: Geraldine A. Johnson (ed.), Sculpture and Photography. Envisioning the Third Dimension, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998, pp. 68–85, p. 74; Pinet, Von der Skulptur zur photographischen Darstellung, in: Spielmann 2006 (as in note 19), pp. 32–37, pp. 35–36; and Kirk Varnedoe, Rodin and Photography, in: Albert Elsen (ed.), Rodin Rediscovered, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1981, pp. 203–208, p. 206. 22 See Pinet 1998 (as in note 21), p. 77. 23 See Ortrud Westheider, Moritz Woelk, Rodin in Deutschland. Zur Einführung, in: Spielmann 2006 (as in note 19), pp. 8–11, p. 10.

Rilke’s Magic Lantern 

Fig. 1: Auguste Rodin, Eve (1881). Gelatin-silver print by Eugène Druet, 40 × 30 cm, undated. Musée Rodin, Paris, Ph. 946.



 Brigid Doherty

Fig. 2: Rodin exhibition, Städtisches Museum, Leipzig, 1904. Gelatin-silver print by Kunsthandlung Ernst, 16.8 × 11.9 cm, circa November 1904. Musée Rodin, Paris, Ph. 1676.

to the powerful effects of looking at Druet’s photographs of Rodin’s sculptures and noted the decisive role the master’s collaboration played in their making. “There are some 300 exceptionally beautiful photographic reproductions of Rodin’s work,” he wrote to the playwright Gerhart Hauptmann, who a few days later would express an interest in acquiring a complete set. “They depict more of the essence and the wonder of the sculpture than any other photographs I have seen,” Rilke continued. “And as some of the little things have been shot from multiple sides, you can almost touch them and circle around them when you spread the images out in front of you.”24 Druet’s photographs earned similar praise from the art historian Julius Meier-Graefe on the occasion of a 1904 exhibition in which they were shown unaccompanied by the

24 Rilke, Letter to Gerhart Hauptmann, May 12, 1903, in: Gerhart Hauptmann Nachlaß, Staats­ bibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, GH Br NL: Rilke, Rainer Maria, fol. 23 + 24. My thanks to Christian Jany for his expert assistance in transcribing this letter in full. The passage from Rilke’s letter that discusses Druet’s photographs, as well as a letter from Hauptmann in which he mentions his interest in purchasing a complete set of the photographs, can be found in Luck 2001 (as in note 1), p. 73.

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sculptures. “If it would not sound barbaric,” wrote Meier-Graefe, “one would almost have to say that with these photographs one comes to know Rodin for the first time in all his greatness, his sovereign articulation of space.”25 Although by 1905 technologies for lantern slide projection were widely used in university art history courses and public lectures in Germany, Rilke delivered his Rodin lecture without the aid of a projector, and hence without recourse to the effects of photographic images of the sculptor’s works, images that, it has been said, “were no longer just illustrations” but had begun “to appropriate the functions of the objects depicted in them” as “visual spokesmen personally accredited by Rodin”.26 Among the most prominent, and fervent, advocates of the use of slide projection technologies (specifically a device called the Skioptikon) was Herman Grimm, whose newspaper and journal articles on the topic in the 1890s emphasized the potential scientific and sociocultural benefits to which the use of those technologies could lead, and whose courses in art history may have been among those Rilke attended in Berlin in 1899– 1900. Slide projection, Grimm insisted, obviated the need for conventional art-historical introductions in university lectures by substituting for them the presence of a work of art in reproduction. In the case of a lecture on Raphael, for example, “the first thing that should become known to those in an auditorium is the sudden appearance on the wall of his earliest masterpiece”. And since, according to Grimm, “reproductions, not originals, remain in memory”, art history stood to benefit especially from the use of technologies for the projection of photographic images of works of art.27

25 Julius Meier-Graefe, Pariser Bericht, in: Kunst und Künstler 2.1 (1904), p. 38. 26 See Pinet 1998 (as in note 21), p. 75. On the use of slide projection technologies in German university art history courses beginning in the mid-1870s, see Heinrich Dilly, Lichtbildprojektion—Prothese der Kunstbetrachtung, in: Irene Below (ed.), Kunstwissenschaft und Kunstvermittlung, Gießen: Anabas, 1975, pp. 153–172. Dilly notes that by 1902 slide projection was in use in almost every such course (pp. 165–166). Rilke gave voice to his aversion to the use of projection apparatuses in a letter written some fifteen years after the first presentation of the Rodin lecture. Acknowledging that the state-of-the-art Epidiascop that was to be placed at his disposal for an upcoming event at the Kunstverein Winterthur might induce feelings of “jealousy” in him as he lectured, he remarked: “Even when I speak about the phenomena of the visual arts (indeed then above all) my ambition always consists in intensifying my word to the point that it arouses moving ideas in the inner imagination of the listener: one must only disturb a person thus moved if one wants to impose upon him (by interrupting his phantasying) a turning-outward of his perceptions and intuitions; in this shift, the productivity of empathy crosses over into a process of objective being-corrected and mere noticing. Art historians naturally may and must think otherwise.” See Rilke, Letter to Georg Reinhart, October 2, 1920 in: Rätus Luck (ed.), Briefwechsel mit den Brüdern Reinhart, 1919–1926, Frankfurt am Main: Insel, 1988, pp. 57–59, p. 58. See Luck 2008 (as in note 1), pp. 55–56. 27 Grimm’s remarks are quoted in Dilly 1975 (as in note 26), pp. 162–166. On Grimm’s reflections regarding the effects of reproductions of Raphael’s Sistine Madonna (1512/13) in particular, see Brigid Doherty, Between the Artwork and Its “Actualization”. A Footnote to Art History in Benjamin’s “Work of Art” Essay, in: Paragraph 32.3 (2009), pp. 331–358, pp. 334–335; in that same essay, see the


 Brigid Doherty

Franz Landsberger, who studied under Grimm’s successor, Heinrich Wölfflin, in Berlin around 1905, noted that a technological innovation had prompted the development of the modern art history lecture: “the Skiopticon made possible for the first time a simultaneity of work and word; neither the literary historian nor the music historian has recourse to such a parallelism.” Indeed, Landsberger explained, the use of projected images of works of art and the conditions of darkness that obtained in the hall on the occasion of an art history lecture “put the work of art at the center of viewing” such that the artwork itself appeared “to demand its elucidation”. Art historians who required illumination to read from notes at a lectern risked drawing the gaze of their listeners away from the projected image of the work of art in reproduction as it appeared on a wall at the front of the darkened hall, but Wölfflin, “the master of extemporaneous speaking, places himself in the dark and alongside his listeners, his eye like theirs directed at the picture. He comes together with them as a unity, and he represents as it were the ideal viewer, in whom the experience common to all condenses into words. For a while Wölfflin lets the work take effect in silence, approaching it, following Schopenhauer’s advice, as one approaches a prince, waiting for it to speak to him.”28 Whether or not Wölfflin in fact delivered his lectures from the floor of the hall, turning his eye to the projected image from within the same darkened space occupied by his listeners, his words, presented as if summoned by the projected image itself, seemed to register a shared experience of the work of art as seen in reproduction. It is as if, in Landsberger’s recollection, Wölfflin, by approaching the projected image only after an interval of silence, sought to suggest that his remarks were generated as an effect of the reproduced presence of the work of art in the darkened hall and of the silence within which visual experience “condensed” into words. The Rodin lecture was not delivered extemporaneously. Carefully scripted throughout and also at crucial moments graphically exact in its arrangement on the page, Rilke’s presentation took shape as a written thing before becoming a spoken thing. In the absence of slide projections, it fell to the lecture itself to generate an effect of the presence of the master’s sculptures. To that end, Rilke’s text underscores the absence of the sculptures as things to be seen, even in reproduction, and it does so initially by withholding the name of their famous maker: “the name that […] presides […] over this evening cannot be spoken. Not now”.29 Pronouncing the artist’s name at the outset of the lecture, Rilke explains, “would establish a friendship between us, a warmth and unanimity that would make it appear as if I—only seemingly set

discussion of Stendhal’s description of how reproductions destroy and supplant memories of original works of art (p. 336). 28 Franz Landsberger, Heinrich Wölfflin, Berlin: Gottschalk, 1924, pp. 92–94. See Robert S. Nelson, The Slide Lecture, or The Work of Art History in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, in: Critical Inquiry 26.3 (Spring 2000), pp. 414–434, pp. 419–420. 29 Rilke, Rodin. Ursprüngliche Fassung des Vortrags, in: Nalewski 1996 (as in note 1), p. 495.

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apart—were speaking from among you: outward from you, like one of your voices”.30 Projected, as a spoken word, into the space of the audience, the name Rodin would create the illusion of a unity similar to that experienced by Wölfflin’s students in the same period. In the scenario Rilke presents at the beginning of the lecture, it is as if the vocalization of the name would serve as an acknowledgment of the equivalence of speaker and audience in their subjection to that signifier’s evocation of the authority of the artist, and would generate a friendship (“a warmth and unanimity”) between them on those grounds. As if, in other words, the presentation of the name Rodin would manifest in the lecture hall a sovereignty corresponding to the princeliness of the projected reproduction of the work of art in Landsberger’s recollection of Wölfflin’s teaching. Both the students in attendance at Wölfflin’s lectures and the audience gathered for Rilke’s would by custom have assumed a position as listeners and viewers at once. As a consequence of his mastery of extemporaneous speaking and of its interaction, in the darkened hall, with the technology of slide projection, Wölfflin became, as a lecturer, in effect invisible to his audience, emerging instead as an ideal viewer seemingly at one with his listeners, his words generated as if spontaneously by the work of art in projected reproduction. Rilke, by contrast, renounces the possibility of producing a seeming unity of speaker and audience, and in so doing implicitly insists on his own presence and potential visibility as someone set apart from his listeners, speaking words of his own invention in a voice that announces its difference from any that might sound from among them. The potential unity that Rilke at once invokes and intends his presentation to preclude would seem to correspond to what Landsberger defines as essential to the success of Wölfflin’s lectures: a unity of speaker and audience effected, on the one hand, by “a simultaneity of work and word” in the art historian’s staging of a relation between his extemporaneous speech and a series of images projected by a Skioptikon, and, on the other hand, by his engagement, as an ideal viewer, in a shared activity of looking alongside his listeners. Wölfflin, Landsberger takes pains to point out, was able to lecture without notes, and hence without the customary lectern and lamp that demand, and call visual attention to, the set-apartness of a lecturer relative to his audience; indeed Landsberger suggests that Wölfflin not only faced the projected images about which he spoke, but when beholding them situated himself alongside his listeners in the lecture hall. Rilke delivered his Rodin lecture from a carefully prepared manuscript, without the aid of slides, and, at least on the occasion in Vienna in November 1907, in a space that to his great satisfaction remained illuminated throughout; presumably he also stood before his audience on some sort of stage or otherwise appeared “set apart” from his listeners. The beginning of the lecture alludes to but declines to actualize a scenario in which, as an effect of nothing other than his utterance of the name Rodin, Rilke’s real separation from his listeners would

30 Rilke, Rodin. Ursprüngliche Fassung des Vortrags, in: Nalewski 1996 (as in note 1), p. 495.


 Brigid Doherty

seem illusory, and would create in turn the illusion of his “speaking from among” them, “like one of [their] voices”. With regard to the potential effect of the name Rodin on his listeners, Rilke insists that “the name that—far off—presides like a constellation of five great stars over this evening, cannot be spoken. Not now. It would only unsettle you, currents would surge up in you—sympathy and resistance, whereas I require your silence and the unclouded surface of your obliging anticipation.”31 Adduced by means of a simile as five starlike letters in a far-off sky, the unspeakable name R-O-D-I-N presides as if in writing. Which is to say it presides, in the figure of the constellation, as something made by the poet. Hence the poet himself presides from a more proximate distance, and lets his listeners know what he requires of them—something other than the surging currents of sympathy and resistance that the vocalization of the name Rodin would elicit. What Rilke requires, in a word, is an audience prepared to serve as the medium of his lecture. He requires an obedient, attentive audience whose offering up, in silence, of “an unclouded surface of obliging anticipation” would put its members at his disposal less as willing recipients of new knowledge about Rodin’s art than as unwitting vehicles for the activation of knowledge they might already, though in the moment only unconsciously, possess—less, that is, as interested listeners taking in a lecture about art than as hypnotic mediums participating in an experiment.32 If the image of an “unclouded surface of obliging anticipation” figures something like the mental state of a hypnotic medium about to enter a trance, it also evokes the prepared surfaces on which photographic images are variously recorded and reproduced and thus alludes to a technological medium that subsequently emerges as crucial to the lecture with the invocation of the magic lantern as an apparatus for the projection of diapositive images. Having stated his need for the silence and the compliance of his public, Rilke pleads next for forgetting, a forgetting of the name on which his lecture turns, and a broader forgetting as well, of the context and presumed purpose of a lecture on recent art. Then, acknowledging the lecture’s lack of accompanying visual images, he asks his listeners to “lower [their] eyes for the evening”.33 And of these listeners with downcast eyes prepared to offer him the unclouded surface of their obliging anticipation, of these listeners whose attention, obedience, and suggestibility he has sought to secure for his own purposes, Rilke now requests a remembering to follow the forgetting of the name Rodin, a remembering of “childhood”—not of any individual childhood, but of “all that ever was childhood”. It falls to him as speaker, Rilke insists, “to awaken memories” in his listeners (not their own memories, but memories that

31 Rilke, Rodin. Ursprüngliche Fassung des Vortrags, in: Nalewski 1996 (as in note 1), p. 495. 32 See Santner’s discussion of Rilke’s figuration of Malte in The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge “as a kind of medium, and indeed one in a double sense” in: Santner 2011 (as in note 6), p. 219. 33 Rilke, Rodin. Ursprüngliche Fassung des Vortrags, in: Nalewski 1996 (as in note 1), p. 495.

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are older than they are) and “to rebuild relationships and renew connections” that originated long before the individuals in his audience came into the world. Relationships, he means, not among humans, but between humans and “things [Dinge]”.34 The memories Rilke sets out to awaken concern the first things of childhood and the “inexhaustible meaningfulness of small forgotten objects”, things such as “some small piece of wood” that once “did and bore everything” for the child who possessed it.35 As if acknowledging that compelling his listeners to recall the things of earliest childhood will not suffice to induce their longing for the things of which he means to speak, Rilke quickly moves to retract the word things from his audience, in order to “work” on it.36 Although he presents no interdiction against his own vocalization of the word things, Rilke’s gesture of retracting that word from his listeners recalls the lecture’s inaugural conceit, in which the name Rodin, already known to all, is deemed unspeakable; the gesture also reasserts Rilke’s dominion over the things the lecture presents, things that—before listeners who have been asked to “lower [their] eyes for the evening”—cannot be seen in the ways that sculptures and projections of diapositive photographic images can be seen. The 1903 monograph begins with the name “Rodin” only to dissociate that name from the artist’s work: “Fame is the epitome of the misunderstandings that gather around a new name.” And, claims Rilke, many misunderstandings surround the name Rodin. However, the sculptor’s work extends far beyond the “sound and the bounds [Klang und Rand]” of his name, and the work itself has grown to be “nameless, the way a plain is nameless, or a sea that only has a name on maps, in books, and among people, but in reality is just expanse, motion, and depth”.37 The image of

34 Rilke, Rodin. Ursprüngliche Fassung des Vortrags, in: Nalewski 1996 (as in note 1), p. 496. Rilke’s insistence on an understanding of “things” as essential to the comprehension of Rodin’s art demands further consideration in relation to his earlier engagement with the conceptualization of “things” in the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, especially around the issue of the presentation of Rilke’s own figural language with regard to Rodin’s sculptures, as addressed below. Following his reading of Emerson in 1897–98, Rilke explored the notion of a specifically poetic receptivity to, and capacity to transcribe, the primordial “melody of things”. See the discussion of Rilke’s “Notizen zur Melodie der Dinge” (1898) and other texts in Marilyn Vogler Urion, Emerson’s Presence in Rilke’s Imagery. Shadows of Early Influence, in: Monatshefte 85.2 (Summer 1993), pp. 153–169. Rilke’s notion of “the melody of things” deserves further consideration in relation to the musicality his contemporaries heard in the Rodin lecture and to the lecture’s deployment of the poet’s voice and gestures at large. 35 Rilke, Rodin. Ursprüngliche Fassung des Vortrags, in: Nalewski 1996 (as in note 1), p. 497. In versions of this paper delivered as talks I have situated this section of Rilke’s lecture in relation to Freud’s “Der Dichter und das Phantasieren,” which was presented as a lecture in the bookshop and Kunstsalon of his publisher, Hugo Heller, in Vienna on December 6, 1907. Rilke’s presentation of his Rodin lecture in Vienna on November 13, 1907 was also organized by Heller, and the poet gave a reading from his literary works at Heller’s Kunstsalon on November 8, 1907. 36 Rilke, Rodin. Ursprüngliche Fassung des Vortrags, in: Nalewski 1996 (as in note 1), p. 499. 37 Rilke, Auguste Rodin (Erster Teil), in: Nalewski 1996 (as in note 1), p. 405.


 Brigid Doherty

a nameless sea that “in reality is just expanse, motion, and depth” anticipates some of the complexities of Rilke’s account of the significance of surface in Rodin’s sculpture, an important topic that demands more consideration than I can give it here.38 At the outset of the 1905 lecture, the gesture of withholding the sculptor’s name launches the poet’s attempt to speak of Rodin’s work in a language that would differentiate itself from the naming of things “on maps, in books, and among people”, an attempt to craft in language something equivalent to the namelessness of a plain or a sea apprehended “in reality”—an attempt, in a word, to make a surface. “All that one can do—is: produce a surface that is in some sense contained and nowhere arbitrary, a surface that, like the surfaces of natural things, is surrounded, shadowed, and illuminated by the atmosphere—: only this surface (and otherwise nothing).” We cannot perceive what is interior [Inneres] “other than through its becoming surface”. To render perceivable by another what is interior (including “what we call spirit, soul, and love”, themselves “only a subtle change on the small surface of a nearby face”) one “must hold fast to the palpable and to what is appropriate to one’s medium: to the form that one can comprehend and understand as feeling”.39 Rilke’s lecture represents, at least in part, an effort to press his own work towards the namelessness he sees achieved in Rodin’s. That effort shapes his thematization of naming throughout the lecture, a thematization that encompasses allusions both to writing as a medium likened to constellations as they appear across the surface of the night sky (R-O-D-I-N) and to the lecture’s audience as a medium figured early in Rilke’s presentation as an “unclouded surface of […] obliging anticipation” and later as “eyes [that] like the lenses of a magic lantern cast a gigantic Balzac […] onto the wall”. In the revised text of the lecture as published in the third edition of the monograph in 1907, Rilke acknowledges that his spoken words addressed listeners who knew the name Rodin as “the name of countless things”, listeners, that is to say, whose knowledge of Rodin’s work was inseparable from their awareness of his fame, and who brought to the event of the lecture a demand to see works with which they were likely already familiar from museum exhibitions or published photographs, famous works to which they understood the famous name Rodin to be attached. “It confounds me,” Rilke writes in the published version of the lecture, “that I cannot show you any.”40 The 1905 manuscript says nothing of the poet’s confusion in the face of his inability to show his listeners any of Rodin’s works. Instead, when Rilke finally does speak the name “Rodin” as a prelude to the discussion of his sculptures, that name, under-

38 See Alex Potts, Modern Figures. Sculpture and Modernity. Rodin, Rilke and Sculptural Things, in: The Sculptural Imagination. Figurative, Modernist, Minimalist, New Haven, CT / London: Yale University Press, 2000, pp. 72–101, especially pp. 91–101. 39 Rilke, Rodin. Ursprüngliche Fassung des Vortrags, in: Nalewski 1996 (as in note 1), pp. 500–501. 40 Rilke 1907 (as in note 1), p. 83.

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lined in the text, has already been transformed into a word, indeed a figure, of the poet’s own making, something other than, or more than merely, the artist’s name, something that might resound in the lecture hall as if read from a constellation of five letters inscribed in the sky. The underlining of the word “Rodin” might indicate an emphasis to be vocalized in order to convey the word’s significance as the name of the artist whose fame has drawn the audience to the lecture in the first place. However, when read on a page—by us now as by the poet when he delivered the lecture—the underlined name might also be seen to establish “Rodin” as a “written thing” of Rilke’s authorship, a word underlined the way the title of a work is underlined. As presented by Rilke in the text of the 1905 lecture, the name Rodin indicates a maker of “things […] real things, bounded on every side, self-sufficient things […]; things above and beyond us [über uns hinaus]” (fig. 3).41 The circumstance of the inability of the poet lecturing without slides to show his audience the sculptor’s works is presented as if to acknowledge, with chagrin, that the visibility of things made by Rodin would render Rilke’s words superfluous. But this seeming acknowledgment is a conceit that itself all but announces that the absence of projected images has come about from a deliberate choice on the part of the poet, whose aim is to present, in words, a Nachgestaltung of the works of art he cannot show. “If I could show you some of these things now,” Rilke asserts, “you would, without a word, understand what I mean.”42 Rilke cannot show his audience Rodin’s sculptures, for they are not present in the auditorium, and he is, it seems intentionally, delivering a lecture unaccompanied by projected images of sculptures in photographic reproduction. His audience remains in need of words, and words are what Rilke has to offer. He has called attention to this from the lecture’s outset, when he deemed the name Rodin unspeakable and figured it instead as a constellation of five letters inscribed in the sky. Now— having spoken the name Rodin from a position (visible to his listeners and audible in his difference from them) that has established his own authority as if over and against the sculptor’s—Rilke lets his listeners know that, although he cannot show them things made by Rodin, he can, as if by means of an activation of the “unclouded surface of their obliging anticipation”, see images of the sculptor’s works in their memories. Moreover he can call those images forth, as if in place of absent slide projections: “I see One and still / One / more in your memory,—and I only have to raise them up a bit, such that you see them all—:.”43 Rilke’s “raising up” of what he “sees” involves, of course, not a movement of images into the field of vision but a figuring of sculptures in words, a figuring envisioned in relation to, and as potentially exceeding, the capacity of slide projection to make things visible by presenting images one

41 Rilke, Rodin. Ursprüngliche Fassung des Vortrags, in: Nalewski 1996 (as in note 1), p. 502. Italics in original. 42 Rilke, Rodin. Ursprüngliche Fassung des Vortrags, in: Nalewski 1996 (as in note 1), p. 502. 43 Rilke, Rodin. Ursprüngliche Fassung des Vortrags, in: Nalewski 1996 (as in note 1), p. 502.


 Brigid Doherty

Fig. 3: Rainer Maria Rilke, Rede über A. Rodin (1905). Rilke Ms_D_20/Ms_D_21, S. XIII. Schweizerisches Rilke-Archiv, Schweizerisches Literaturarchiv, Schweizerische Nationalbibliothek, Bern.

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Fig. 4: Rainer Maria Rilke, Rede über A. Rodin (1905). Rilke Ms_D_20/Ms_D_21, S. XIV. Schweizerisches Rilke-Archiv, Schweizerisches Literaturarchiv, Schweizerische Nationalbibliothek, Bern.


 Brigid Doherty

by one (or, as the projections accompanying Wölfflin’s lectures famously did, two by two). And this “raising up” of the things he “sees” in his audience’s memory would make it possible for Rilke’s listeners in turn to “see them all”, as if images of sculptures remade in spoken words could become visible not just one after another, which is how they appear, line by line, in his manuscript (fig. 4), with the lines and the caesurae between them seemingly taking the place of a more conventional lecture’s presentation of projected images, but perhaps also all together all at once, unified in the projection of a continuous surface of mnemic images. That man with the broken nose, which I make like a fist; that young man who stretches up in a motion as near to you as your own awakening; — that walking man, who stands like a new word for walking in the vocabulary of your feeling, and The one who sits, thinking with his entire body, withdrawing into himself. And the burgher with the key —: like a great locker, in which nothing but pain is encased — And the Eve, bent into her own embrace as if from a great distance, her hands turning outward to reject everything (including her own changing body.). And the sweet, soft Inner Voice, armless like the inner and separated like an organ from the circulation of the group — And this small thing whose name you have forgotten, made from a white shimmering embrace that holds together like a knot, — And another, that perhaps is called Paolo and Francesca — : flying through you like two shrieking seagulls — And still smaller ones you find within yourself, like fruits with very thin skin. And — your eyes, like the lenses of a magic lantern, cast a gigantic Balzac past me onto the wall. The image of a creator in all his hubris, — erect in his inner movement as if in the eye of a storm that inhales the whole world into this teeming head.44

Rilke’s earliest recording of his encounter with Rodin recounts how, when describing his Hand of God (1896) while Rilke beheld that sculpture during his first visit to the studio at Meudon in September 1902, the sculptor in effect reproduced the work as a gesture of his hand: “C’est une main comme-ça (he said and made with his own a gesture of holding and shaping so powerful that one believed oneself to be seeing things growing out of it).”45 In the 1905 manuscript version of the lecture, Rilke’s invocation of “That man with the broken nose, which I make like a fist” announces the poet’s performative effort “to give further, reflective form to what someone else created [nachzugestalten was ein Anderer schuf]”. The making of a fist as a Nachgestaltung of Rodin’s famous early work proceeds by means of a linguistic presentation, and

44 Rilke, Rodin. Ursprüngliche Fassung des Vortrags, in: Nalewski 1996 (as in note 1), p. 502–503. 45 Rilke, Letter to Clara Rilke-Westhoff, September 2, 1902, in: Jane Bannard Greeley, M. D. Herder Norton (eds.), Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke, New York, NY: Norton, 1949, p. 78; translation modified based upon the German in: Sieber-Rilke, Sieber 1929 (as in note 3), p. 26. There is much more to be said about the relation of language, voice, gesture, and artwork as sketched in this remarkable letter.

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perhaps an actual demonstration, of a gesture of the hand, a gesture that, for Rilke, would have recalled the sculptor’s own gestic remaking of an artwork on the occasion of his first studio visit. A fist displayed by the poet to the audience might manifest (as something made by hand in the fullest sense of the term) a resemblance to the knobbed surface of Rodin’s Man with the Broken Nose. But it would also and above all body forth a figure of speech, the making of a fist as the transformation of the hand as such into a gesture, indeed into a thing nameable as distinct from the hand itself.46 Rilke had discussed Rodin’s Man with the Broken Nose at length in the first part of the monograph published in 1903, citing its title sometimes in French, sometimes in German, and illustrating the work with a reproduction of a photograph by Druet.47

46 Whether or not Rilke in fact made and displayed a fist while delivering the Rodin lecture, when the text summons that actual or potential gesture it underscores Rilke’s commitment to distinguishing his presentation from an art history lecture in which, as was said of Wölfflin’s teaching of the period, the speaker would render himself virtually invisible in assuming the role of ideal viewer in the face of a projected reproduction of a work of art. In this connection it is tempting to associate Rilke’s pointed invocation of a gesture with the “teaching gestures” of his sometime professor, Georg Simmel, who delivered his lectures without the aid of technological media, and was remembered by his student Ludwig Marcuse as having deployed certain “unforgettable gestures” in the space around the lectern. Hans Blumenberg cites Marcuse’s recollections of Simmel under the heading “Gestures of a Loss of Reality” [Gebärden des Wirklichkeitsverlustes], and notes that by means of those gestures the philosopher’s “thought process seemed to be able to become optically perceptible [optisch wahrnehmbar]” precisely in the movement of reversal from one “teaching gesture” [Lehrgestus] to the next. See Hans Blumenberg, Care Crosses the River, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010, pp. 33–34. For the German see Blumenberg, Die Sorge geht über den Fluss, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1987, p. 50. Rilke’s gesture as articulated in the Rodin lecture signals, I suggest, a shift in thinking by means of which a sculpture might be reconceived as a figure of speech made optically perceptible in the image of a hand made into a fist. Further discussion of the significance of Simmel’s work for Rilke’s must be left for another occasion. Rilke met Simmel in Berlin in 1897 and attended his lectures there in 1899–1900 and again in late spring and summer 1905 (see Scharffenberg 2009 [as in note 1], pp. 75, 90, 217); he read Simmel’s article, “Rodins Plastik und die Geistesrichtung der Gegenwart,” the first of several texts by Simmel on Rodin, shortly after its publication in the Berliner Tageblatt on September 29, 1902 (the article is reprinted in: Rüdiger Kramme, Angela Rammstedt, Otthein Rammstedt [eds.], Simmel, Georg Simmel. Gesamtausgabe, Aufsätze und Abhandlungen vol. 7.1, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1995, pp. 92–100). On Simmel’s writings on Rodin, see J. A. Schmoll gen. Eisenwerth, Simmel und Rodin, in: Hannes Böhringer, Karlfried Gründer (eds.), Ästhetik und Soziologie um die Jahrhundertwende. Georg Simmel, Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1976, pp. 18–38. Alex Potts discusses Simmel’s as well as Rilke’s writings on Rodin in Potts 2000 (as in note 37); on Simmel, see especially pp. 72–77. 47 Rilke, Auguste Rodin (Erster Teil), in: Nalewski 1996 (as in note 1), pp. 415–418. See Rilke, Auguste Rodin, Berlin: Bard, 1903, unpaginated illustration between pp. 18–19. It may be worth noting that, of the sculptures invoked in the part of the lecture under discussion here, the following were included in photographic reproduction in the third edition of the Rodin monograph in 1907: The Man with the Broken Nose (1862), The Age of Bronze (1877), the Burghers of Calais (1889), Balzac (1898), Eve (1881), and the Walking Man (1899–1900). Of those, only the latter appears within “Part Two: A Lecture”. See Rilke 1907 (as in note 1), unpaginated illustrations.


 Brigid Doherty

The manuscript of the 1905 lecture shows the words that make up the sculpture’s title underlined, in German, as if to set the stage graphically for the poet’s vocalization of its remaking as a fist in a way that would insist on the replacement of a name [diesen Mann mit der gebrochenen Nase] by an instance of figural language representing (and perhaps accompanying the demonstration of) a gesture [den ich herstelle wie eine Faust]. Of course, in this case the word for a thing made by gesture alone also represents a name (or a title), one that appears (underlined), suggesting a pun, or a slip of the pen, that would hint at Rilke’s literary ambition: Faust—or, he who would rewrite the Gospel of John to read: “In the beginning was the deed!”48 In the sequence that follows, underlined words approximate the titles of famous works by Rodin, which the poet then remakes as linguistic figures that renounce the substantiality of sculpture and present instead nameless distillations of “corporealpsychic details” intended to demonstrate the potential of Rilke’s words to emerge as a “tangible immaterial medium of presentation for everything”. The upward movement of the young man’s body in The Age of Bronze (1877) is as near to you, the audience, as your own awakening; the Walking Man (1899–1900) “stands like new word for walking” in “the vocabulary of your feeling”; the key-bearing Jean d’Aire of the Burghers of Calais (1889) is like a container of nothing but pain. Rilke’s Nachgestaltung of The Thinker (1880) unnames the subject Rodin originally envisioned as “The Poet” and fashioned after Dante. Here, Rodin’s figure becomes “the one who sits” and his entire body does the work of thinking as he withdraws into himself. “The one who sits, thinking with his entire body, withdrawing into himself” thus appears on Rilke’s page as a Nachgestaltung not only of Rodin’s Thinker but also of Dante’s “the one who weeps with the soles of his feet [quel che si piangeva con la zanca]”, a figure Rilke might now be said to present, following his account of Rodin’s development in the 1903 monograph, as having entered his own work “as if into a homeland”. Which is to say that the line also marks a return of Rodin’s mature work to what Rilke had earlier asserted was its origin in figural language. In the movement from Eve (1881) to the Inner Voice, the sequence stages a presentation of what Paul de Man in his analysis of Rilke’s lyric calls chiasmic reversals: the body in Eve is enveloped within its own embrace “as if from afar”, while its hands turn outward to defend itself from everything, including its own changing body, within which another grows; armless, the body in the Inner Voice is like something interior and like an organ cast out of the circulatory system of the group in relation to which it was conceived.49 With “this small thing whose name you have forgotten, made from a white

48 Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Faust. Eine Tragödie (1808), chapter 6: “Mir hilft der Geist! Auf einmal seh ich Rat / Und schreibe getrost: Im Anfang war die Tat!” 49 On chiasmic reversal in Rilke’s poetry, see Paul de Man, Tropes (Rilke), in: Allegories of Reading. Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979, pp. 20–56, especially pp. 43–51.

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shimmering embrace that holds together like a knot,—” Rilke’s words not only invoke Rodin’s sculpture as no longer nameable but also, in effect, as nothing other than the product of a “tangible immaterial medium of presentation”, a diaphanous figure that likens a corporeal coming together to the self-constituting form of a knot.50 This image, it seems, is Rilke’s alone; it no more conjures up the memory of a photographic reproduction of a sculpture than it does the sound of a forgotten name. Instead, the figure of the “white shimmering embrace that holds together like a knot” evokes the now nameless “small thing” as a surface enfolded upon itself, “a surface that is in some sense contained and nowhere arbitrary”,51 a surface rendered in writing. The action interior to Rilke’s similes intends to effect “interior action” in his audience at the same time as his presentation of the similes as virtual slide projections claims to be the result of the induced exteriorization of that “interior action” as an effect of memories of works of art in reproduction. In the image of the magic lantern Rilke thus stages once again a reversal that has structured his lecture from the start: the figuration of his audience as the medium of his presentation. Following the articulation of the name Rodin and the invocation of a number of his most famous works, Rilke informs those listeners—whom he had earlier asked to “lower [their] eyes for the evening” as they put themselves at his disposal for the activation of “the unclouded surface of [their] obliging anticipation”—that they should now see their own memories awakened and transformed through the chiasmic figure of eyes operating like the lenses of a projector. Still silent, Rilke’s listeners, presented in the text as bodies become technological apparatuses, are said to deliver as if projected onto the wall behind him an image actually manifested in the form of his own spoken words: “a gigantic Balzac […] The image of a creator in all his hubris,—erect in his inner move-

50 This figure seems to call out for Robert Musil’s reading of how, in Rilke’s “gentle lyric affect, one thing becomes the likeness [Gleichnis] of another”. For Musil, “the metaphorical” in Rilke’s writing “becomes serious to a high degree”. “In Rilke stones or trees not only become people—as they have done always and everywhere poetry has been written—but people also become things or nameless beings. […] Something is never compared with something else—as two different and separate things, which they remain in the comparison—; for, even if this sometimes does happen, and one thing is said to be like another, it seems at that moment to have already been the other since primordial times.” Musil cites an example of his own invention, which resonates with the passage of the Rodin lecture quoted above and emphasizes a reversibility he sees as typifying Rilke’s Gleichnisse. If in Rilke’s writing “a particularly soft woolen fabric [would be] likened to a November evening” that November evening would at the same time be likened to a particularly soft woolen fabric. In Rilke’s lyric, Musil insists by means of the presentation of his own metaphor, “things are woven together as in a tapestry”. See Musil, Address at the Memorial Service for Rilke in Berlin [1927], in: Burton Pike, David S. Luft (eds. and trans.), Precision and Soul. Essays and Addresses, Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1990, pp. 237–249, pp. 245–246; translation slightly modified, based upon the German “Rede zur Rilke‐Feier in Berlin Am 16. Januar 1927,” in: Adolf Frisé (ed.), Musil, Robert Musil. Gesammelte Werke in neun Bänden, Essays und Reden, vol. 8, Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1981, pp. 1229–1242, pp. 1237–1239. 51 Rilke, Rodin. Ursprüngliche Fassung des Vortrags, in: Nalewski 1996 (as in note 1), p. 501.


 Brigid Doherty

Fig. 5: Auguste Rodin, Monument to Balzac, plaster (1897). Gelatin-silver photograph by Eugène Druet, 29.6 × 39 cm, undated. Musée Rodin, Paris, Ph. 950.

Rilke’s Magic Lantern 


ment as if in the eye of a storm that inhales the whole world into this teeming head” (fig. 5/Plate 13). Hence the “interior action” [action intérieure] Rilke saw exteriorized on the faces of his listeners in Vienna in 1907 can be read as a figure for imagination or phantasying that echoes Balzac’s “inner movement” [innere Bewegung] in this vital moment of the 1905 text of the lecture. However, the imagination or phantasying presented in the image of the magic lantern cannot properly be attributed to Rilke’s listeners, whose “interior action” only emerges as an effect of the poet’s suggestive influence. With the image of a creator in all his hubris, the proper name returns, now as the title of a sculpture named for the writer it portrays, a sculpture Rilke’s line describes as appearing specifically as if in photographic reproduction: he sees a “gigantic Balzac”, and he envisions this one among many possible images of Rodin’s Balzac cast upon the wall behind him. What Rilke sees in the memory of his listeners finally appears, then, by means of his words and as if in imitation of the projection (and concomitant enlargement) of a diapositive image: a figure whose cloaked all-over manifestation of phallic mastery in sculptural form is drawn towards a climax likened to a birth in the Kreisendes Haupt of the poet’s invocation. The uppercase K in the 1905 manuscript’s Kreisendes Haupt suggests in its evocation of the capitalized words of a title a condensation of Rodin’s full-bodied Balzac into a poetic figure for the head alone (fig. 6). Thus Rilke’s Kreisendes Haupt asserts the fecundity of the writer’s imagination by alluding to parturition—indeed to a word that names a condition of parturience by means of its own allusion to the groaning vocalizations of a body laboring in childbirth—and hence by producing another instance in which the lecture, however distantly, insists on the link between speech and corporeal experience in the emergence of figural language.52 In Dante’s quel che

52 The 1905 manuscript speaks of dieses Kreisende Haupt (Rilke, Rede über A. Rodin [as in note 1], p. XV), whereas the published text of the lecture as it appears in the 1907 edition of the Rodin monograph indicates dieses kreissende Haupt (Rilke 1907 [as in note 1], p. 84). My translation of dieses Kreisende Haupt as “this teeming head” intends to capture something of what the Grimms’ Deutsches Wörterbuch identifies as the figurative disposition of the German kreiszen in modern usage. See the definition of kreisen as an alternate spelling of kreiszen (“kreisen, parturire, s. kreiszen”) and the longer entry for kreiszen (“kreiszen, gemere, vociferare, parturire […] parturire, eigentlich vom schmerzlichen stöhnen, schreien der gebärenden”) in: Deutsches Wörterbuch von Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm, 16 volumes in 32 sub-volumes, Leipzig: Hirzel, 1854–1961, List of references, Leipzig: Hirzel, 1971. (accessed June 10, 2013) and http://www. (accessed June 10, 2013). Among Rodin’s sculptures of Balzac were a number of studies and finished works representing the writer’s head alone, but it seems unlikely that the Balzac intended in Rilke’s lecture was anything other than the full standing figure, which, as noted above, is illustrated in the first part of the 1907 edition of the monograph (Rilke 1907 [as in note 1], illustration between pp. 62–63; the medium of the plaster sculpture is misidentified there as marble). I would not suggest that Rilke’s image of a Kreisendes Haupt in the Rodin lecture was derived from a reading of the entries on kreisen and kreiszen in the Grimms’ Deutsches Wörterbuch.


 Brigid Doherty

Fig. 6: Auguste Rodin, Monument to Balzac, plaster (1897). Gelatin-silver photograph by Eugène Druet, 29.6 × 39 cm, undated. Musée Rodin, Paris, Ph. 379.

Rilke’s Magic Lantern 


si piangeva con la zanca, Rilke recognized “a weeping that was everywhere, throughout the entirety of a human being, and tears that sprang from every pore”—a figure for the total expressivity of the body seen as a surface, and for the origin of Rodin’s mature art. With Balzac’s Kreisendes Haupt, the crying of childbirth that provides a name for parturition itself shapes an image of the writer’s imagination and its emergence from an interior, implying once again a primacy of figural language in relation to both sculptural production and technological media—and now, it seems, also insisting on the role of vocalization in giving meaning to bodily experience, indeed to the delivery of human beings into the world. At the same time, Rilke’s image displaces from below to above the surging engorgement of what in a plaster study he would have known was depicted explicitly in the form of the figure’s erect penis (fig. 7). The massive, almost animate robe of the Balzac itself appears at pains to expand to contain the midsection of the body it covers. A plaster study for the robe might be seen to show something like a conjunction or coalescence of erect penis and bulging belly (fig. 8); the structure of the partially exposed armature and the vivid traces of the work of the artist’s hands in the plaster as shown in a photograph of the study in progress reveal the attention paid to precisely that aspect of the sculpture (fig. 9). No doubt either separately or together an erect penis and a prodigious girth would readily have signified Balzac’s prowess, the latter while also producing a likeness to the historical figure. Rilke’s image initiates instead a shift that would seem to promise if not a unity or coincidence of ejaculation and parturition then some sort of correspondence between them, effected by the figurality of language as an originary instance of the relation of speech to the experience of the body at large. Rilke’s insistence on his own set-apartness and his difference from his listeners, his renunciation of the possibility of a unity of speaker and audience, his expression of an intention to preside over the lecture in place of the artist who was its subject, exerting a virtually hypnotic suggestive influence over his audience in order thereby to body forth sculptures remade as poetic figures—all this finally gives rise to a juxtaposition of the image of “a gigantic Balzac” with that of another writer, the one present in the auditorium, himself visible and facing the audience as he calls up the speakable but unseeable figure as an effect of suggestion and projection realized by means not of works of art or technological media but of the vocalization of an originally written figural language. That the lecture goes on to dismantle the figural lan-

But it is worth noting here that in his letter of August 10, 1903 to Lou Andreas-Salomé, Rilke referred to his reading of precisely those volumes as having prompted him to wonder whether the “handwork” he was seeking to achieve in his poetry in the wake of his observations of Rodin’s art might perhaps “lie in the language itself, in a better recognition of its inner life and will, its development and past? (The big Grimm dictionary, which I once saw in Paris, led me to this possibility.)” Rilke, Letter to Lou Andreas-Salomé, August 10, 1903, in: Snow, Winkler 2008 (as in note 3), p. 78. Translation modified, based upon the German in: Pfeiffer 1975 (as in note 7), p. 106.


 Brigid Doherty

Fig. 7: Auguste Rodin, Balzac, First Study of Nude “F” (also called the “Athlete”), plaster (1895–6). Musée Rodin, Paris, S. 2274. Photograph: Christian Baraja / Musée Rodin, Paris.

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Fig. 8: Auguste Rodin, Balzac, Study for Robe, plaster (1897). Musée Rodin, Paris, S. 146. Photograph: Christian Baraja/Musée Rodin, Paris.



 Brigid Doherty

Fig. 9: Auguste Rodin, Balzac, Study for Robe, plaster (1897). Salt print by D. Freuler, undated. Musée Rodin, Paris, Ph. 1209.

Rilke’s Magic Lantern 


guage in which Rilke had invoked the visibility of the audience’s memories of Rodin’s sculptures as a projection of “interior action” induced by his speech, that it goes on to envision Rodin’s sculpture as a potentially infinite list of nameless things—“One sees men and women, men and women, always men and women. And the longer one looks, the more even this content simplifies itself, and one sees: / things. / And in this moment my words become powerless. What should I say to you? Things — Things — Things / Nameless things. Vessels.”—that is a topic for another occasion.53

53 Rilke, Rodin. Ursprüngliche Fassung des Vortrags, in: Nalewski 1996 (as in note 1), p. 504.

Katharina Sykora

Touch Screen: Skin as a Shifter between Body, Space, and Image in the Work of Birgit Jürgenssen Imagine a body that is no longer attached to its skin. The surface of the skin used to be the place where the world began and the self ended. But now the skin can be technically stretched and made permeable. Skin no longer means closure. When surface and skin are scarified, it is as if the inside and outside dissolve. (Stelarc)1 She had been born with the veil in her eye. […] From here on, she did not know. […] The truth was revealed shortly before the end. Am I really seeing what I see? (Cixous)2

For Birgit Jürgenssen, skin was one of the most important media3 with which to explore the mutable potential of body, image, and space, and to multiply their meanings.4 In her artistic procedure, it was important to her to come as near as possible to her material. This allowed her to slip out of her own skin and into someone else’s. Skin, as both a means of contact and a borderline, is a central aspect of her work. Touching and separating develop into the dynamic positioning of her self in the world. Skin is also a veil and a threshold for Jürgenssen and therefore a medium5 that acts as an agent between the spheres of image and body, creating interspaces that undermine the antagonism of here and there, inside and outside, or at least makes them visible. One genre of image features a special affinity to skin: the pellicula, the celluloid of photography. Birgit Jürgenssen used it more often and in a larger diversity than any

1 Stelarc, Fraktale Körper/Ping Body, in: Tasten, Schriftenreihe Forum der Kunst- und Ausstellungs­ halle der BRD, vol. 7, Göttingen: Steidl, 1996, p. 316–329, p. 316. 2 Hélène Cixous, Savoir. Wissen (Dies sehen), in: Hélène Cixous, Jacques Derrida, Voiles. Schleier und Segel, Vienna: Passagen, 2007, pp. 13­–22, p. 16. 3 This text is based on an article published in an exhibition catalogue on Jürgenssen’s work in 2010. Katharina Sykora, Hautbild/Bildhaut oder ein Blatt wird gewendet, in: Gabriele Schor, Heike Eipeldauer (eds.), Birgit Jürgenssen, Munich / Berlin / London / New York, NY, 2010, pp. 57–73. 4 Birgit Jürgenssen mentioned several times that she sought to multiply meaning instead of discovering the ultimate meaning, in: Birgit Jürgenssen, Pulsschlag einer Sinnlichkeit, in: Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseum (ed.), Schmuck. Zeichen am Körper, exhibition catalogue, Wien: Falter, 1987 p. 234. 5 Johannes Endres, Barbara Wittmann, Gerhard Wolf (eds.), Ikonologie des Zwischenraums. Der Schleier als Medium und Metapher, Munich, 2005, see especially chapter 3: Textile Schwellenräume, pp. 187­–300.


 Katharina Sykora

other medium. Through photography, the artist inseparably connected images of skin with the ‘skin’ of images, as well as bodily and surrounding space on the levels of motif, metaphor, and media. During this process, the field of her work became more and more multi-layered in the literal sense. Thus Birgit Jürgenssen frequently makes skin the central motif in her drawings, objects, and photographs, and correlates the properties of their materials to the surface of their image. In her shoe objects, she bestows animal skin and leather with imaginative new forms,6 whereas in her pencil drawn self-portraits, she plays with Maori face paintings or in her photographs entitled chewing-gum tattoos, she adapts images of skin found in popular culture body practices. Beyond her thematic approach, Jürgenssen studies the metaphoric meaning of “skin ego”7 and “skin house” (Didier Anzieu) including their gender-specific codification. With minimal topographical shifts, she explores the relationship of sexuality and space in order to disrupt the dichotomous structures of inside and outside, inclusion and exclusion, wholeness and fragment. In her Interiors, for example, she ‘covers’ furniture with the skin of naked women by sliding erotic photos under the drawings of a manual on interior design (fig. 1).8 Female skin thereby becomes a collaborator and a metaphor for the medium of photography. Not least of all, Birgit Jürgenssen used images of skin and the skin of images as a medium to open an infinitesimal interspace between opposing bodily and spatial structures within which and from which perception can begin to move. Hence Jürgenssen sometimes covers her images with a transparent fabric. The skin she shows in her photographs thereby acquires a second ‘skin’ that invites the observer to come in contact with the surface by touching it. But at the same time, a material difference between image and picture is emphasized. Skin and textile become veils that do not allow us to leap across or break through the boundaries between spaces but operate as flexible partitions as well as invitations to touch, thereby transforming limits into

6 In the 1970s Birgit Jürgenssen created a large set of drawings as well as objects concerning the topic of shoes. Peter Noever (ed.), Birgit Jürgenssen. Schuhwerk. Subversive Aspects of ‘Feminism’, exhibition catalogue, Museum für angewandte Kunst, Vienna: MAK, 2004; Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Wem der Schuh passt. Fetischismus, Weiblichkeit und Birgit Jürgenssen’s Schuhwerk, in: Gabriele Schor, Abigail Solomon-Godeau (eds.), Birgit Jürgenssen, Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2009, pp. 231­–246. 7 Didier Anzieu, Das Haut-Ich, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1992. 8 In 1997 Birgit Jürgenssen cut out parts of drawings from an interior design magazine and stuck photographs of nudes under the free spaces. The skin slipped into the role of walls, tapestries, carpets, and all sorts of furniture covers. She called the set of works Interieurs. See Peter Assmann, Das Zimmer der Dame, in: Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseum (ed.), Birgit Jürgenssen. Früher oder Später, exhibition catalogue, Linz, 1998, pp. 123–127; Heike Eipeldauer, ‘Wie erfährt man sich im Anderen, den Anderen in sich?’. Aspekte des Unheimlichen im Werk von Birgit Jürgenssen, in: Eipeldauer, Schor (eds.) 2010 (as in note 3), pp. 29–43.

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Fig. 1: Birgit Jürgenssen, Interieurs / Interiors, 1997, color photograph, 50 × 70 cm, Private collection (ph742).

liminal spaces and making the gaze dynamic. In other words, skin and textile become thresholds in the sense of a laissez-passer for a roving, homeless eye that, having no spatial limitations, is on the adventurous lookout for unexpected contact.9 The textile covering the images of skin therefore reflects the theme of skin as a medium of ‘selfconscious’ perception.

9 In Jürgenssen’s sketch book with the title Appointments 1998 we can read excerpts of philosophers and writers that have reflected upon the surface (Oscar Wilde), the pleat (Gilles Deleuze), or the disciplinary functions of architecture and spaces (Foucault). In addition, we find associations of Jürgenssen herself about skin and the movement of transgression, for example under the date 4/23 we read: “Haut-Alterungsprozess”, “Haut Falten”; 5/15: “I got you under my skin”, 7/7: “cross over PROZESS DES SUCHENS”, under the letter H we read: “Fix in a centre in a chaos, organize a place to stay around a centre or escape this staying place / Ein Zentrum in einem Chaos fixieren, um ein Zentrum ohne Bleibe organisieren…??”. Beside the words “Zentrum ohne Bleibe” she writes “Laissezpasser”.


 Katharina Sykora

1 Touch screen or a touch of breaking out A view through a window frame and windowpane onto a garden, made opaque by a difference in temperature between inside and outside, leaving a veil of moisture over the otherwise transparent medium (fig. 2). A finger has traced the letters “Hauch” (Mist/Breath) into the veil. In German, the word “Hauch” is almost a palindrome, and also on the level of space and writing it is hard to tell which side of the glass the word is written on. One thing is certain, however: this is a twofold physical trace, a double indexical sign, as Jürgenssen’s finger has left a mark on the glass and in the photograph.10 The word imprinted in the condensation however does not merely signify what it spells out: rather, the ephemeral lettering shows the cold touch of a damp day and the warm trace of Jürgenssen’s skin more physically and with more complexity than a word is able to. At the same time the act of breathing becomes visible in the form of the word. The process is shown whereby the indicating and the indicated are made to collapse into one, are pressed in the endlessness of tautology. Yet a third element emerges here, relieving the gaze from the dilemma of absolute coincidence of word and image: We gain a view through a surface and a frame. Since, by removing the layer of condensation with the finger, through the letters and beyond, another world opens up to us: we see it not as a hermetic whole, but more as a random opening, not in a sharp detail, more as a vague hint of a flower, a lawn and a sky. This is what Jürgenssen’s artistic arena is like: an often invisible image boundary tends toward semantic and visual distinction as well as dissolution. Against this boundary she sets her body in relation, touches it cautiously with her skin, shifts the material of its surface, and thereby opens up another view, removed from fixed meanings, toward a terrain that is as obvious as it is invisible. The artist is both present and absent in this process: as a physical trace, as movement, shifting the functions of window and photograph, making them permeable to each another. ‘Touch screen’ as an open-ended aesthetic program in which the artist observes herself at close range— this could describe Birgit Jürgenssen’s procedure. Her works on spatial and image boundaries hereby become reflexive, not from a distance but from constant closeness to the material. And they become metaphorical by allowing a pun to appear through the frictions of the spatialized word “Hauch” and the physical trace of her finger. How better to shift the male metaphor of holy Odem, the emblem of masculine artistic genius, than with the casual fingertip of the female artist’s hand whose letters, by spelling out “breath”, refer to the Biblical scene of: “In the beginning, there was the Word”, not transforming this in a literal way, but creating instead a partially blurred, hitherto unexplored

10 Charles Sander Peirce has referred to the footprint in the sand as an example of the index, which he also applied to photography. From Rosalind Krauss to Philipp Dubois, theorists of photography have picked up this comparison.

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Fig. 2: Birgit Jürgenssen, HAUCH / BREATH, 1995, color photograph, laminated, 50.5× 60.5 cm, Estate Birgit Jürgenssen (ph1771).

“world11 through the Word”. By smuggling this kind of wit in the unmarked territory between word and image, Birgit Jürgenssen sweeps much more away than we assume, such as the ‘Michelangelesque’ gesture of the creation of humankind from man to man or the absolute belief in the power of the Word. Her wit plays with words and images, literally ‘misunderstanding’ them, taking them apart, combining them anew and thereby producing shifted meanings. As an agent of constant displacements,

11 Knowing Birgit Jürgenssen’s sense of humour, I assume that she also had Marcel Duchamp’s photographic series in mind in which he had put his portrait as the transgender figure Rrose Sélavy together with the trademark “La belle haleine” (the beautiful breeze) on a bottle of perfume, adding the notion “Eau de voilette” which transforms an eau de cologne based on violets (eau de violette) into a little veil (voilette=petit voile=small veil). Jürgenssen has often referred to Surrealism, and in her sketch book Appointments 1998 she mentions several times the connection of skin, perfume, art, and memory, for example under the date 4/21/22: “Remember the name, forget the fragrance / Alter:Erinnerungsverlust / PERFUME. OPEN AIR OF / ART” or under the date 4/23: “ALTER / ERINNERUNG Perfume / Haut Falten”.


 Katharina Sykora

Fig. 3: Birgit Jürgenssen, Ich möchte hier raus! / I Want Out of Here!, 1976, b/w photograph, 40 × 30.9 cm, SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Vienna (ph17).

Jürgenssen is herself part of this process. She is present as a manifold figure, both in front of as well as behind the camera, in the image and in front of the image, but she is mostly unidentifiable. Her autobiographical and artistic strategy revolves around this omnipresent absence, embracing self-irony as a marker for the shift between I and She, Here and There.12

12 Elisabeth Bronfen, Selbstironie als autobiografische Strategie. Birgit Jürgenssens Sprachspiele, in: Schor, Solomon-Godeau 2009 (as in note 6), pp. 79–95.

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Jürgenssen’s iconic work Ich möchte hier raus (I Want Out of Here!) (fig. 3) from 1976 could be understood as a counterpart to ‘Hauch’. Here, we see a housewife (Haus/Frau in the literal sense) in an over-determined gesture of self-liberation from behind glass, there, the casual usurpation of the male gesture of creation; here, the invisible, yet hermetic wall against which the artist squashes her face in vain, there, the permeable skin of the image that guides our view to a promising sphere beyond. In both cases, Jürgenssen explores a space that promises movement, be it ever so minimal, driving for that wisp of a terrain that is the starting point for a journey into the unknown.

2 Vases and noses The Noses are Vases is the title of Birgit Jürgenssen’s 1978 drawing in which we see three free-floating nose shapes (fig. 4). They open up at their roots, not leading to faces but to the beige surface of the paper. Red lines mark the contours so that the abstract vases become even more distinctly visible. But the forms could equally be of a different part of the body, let’s say, a heel, for instance. “Nasen, Vasen, Fersen…” (Noses, vases, heels): Here too, the onomatopoeia in the original German text, along with the visual interplay of the texture of the medium and the image of skin reflects a teasing creation of meaning that generates more and more free associations. By opening up the distinction between figure and background, Jürgenssen makes the faceless and disembodied noses into protuberances of the paper itself. The two connect to form one pictorial surface, one image, and one continual space. Jürgenssen’s photographic self-portrait, where a funnel-shaped flower seems to be growing on her face in place of her nose, shows a similarly unusual combination of skins and surfaces. With a slapstick kind of humor, the image illustrates the effect of excessive inhaling; the flower is stuck to the surface of the artist’s skin as if she had been breathing in too deeply. The self-portrait plays on models of a ‘grotesque body’, which transforms the world by absorbing it and dissolving into it at the same time. This model of the grotesque body is linked to the idea that the skin is a stretchy, porous organ, in permanent exchange with its environment. In this concept, skin is not a container distinct from the ego and sheltering it like a house; rather, the two merge to form a ‘skin ego’. Skin becomes the bodily experience of the self, as well as of the other. It is a means of communication and its flexibility and limitlessness are the conditions for its functioning. Touching, sensing, and feeling within this concept are therefore sensual means of worldly wisdom; they invest us with the experience of being at the same time part of the world and in the world.13

13 Michail Bachtin has described in detail this concept of the grotesque body, in: Michail Bachtin, Rabelais und seine Welt. Volkskultur als Gegenkultur, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1995. Didier


 Katharina Sykora

Fig. 4: Birgit Jürgenssen, Die Nasen sind Vasen / The Noses Are Vases, 1978, colored pencil, pencil on handmade paper, 44.9 × 62.7 cm, Estate Birgit Jürgenssen (z192).

Birgit Jürgenssen’s entire oeuvre experiments with a skin-ego that lives through its open surface and its communicative relationship to the environment. She often paints her own skin all over with stains, dressing it in a kind of painted camouflage suit, or she slips her body into the skin and furs of various animals, as in her hand alphabet You Jane, me Tarzan. In the first image of this set of drawings, she shows the outline of her hand dissolving through its dark and light stains of color. The pattern also recalls a pigment disorder that fairground visitors could marvel at until the early twentieth century: people who suffered from this disorder were put on display as socalled ‘panther people’.

Anzieu has written the basic book on skin from a perspective of cultural anthropology, in: Anzieu 1992 (as in note 7). And Claudia Benthien has published an extensive cultural history on skin, in: Claudia Benthien, Im Leibe wohnen. Literarische Imagologie und historische Anthropologie der Haut, Berlin: Arno Spitz, 1998. Idem, Haut. Literaturgeschichte-Körperdiskurse-Grenzdiskurse, Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1999.

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Fig. 5: Birgit Jürgenssen, Ohne Titel (Körperprojektion) / Untitled (Body Projections), 1988, color photograph, 84 × 57.5 cm, SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Vienna (ph865).

In one of her body projections (fig. 5), Birgit Jürgenssen develops this grotesque skin-ego further and weaves it into an inextricable interplay with the surfaces of the photographic projection and the photographic print. Her head, inclined to the left, and her upper body, naked except for a round breastplate, are cropped so extremely that no whole figure can be recognized. The severe cropping of the print’s rectangle 


 Katharina Sykora

makes one aware of the photograph’s own contours and therefore shifts the emphasis slightly away from the image content. The form of the photographic rectangle becomes an echo of the piece of material that Jürgenssen has stretched over her face like a mask. With its visible weave structure, the rectangular piece acts like a texture behind which the artist’s features can only be vaguely made out: at the same time, it becomes a kind of visor that she is able to look through. In its golden, metallic materiality, on the other hand, the piece of material becomes a sign that forms a shield between her body and the surroundings, as well as an empty screen onto which external signs may be inscribed. The same could be said of the photograph. It too is a window, a shield, and a screen. The photograph and mask therefore refer to each other visually and semantically. In both can be perceived an external velum for the body that suggests permeability but shuts out at the same time. However, in between these two layers of body and photograph, the projection of the body is squeezed in as a third layer. It infiltrates the principle of separate layers of naked skin, mask, and photograph by collapsing all three into an immaterial projected zone of brown spots and stains. We can no longer tell if the stains on the mask are painted or projected. Both Jürgenssen’s iconographic reference to the grotesque body of a ‘panther woman’, as well as the medial palimpsest of skin image and image skin, quite clearly deviate from modern notions of the body as a self-contained ‘housing’. This now predominant concept creates an ‘Ego’ that is not skin but lives in its skin. The self, housed in skin, evokes the notion of an essence at the core of one’s being hidden below the surface of the body. Skin represents a boundary between ‘Ego’ and the other, between interior and exterior. It becomes the hermetic wall in which only a few openings—like windows and doors—enable the exchange across the border. As an epistemological means skin is, literally, domesticated: it becomes ‘house’. This idea conceives of knowledge as a search for the essential, which is invisibly situated at the center of the ‘bodily container’. It provokes the gesture of discovery, revelation, and disclosure. Different gender-specific codifications of the skin come into play here. Along these lines, the female body and its skin have always been ascribed an ambivalent quality. The skin of a woman was considered more porous since, in comparison to male bodies, it features more orifices.14 Therefore, it is ascribed a more intensive exchange with its surroundings but also a greater susceptibility to external influences.15 This is paradoxically accompanied by the notion that the female body is built according to the principle of a doll within a doll. The womb is the container for the child, the woman’s body being its ‘natural’ case. From here, the common model is

14 Vagina and breasts were considered female orifices that through the fluids of milk and blood as well as childbirth were in an intensive exchange with the surrounding world. 15 Barbara Duden, Geschichte unter der Haut. Ein Eisenacher Arzt und seine Patientinnen um 1730, Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1991.

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derived that women’s equally ‘natural’ place is the home. This mythology is assisted by the metaphors of the woman as house, container, and vase. Their smooth surfaces and reduction to one or few openings have turned them into symbols for the beautiful, controlled female body. This other model of the female body as container is also taken up by Birgit Jürgenssen in numerous works, fitting a female nude into the form of a vase. The body is sometimes entirely trapped in the container, as in the drawing entitled Disappearance in Appearance; sometimes, however, it is released slightly from its case and tries to slip out through the opening. In several body projections, Birgit Jürgenssen superimposes her own body with drawings of the vases. In one series of images, she projects a double-handled vase onto either buttock (fig. 6). This is probably an ironic reference to Man Ray’s photograph Le Violon d’Ingres from 1924, in which he placed the f-holes of a stringed instrument onto the back of a nude model, thereby transforming her metaphorically into a sound body. But Jürgenssen’s torso wears the vases like tattoos that have turned out too large and that do not want to stick to her body properly. They belong much more to the sphere of immaterial light and shadow of the projection where skin and photograph cannot be accurately localized, and therefore lack the capacity to reinterpret the body as a container. The floating position of the vase drawings confuses the simple analogy of female abdomen as container and shifts the view to a meta level. The superimposition of woman and vase is perceived as a projection in the literal and metaphoric sense. Birgit Jürgenssen has also played on the analogy of woman and vase in several frontal views of her torso. On one occasion, the image of a vase covers almost the entire torso to make it resemble a tall goblet (fig. 7). There is little trace of a hermetic surface though. On the contrary, the paintbrush not only leaves gaps between the hatchings, but eyes peek through the open structure. In addition we discover that the foot of the vase is in the shape of thin legs, and the vase handles form a head and a foot. Birgit Jürgenssen invokes here the metonymy of womb, female body, and container but relegates them to the plane of projection. Moreover, she reinterprets the sign of the anthropomorphic vase. By making its hermetic surface permeable again, extending its boundaries through the grotesque attachments of human extremities and investing the beautiful surface, which is subjected to the viewer’s gaze, with eyes that look back at us, she loosens to some extent the inflexibility of the conventional sign of ‘woman’: the solid vase now becomes a ‘retina’, its pores become eyes, the near sense of the skin joins the far sense of vision. Contact as touch once more seems to be possible. In her text “Pulse of Sensuality”, Birgit Jürgenssen described her chief artistic goal as an attempt to render the fixed boundaries of our binary thought and vision more permeable. “The antithesis is like a wall without a door”, she writes, “and traversing the wall is in itself breaching a taboo. The antitheses of inside and outside, warm and cold, life and death, are separated by the most compliant of barriers—the barrier of 


 Katharina Sykora

Fig. 6: Birgit Jürgenssen, Ohne Titel (Körperprojektion) / Untitled (Body Projections), 1988, color photograph, 37 × 26.9 cm, Estate Birgit Jürgenssen (ph71).

meaning. How can we perforate this evidence?”16 In her works on the hermetic model of skin such as the woman as vase, she has come up with a good answer.17

16 Birgit Jürgenssen 1987 (as in note 4), p. 234. 17 “There is more advantage to separate home and body,” she writes. Birgit Jürgenssen, “The place of the image is in the living body that is inseparable from thought.” In: Birgit Jürgenssen 1998 (as in note 9), p. 64.

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Fig. 7: Birgit Jürgenssen, Ohne Titel (Körperprojektion) / Untitled (Body Projections), 1988, color photograph, 30.4 × 22 cm, Estate Birgit Jürgenssen (ph956).

Birgit Jürgenssen’s artistic work operated in the same field as the work of some theorists at this time: it concerned the relationship of ‘Sexuality and Space’. Birgit Jürgenssen owned a copy of the book of that title,18 in which the film theorist Laura

18 In an interview the artist tells how she was influenced by certain books she read. She explicitly mentions the book of Beatriz Colomina (ed.), Sexuality and Space, New York: Princeton Architectural


 Katharina Sykora

Mulvey among others analyzed spatial mythologies of woman. Mulvey approached the topic by means of the figure of Pandora. In mythology, Pandora is initially assigned the attribute of a box that encases all the evil in the world and therefore has to be held under lock and key. Then, the female body itself is equated with this container. It is now her very body that has to be put under control, or domesticated. But Pandora, as we know, opened up her box without consent, causing her to be accused of shamelessness. Laura Mulvey however develops a female “Aesthetic of Curiosity” out of this connotation. She writes: Pandora combines the iconography of mystery with a narrative of curiosity. If […] the box is a reification and displaced representation of female sexuality as mystery and threat, Pandora’s curiosity about its contents may be interpreted as a curiosity about a mystery that she herself personifies. And her desire can be represented as a self-reflexive desire to investigate femininity itself.19

Mulvey, like Jürgenssen, takes the modern concept of skin as the starting point for her reflections. Her interest is thereby directed toward the specific structure of the gaze that this model produces and that has been differentiated according to gender. The woman as container, says Mulvey, is no longer a communicative skin-ego but is a hermetic case or house exposed as object to the gaze of others. The ideal female body is regarded as a sealed surface and its (sexual) activities are to be held under control. By allowing themselves to be led by their own curiosity to look behind this concept, artists like Birgit Jürgenssen have, however, reclaimed the power to interpret femininity. They show that there is no essence to be found in Pandora’s box. What they do bring to light, however, are strategies, mechanisms, and narratives with which the image of women is constructed. This is the elementary gain in reflexivity that the aesthetic of curiosity creates in the field of female imagery. It is an aesthetic of transgression that does not tear down the wall of the fixed sign of femininity, but loosens a stone from it to reveal its construction. The opening in the wall therefore does not promise an insight into the innermost part of femaleness, and no solution to the ‘endless mystery of woman’: rather, it clears our view so that we can see how much the myth of the female is dependent on the structure of the ‘split screen’—that fixed partition between spaces and between the sexes. An “Aesthetics of Curiosity”, as designed by Laura Mulvey, might have moved Birgit Jürgenssen to balance out these boundaries again and again in her work, so that borderlines become membranes rather than walls.

Press, 1992, which she owned. She even summarizes some theses of Colomina’s article, The Split Wall. Domestic Voyeurism, in: ibid., pp. 73–128. Manuscript of the interview of Birgit Jürgenssen by Doris Linda Psenicnik, Vienna 12/21/1998, estate Birgit Jürgenssen, pp. 12–13. 19 Laura Mulvey, Pandora, Topographies of the Mask and Curiosity, in: Colomina 1992 (as in note 18), pp. 53–71, p. 66.

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3 Veil and threshold With this objective, Birgit Jürgenssen has often turned to a medium whose surface and edges are much more flexible than skin and photography, and that can nevertheless be stretched as a partition between body skin and pictorial space: the veil. Jürgenssen also takes a complex approach to the veil, as material and object, as a metaphor for the (gender-specific) gesture of veiling and unveiling, and as a reflexive medium that issues the ‘mediatisation’ of the border of the image. Vivian Liska expressed the diversity of the veil as a modus of drawing boundaries: “The veil is one,” she writes, “it divides into two, it occupies the place of a third, and offers the observer the position of a fourth.”20 Similar to a division of cells, the veil produces diversity, makes one space two, occupying a third place as a border, threshold, and medium of a transgressive view, allowing the observer to interchange between all three. We hereby gain a fourth dimension—a perspective that unfolds in time. Liska developed her theory of the veil as a medium of ‘productive’ partition even further. By considering the veil both as metaphor and indicator of the medium’s specificity, she regarded it as a specific way of seeing: The function of the veil […] brings into play the veil as metaphor of mediation and, activating its propensity to cloud and show at once, turns it onto itself. This transforms mediatedness from either hindering obstacle or smooth transmitter into a mode of relating to appearances beyond subjective or objective knowledge: one of sharing one and the same world dependent on being perceived from a plurality of perspectives. With an imagination trained in such a mode, the veil itself no longer divides opinions but multiplies ways of sharing it. It is then no longer one, does not divide in two, is not an independent mediating third, and invites more spectators to its task of seeing it anew than any ‘fourth’ position can encompass. […] the veil is no longer an object to be perceived but a way of seeing.21

This way of seeing was one that Birgit Jürgenssen intensively sought after. In her catalogue Früher oder später (Sooner or later), the artist shows as frontispiece a self-portrait behind a transparent veil. It comes from a series Untitled (Angel) from 1996/97 (fig. 8). In all versions, the figure appears as a silhouette shining from behind a curtain. Her body does not show any trace of clothing and her face is not recognizable. The transparent fabric is the mediator for her appearance but in fact veils all traces of her gender and individual features. In their place, diffuse shadows emerge from outside the photographic space, becoming visible on the veil. There, they partially nestle themselves in the drapes of the cloth and envelop the figure behind the veil as if in a robe; partially they unfold independently in front of her like a second

20 Vivian Liska, Upon Revisiting—the Veil, in: Vivian Liska, Eva Meyer (ed.), What does the veil know?, Zurich / Vienna / New York, NY: Springer, 2009, pp. 12–18, p. 12. 21 Ibid., pp. 16–17.


 Katharina Sykora

Fig. 8: Birgit Jürgenssen, Ohne Titel (Engel) / Untitled (Angel), 1996/97, color photograph, 158 × 106 cm, SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Vienna (ph809).

screen. In Untitled (Angel), we also recognize two shadow hands that loom from the side into the image. One is balled into a fist, the other opens its fingers parallel to the image’s surface. Both cross with the raised arm of the silhouette figure. The shadow of the hand and the body that filters through the gauze come from different spheres, but they join in the very texture of the veil. It makes them into interchangeable images that trouble our eye and make it doubt to whom the body and gestures belong. Is the 

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Fig. 9: Birgit Jürgenssen, Ohne Titel / Untitled, 1991, color photographs behind cloth, 80 × 90 cm, SAMMLUNG VERBUND (ph1470).

shadow hand communicating from outside through the photographic image with the body of the artist? Or is it a part of her body addressing us from the space beyond the veil with an ambivalent gesture between defense and jailbreak in the sense of her earlier work Let me out of here? “When you cover something up,” says Birgit Jürgenssen, “you can see it better. It becomes more visible.”22 In this spirit, she not only covered up the bodies depicted in her images but also the images themselves. In 1991, she mounted six large, metalframed color photographs edge to edge in two rows of three, and covered them in fine gauze (fig. 9/ Plate 14). The motifs of the individual images differ greatly: Those on

22 Jürgenssen (Interview) 1998 (as in note 18), p. 2.


 Katharina Sykora

the outside show the softly billowing folds of a silky, gleaming material in extreme close-up; in the center, three refined 1950s lamps float toward us; while above, there is a cropped image of Jean-Léon Gérôme’s Pygmalion painting from around 1892. The even sepia tones and the gauze homogenize the images, merging them visually to form one tableau. In addition, the lines in the images make the compartments of the tableau vibrate in the same rhythm. Everything here is in motion, in transit. This is narrated in the myth of Pygmalion itself, which as we know goes back to Ovid’s Metamorphoses. According to the myth, the sculptor Pygmalion managed to create a perfect female statue. Enchanted by her beauty and dazzled by his own virtuosity, he tries to find out whether the statue is alive as her appearance suggests by touching its surface. Venus comes to his aid, bringing the statue to life, and Pygmalion once more touches her to ensure that what he sees is true. This is the moment the painter chose to depict in his painting and that Birgit Jürgenssen has focused on by cropping: In the moment of his touching her skin the supple back of the female nude no longer has the quality of marble; Pygmalion’s caress indents itself firmly into her flesh. Jürgenssen has positioned the veil in her composition not as a divide but as a means of contact. The surface of the silk folds are lit so sensually that, like smooth skin, it provokes our desire to explore the feel of it. Thus, as in the myth of Pygmalion, art takes the place of nature, not only in the illusion of the photographed image but also in the offer to touch the delicate gauze stretched across the picture. Birgit Jürgenssen shifts the myth so that the female figure as the enabler of another’s virile self-affirmation cedes to that of a self-sufficient observer. In doing so, she brings it up to date and modifies it at the same time. Our sense of vision, which looks through the veil from a distance but is not sure of its perception, becomes a sense of touch. In haptic contact with the real material, however, we realize that it is but one of many layers of the image, and at the same time, we consciously feel our own pulsating skin when the finger touches the texture of the gauze wrapping the image. In doing this, Birgit Jürgenssen redirects our attention from the image as motif or art/object to our way of perceiving it: “The veil is not a sign of truth, but of change,” as Eva Meyer describes this potential of the veil to change our perspective.23 In its function as a touch screen, the veil generates a permanent metamorphosis in Jürgenssen’s work. Thereby the image is transformed from being something that divides space to something that layers space; and the observer switches from being the alter-ego of the artist to an extension of her eye that continually poses the question: “Am I seeing what I see?” In one of her notebooks, Birgit Jürgenssen quoted Kathy Acker accordingly. There we can read: “The word was a body, writing a hand, hand

23 Eva Meyer 2009 (as in note 20), pp. 9–11, p. 11.

Touch Screen: Skin as a Shifter between Body, Space, and Image  


a touch, and touch a skin.”24 This can be extended in an infinite loop and applied to Jürgenssen’s art. Then it would say: “The image was a body, imaging a hand, hand a touch, touch a skin, skin an image, image a body”, and so on.

24 Kathy Acker, in: Birgit Jürgenssen, Notizbuch 2000/2001, estate Birgit Jürgenssen, Vienna.

Annette Urban

Wild Walls, Revolving Sets, Built Cuts: Staged Interiors in Contemporary Photography and Film Installation When considering the interior in contemporary art, not only installation art—which can establish and furnish spaces directly and make it possible to enter them—but also film, video, and photography are very important. They often operate in a staging mode related to cinema, which itself has to set up a pre-photographic or pre-cinematic ‘reality’ with the help of replicas and set constructions and thus doubles the production of an interior as an inside world in and of itself. These are the first of the structural analogies that bring together the cinematographic installation and the interior as apparatuses of illusion that thereby integrate the viewer into the image. Just as it is precisely the interior, which seems separate from the viewer and only authentic when unobserved, that promises participation, cinematographic installations lend to the immersive flow of cinematic images framings and thresholds that both separate and connect.1 But do the backdrops that turn the setting up of a ‘true’ interior into an artificial one fit into this logic of representation? Into what interplay of disillusion and new illusion does the constructed character of these media-based inner worlds draw us? For all the contradictory nature of backdrops that can render representation selfreflexive but also prone to collapse, it is worth remembering in this context that in cinematic architecture in particular backdrops facilitate a liberated “new architecture” that unfolds in space and time “unfettered by the material constraints of gravity and daily life”.2 This potential is inseparably intertwined with a fundamental liberation of space by film: with the aid of montage and a camera “freed from the physical standpoint of the viewers” and no longer “held by the fixed coordinates of visible and tangible surroundings”,3 it is seemingly able, as Martin Seel and Hans Beller have

1 See Beate Söntgen, Das Interieur als psychische Installation. Zur Einrichtung des Innenraums bei Teresa Hubbard/Alexander Birchler und Eija-Liisa Ahtila, in: Ursula Frohne, Lilian Haberer (eds.), Kinematographische Räume, Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2012, pp. 419–446, and, on the cinematographic installation, see Ursula Frohne, Lilian Haberer, Einführung, in: ibid., pp. 9–52. 2 Anthony Vidler, The Explosion of Space. Architecture and the Filmic Imaginary, in: Dietrich Neumann (ed.), Film Architecture. Set Designs from Metropolis to Blade Runner, Munich: Prestel, 1999, pp. 13–25, p. 14. 3 Martin Seel, Architekturen des Films, in: Gertrud Koch, Christiane Voss (eds.), ‘Es ist so als ob’. Fiktionalität in Philosophie, Film- und Medienwissenschaft, Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2009, pp. 151–161, p. 155, n. 7.


 Annette Urban

put it, to “juggle perspectives”.4 All these dynamic elements—from the film set as an inherently mobile architecture by way of the free perspectives of the camera eye and the mobile camera itself to the film edit—do not, however, so much cause the selfbalanced interior to totter as intervene in the exchange between inside and outside as the basic condition of interiority. Rather than being altered by a superficial mobilization, the cinematographically inspired interior is still a place turned inwards and even closed off and remains relevant for artists as such. This is reinforced by film architecture’s affinity to the imaginary, not only because it may create dense, expressionistic “psycho-spaces” but also because space in film—as otherwise only in the mind—is constantly being built up and rebuilt.5 Given the interior’s tendency to close in, the camera’s spectrum of movement presents itself as noticeably restricted. For all the liquefaction, it is precisely the photo-cinematic gaze operating between those media that emphasizes the edits and gaps also inherent in them that correspond to the creases and seams of set architecture. The specific qualities of film architecture and its hybrid character between space and image can best be illustrated by examining its origins and the intense discussions of the 1920s when it was first being emancipated from stage decoration and set painting. Unlike a stage set, cinematic architecture wanted to be real architecture and, unlike the proscenium stage, to open up expanded areas for performance or a poly-focal view of the action.6 At the same time, it has remained distinct from real architecture, especially through its composition for the gaze of the camera. Hugo Häring summed up the difference of genuine film architecture in a concise formulation: “Wanting real spaces is all wrong. It is all the more wrong to build four walls on all sides.”7 As regards the representation of interior rooms, however, this means that with set constructions not only windows and doors, those mediators between inside and outside that are constitutive of the interior, but also entire walls function as openings—much like the imaginary fourth wall of the stage but even exceeding it. By means of film sets, it is therefore possible to pose again the problem of representing the interior. Opening up a shielded inside space, the film set model renders the interior visible while preserving its appearance as natural and authentic. Moreover, the transformations caused by the media gaze come into play. The photographic cropping [Aus/Schnitt] is essential here, as photographic cropping can be compared with the cinematic cut and creates specific relations to the off-camera

4 Hans Beller, Filmräume als Freiräume. Über die Spielräume der Filmmontage, in: idem et. al. (eds.), Onscreen/Offscreen. Grenzen, Übergänge und Wandel des filmischen Raumes, Ostfildern: Cantz, 2000, pp. 11–49, p. 11. 5 See Vidler 1999 (as in note 2), pp. 17–18 and, with reference to Elie Faure, p. 14. 6 Essential arrangements of the gaze from the theatre are retained, for example, in the 180-degree rule of the film. 7 Hugo Häring, Filmbauen (1924), in: Rolf Aurich (ed.), Werkstatt Film. Selbstverständnis und Visionen von Filmleuten der zwanziger Jahre, Munich: Edition Text + Kritik, 1998, pp. 107–109, p. 108.

Fig. 1: Edward Weston, MGM Storage Lot [Stairs], 1939, gelatin silver print, 24.4 × 19.2 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Wild Walls, Revolving Sets, Built Cuts 


Fig. 2: Richard Hamilton, Interior study (a), 1964, collage and oil on paper, 38 × 51 cm, Museum and Art Gallery, Swindon.

space.8 For example, in MGM Lot, John Divola’s 1979–1980 series of photographs of an abandoned lot, the beginnings of the demolition of the terrain merge with a “calicoworld” that is in ruins at the margins.9 Because the cropping selected is larger than that of the film camera, the suddenly ending sham architectures are exposed. Likewise, flat stages on wheels enter the image, making the elements of the backdrop city as mobile as the separate walls inside. By contrast, using a sufficiently limited framing, Edward Weston’s Ghost Sets from the late 1930s—which by means of the camera eye naturalize the hybrid combination of full-scale set constructions, reduced architectural models, and painted backdrops—cover up the same seams.10 Cinematic spaces thereby turn into tableaux. Meanwhile, stairways and landings in the storage lot present themselves to the same neutral camera like a found architectural montage of traversed architecture (fig. 1). Such stock pieces open up spaces and spatial views for collage.

8 See Philippe Dubois, La coupe spatiale, in: idem, L’acte photographique et autres essais, Paris: Nathan, 1990, pp. 168–200. 9 Siegfried Kracauer, Calico-World, in: idem, Mass Ornament. Weimar Essays, trans. by Thomas Y. Levin, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995, pp. 281–288. 10 Clement Greenberg expressly praised its ‘decorative unity’. See Clement Greenberg, The Camera’s Glass Eye. Review of an Exhibition of Edward Weston [1946], in: David Campany (ed.), Art and Photography, London: Phaidon, 2003, pp. 222–223.


 Annette Urban

This suggests an affinity of film set and collage that already inspired Richard Hamilton’s series of Interiors (1964–1965). The imperfectly conjoined walls of the film set and its use of a false perspective to compensate for the distortions of the camera eye find a structural pendant in collage technique.11 As free variations on a film still that is rebuilt using other photographic material, Hamilton’s Interior study (a) (fig. 2), (b) and (c) and subsequent screen prints dissect, precisely by eliminating the focal point of the male victim, the suspenseful constellation of the mise-en-scène and a female protagonist. Fragments of photographs from magazines and ads are interlocked in the plane in emphatically makeshift arrangements and held together by lines and fields of colors to create a discontinuous yet coherent interior. The partial views of different spaces from divergent perspectives make visible the photographic cut, of which we are not very aware in the single image, doubling it in the off-set edges of the interior and the cuts of the collage. In the following, we will use several examples to show how not only the collage, but also the photographic-cinematic gaze at an interior constructed using backdrops creates an image that has much in common with the spaces of installation. In multi-channel video, this proximity to installation is attained through the use of different screens that create multi-focal spaces whose many perspectives generate nonlinear narratives. A similar installation aesthetic can be observed in one-channel video and photographs where cuts become visible inside a single image. By this disparate spatial structure, photo-filmic interiors offer the possibility for a synthesis of the fragmented narrative perspectives of cinema and the anti-narrative interior.

1 A Chamber Play in Three Variations A group of works produced from 1998 to 1999 by Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler is particularly rewarding in this respect; they mediate between the artists’ earlier photographs of various reconstructions and their current, largely cinematic works with original architecture and locations. The group consists of eight large photographs combined under the title Gregor’s Room I, the video Gregor’s Room II (fig. 3), and the single photograph Gregor’s Room III. An interior and the corresponding backdrop are thus employed to explore in three variations the possibilities for approaching set architecture in installation, photography, and film. These works, which until now have been studied more with an eye to the interaction of camera and stage than

11 Winfried Pauleit was able to demonstrate this with reference to Hamilton’s own statements. See Winfried Pauleit, Filmstandbilder. Passagen zwischen Kunst und Kino, Frankfurt am Main: Stroemfeld, 2004, pp. 205–224, especially pp. 205–210. The still is from Shockproof (USA, 1949).

Wild Walls, Revolving Sets, Built Cuts 


Fig. 3: Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler, Gregor’s Room II, 1999, SD video, silent, 5 min 25 sec, loop, aspect ratio 4:3, stereo, installation dimensions variable, Sammlung Goetz, Munich.

as set architecture,12 will therefore serve as our core example that combines the reference to cinema with a narrative about dwelling. At first glance, it would seem the two artists ignored Häring’s maxim that a film set should not be complete. As is immediately clear from the shooting diagram for Gregor’s Room II (fig. 4) and a production still (fig. 5), which have both been published and even exhibited as more than mere documentation, Hubbard and Birchler did not employ a fragmentary set construction for this series of works, but rather one that included all four walls—that is, a complete room. Thus the one-channel video is transformed into a veritable chamber play, which is in keeping with the literary model for Gregor’s Room. That it is, more precisely, a reconstruction corresponds to the often imitative character of both film architecture and architectural models, which, through a symbiosis with depictive

12 See Iris Dressler, From the Outside to the Inside and Back Again. An Attempt at an Approach to the Works of Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler, in: Pam Hatley (ed.), No Room to Answer. Extended Edition, exhibition catalogue, Aarau: Aargauer Kunsthaus, 2009, pp. 90–110.


 Annette Urban

Fig. 4: Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler, Gregor’s Room II, 1999, shooting diagram.

Fig. 5: Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler, Gregor’s Room II, 1999, production still.

photography in the work of Hubbard/Birchler, evokes an almost childlike pleasure in mimesis.13 The room, which lends concrete, architectural form to Gregor Samsa’s room in Franz Kafka’s story Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis) of 1912/1915, is by no means a fantastic construct, but it is certainly a vessel for the imaginary, one dominated by an interior perspective. Its shifted reality is already hinted at by the subtle change in scale of the “normal if somewhat tiny human room”.14 Similarly, the film set for Gregor’s Room is as true to reality as possible, down to the historical furniture, and yet it remains a model that the artists produced themselves instead of using ‘genuine’ film architecture. As photographs or video of an architectural model, these works present themselves per se as second-order representations.15 Moreover, the artists undermine another convention with their complete reconstruction. For within the evolution of representing the interior, the closed spatial cell with its actual or fictive openings, still derived from the large-scale structure of the house, represents an older model.16 The modern interior is no longer accessed from outside but rather from the inside out, so that here an anachronistic outside perspective reveals an interior that is astonishingly that much more claustrophobic. The

13 See Philip Ursprung, ‘You Should Have Stayed in Your Room!’ Recalling Rooms. Stories and Architecture in the Photographs of Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler, in: Scene. Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler, Zurich: Codax, 1998, pp. 13–21, p. 13. 14 Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis, in: The Great Short Works of Franz Kafka, trans. by Joachim Neugroschel, New York, NY: Scribner, 2000, pp. 115–188, p. 117. 15 See Rolf Sachsse, A Short History of Architectural Model Photography, in: Oliver Elser, Peter Cachola Schmal (eds.), The Architectural Model. Tool, Fetish, Small Utopia, Frankfurt am Main: Deutsches Architekturmuseum / Zurich: Scheidegger & Spies, 2012, pp. 23–28, p. 23. 16 See Wolfgang Kemp, Die Räume der Maler. Zur Bilderzählung seit Giotto, Munich: C. H. Beck, 1996.

Wild Walls, Revolving Sets, Built Cuts 


demonstrative opening of space, for example by cutting open houses as if they were dollhouses, historically paved the way to representing an autonomous interior and is cited in Hubbard/Birchler’s earlier series of photographs Stripping of 1998, which features a cross section of architectural backdrops that they were using for the first time, and in the video Single Wide (2002), where a slit mobile home makes a hybrid of the film set and a broad proscenium stage. In Gregor’s Room II, however, the artists dispensed with any such fictive viewing opening [Schauöffnung] generally not immanent to the narration of the image.17 Likewise, it does not have an imaginary fourth wall,18 which produces an exposed interiority and, despite the viewer’s absorption,19 a genuinely performative interior. Instead, the dominant impression is that the existing windows and doors provide a view into an otherwise hermetic, architecturally separate room that reactivates the premodern power of disposition over the interior represented as a box. The solid barrier of the room’s four walls suggests not quiet participation in the interior’s being for itself but rather another illusion—one that allows the viewer to be present through distance. At first, the openings on all sides, through three doors and a window, that make Gregor Samsa’s room the pivot point of the story is at odds with the encapsulation within the narrow boundaries of the chamber. In Kafka’s story, the initially locked room offers protection for Gregor, who is surprised by his own metamorphosis, before the cracks of the doors are used for communication that is only indirectly conceded to him or even denied, and which ultimately serve as demarcation lines between the family and the son who no longer belongs to them. The video by Hubbard/Birchler again evokes the well-known topos of the uncanny interior, not through remembered film images but through the subtext of modern narrative literature. Only now we are obviously watching a single protagonist after the fact: we no longer see any conflicts or even the metamorphosis into an oversized vermin. Instead, a stoic circling of the room provides, through its four openings, a view of equally unemotional events inside. Given the lack of distance and external points of references, it is even unclear whether the strikingly regular, almost automatic rotation results from a moving camera or a revolving stage. In any case, the constant circular path reinforces the impression of the compact cube, even though it is only seen in fragments of its inside. Fields of black that enter the image

17 See ibid., p. 29. Kemp borrows this term from Anna Rohlfs-von Wittich, Das Innenraumbild als Kriterium für die Bildwelt, in: Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 18 (1955), pp. 109–135. 18 Dressler speaks of a fourth wall that wanders with the camera, but in my view that ignores the factual character of the barrier and the difference between a door opening and a completely missing fourth wall. See Dressler 2009 (as in note 12), p. 93. 19 This refers generally both to the figures in the pictures, who are immersed in contemplative activities and seem to be unaware of their visibility, and to the resulting absorption of the viewer. See Michael Fried, Absorption and Theatricality. Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1980.


 Annette Urban

from the side cause interruptions when they open up the view like a curtain and then close it just as slowly again from the other side.20 Through each door and the window, a different, relatively self-contained micro-plot can be seen. At the same time, the micro-plots form a consecutive sequence that is in some cases connected by a prop: from showing the protagonist packing boxes to taking a break with an apple and a thermos then lying on the bed to sweeping out the room, the video presents the room in the course of a progressive emptying that finds no end in the doubly circular loop of plot and space. The protagonist’s impassivity, interrupted only by a gaze, more questioning than remembering, at a picture on the wall, and by a brief sleep, causes us to associate him less with Gregor Samsa or any occupant at home in the room at all than with an indifferent third party. Even if what Hubbard/Birchler offer is no cinematic adaptation of Kafka’s material, the action of the protagonist is still connected to the ambivalent service that his sister and mother pay Gregor in Kafka’s story. The emptied room promises freedom to move appropriate to his new existence as a beetle, but also encourages dehumanization through the loss of furniture that serves no function anymore but is still charged with memories. Gregor’s room is emptied not only of hominess, but also of any traces of the personal, becoming a cell with conventional floral wallpaper and a heap of furniture pushed together. The camera does not imitate the literal turning-upside-down of spatial coordinates that results from the mobility that Gregor first obtains. Nevertheless, the point of view and the space—which is what metamorphoses, instead of Kafka’s main character—are just as much protagonist as the figure in the video, the new minor character.21 Tension arises primarily from the outside perspective, positioned without explanation in the dark but focusing on events inside that are less self-absorbed than indifferent. Only in one sequence is sunlight presented behind the curtains, which otherwise block the sun but gently move in the wind, corroborating the deferred action of the event relative to the world outside the window that for Gregor is appreciably receding. Otherwise, owing to the axial arrangement of the room, the view from outside through the opening falls onto another door opposite—closed, of course—reinforcing the hermetic impression.

20 In this opening/closing lies for Iris Dressler the act of metamorphosing the space, which the camera always follows belatedly. See Dressler 2009 (as in note 12), p. 93. 21 See ibid., p. 92, and Philipp Kaiser, At the Limits of Photography. Cinematic Elements in the Work of Teresa Hubbard/Alexander Birchler, in: Martin Hentschel (ed.), Wild Walls, Bielefeld: Kerber Verlag, 2001, pp. 89–141, p. 123.

Wild Walls, Revolving Sets, Built Cuts 


2 Photographic Framing of the Set It becomes particularly clear just how the intersections between inside and outside function in this video if we compare them to photographic works that share this focus. These works, Gregor’s Room I and III, feature backdrop architecture from the video, partly repeating the contents of the room. Each incorporates a male protagonist, who is also not clearly an occupant of the interior. In contrast to the video, however, the door and window openings in the eight large-format photographs of Gregor’s Room I (fig. 6 and plate 15) intradiegetically attract the attention of the protagonist. Unlike the mover in shirtsleeves, who violates the historical decor with a modern radio and plastic thermos, this character has a briefcase and a cloth handkerchief and wears a jacket, which in four of the eight photographs he has obviously removed like an occupant.22 His waiting or listening stance also suggests Gregor Samsa when he turns toward a slightly open door or toward the light falling from a window beyond the frame onto the closed door that marks an unattainable outside. The bluish light indicates a nocturnal exterior, contrasting with the warm light of the interior, while this indoor lighting seems to have been extinguished in two diptychs bathed entirely in blue. Does this explain the torch and the occupant’s reaching into the off-camera space for a lamp on the ceiling that has been invisible until now? Or are the boundaries of the space being searched for intruders, like Gregor who likes to hang up on the ceiling, if he does not encapsulate himself further under the sofa in order to spare his confidantes from having to look at him? When the interior light is turned off, the protagonist also seems to evade visibility and, while nevertheless stuck to his chair, to turn longingly to the warm light from the adjacent room, which again makes this third figure similar to Gregor. Similarly to the video, the series of photographs is structured by the diptychs into four separate micro-plots, but here the sequence is less clear, only latently temporalized by small shifts within the image pairs without a clear before/after.23 Three of the four diptychs offer their micro-plot in both front and rear view. Yet the cinematic shot/ counter-shot principle that this suggests, in which the protagonist is confronted with his own doppelgänger, has not only switched from a dialogue to an interior monologue.24 The views from behind do not so much hint at communion as at a possibly malicious observer behind the figure’s back. It’s precisely in this position, given the life-size photographs, that the viewer comes into play. By means of the image pairs, here too he circles a character that is not completely frozen in a single photographic

22 Kaiser emphasizes here only the role of a property agent and describes the three protagonists as the ‘removals man’, ‘the well-dressed man, possibly the property agent’, and the ‘man in overalls’. See Kaiser 2001 (as in note 21), p. 123. 23 See ibid., p. 127. 24 See ibid., p. 123. On the doppelgänger, see Dressler 2009 (as in note 12), p. 92.


 Annette Urban

Fig. 6: Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler, Gregor’s Room I, 1999, 8 c-print photographs, each 145 × 180 cm, Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau.

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moment but is unaware of the presence of someone else. The viewer shares a space with this character without ultimately belonging to it. The viewer’s space and the pictorial space seem coextensive because the photographic detail that allows us to look in never corresponds, as it does in the video, to the openings of the architecture of the stage set. But the cramped room does not really leave any space for reverse perspective. Only when the four pairs of photographs are installed on all four walls of an exhibition space is the encircling effect of a construction closed on four sides re-established for the viewer.25 By contrast, the camera’s view in the video Gregor’s Room II, which passes through the doors and windows of the set into the interior, enables us to imagine—despite its almost mechanical movement—that the architecture facilitates a subjective viewing situation, one that is part of the diegesis but at the same time is stripped of its realism by the artificiality of the stage set. After all, only a set isolated by adjacent walls can be encircled so fluidly. The extended interstices resulting from a completely dark projection screen might seem to be made plausible as an all too close look at a dark façade by the movement of the camera passing outside. They reveal the cinematic framing, which, unlike photographic cropping, is otherwise scarcely perceived in film because of the camera’s mobility, though here as it wanders it briefly coincides with the set’s openings, or rather with the doorposts, the window frames, and the curtains on one side. However, these interstices do not liberate the outer skin of the construction. Rather, the undifferentiated black planes seem like a “picture pause” and an “(interpretative) void”,26 amalgamating with the black space of the projection and weaving the viewers who are set in imaginary motion into this open seam or suture. In the end, between the sequences striking ellipses sneak into the supposed linearity of the interior events the film depicts and the camera’s slow orbiting that suggests an observer in real time.27 Even the rotating camera, which promises to overcome the cropped quality and fragmentariness of the image, is ultimately unable to capture the totality of the space. This is true even for a camera placed inside rather than outside, as in the related example of Sam Taylor-Wood’s slightly earlier series Five Revolutionary Seconds, each of which presents a 360-degree view of an interior in panoramic photographs. In the translation of the three-dimensional space, collage-like folds result from the interior’s being spread out as a horizontal stripe and from its temporalized simultaneity,28 which produces rifts in the continuum similar to those caused by the black images and backdrops in Gregor’s Room II. Whereas the shooting diagram of

25 This was true of the presentation at the Sammlung Goetz. In the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, by contrast, four photographs were hung on a long wall, interrupted by a corridor. See the illustration in Hentschel 2001 (as in note 21), pp. 120–121. 26 Dressler 2009 (as in note 12), p. 93, and Kaiser 2001 (as in note 21), p. 119. 27 See Dressler 2009 (as in note 12), p. 96. 28 See Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, The Soliloquious Vision, in: Parkett 55 (1999), pp. 138–151.


 Annette Urban

Fig. 7: Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler, Gregor’s Room III, 1999, c-print photograph, 180 × 222 cm, Sammlung Goetz, Munich.

Fig. 8: Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler, Gregor’s Room III, 1999, production still.

this scene, with the ideal circular movement of the camera and the precisely denoted door and window openings, reveals in a rationalizing manner in the floor plan how the set architecture and pictorial space dovetail, the dynamic visual space rejects this very coherence. Otherwise the doors, which are actually open, would not close again as soon as the gaze falls on them from the opening opposite. In Gregor’s Room III, which can be viewed only through the missing ceiling, the doors and the space, which can be seen completely for the first time, are ultimately completely closed off (fig. 7). In a nearly vertical top view, the highly foreshortened walls frame the plank floor that dominates this photograph, on which a third protagonist in work trousers is sitting idly with his back to the door amid a hose that snakes through the window, disassembled glass panels, and all sorts of tools. If not for the large format, one could think of a production still—though here with an even more radical bird’s eye perspective—that often demystifies the set; for example, of the labyrinth of rooms that in Fritz Lang’s M (1931) (fig. 9) is so distressing as a matrix for a game of hide-and-seek with several pursuers and their traitorous shadows. 

Wild Walls, Revolving Sets, Built Cuts 


Hubbard and Birchler begin to play with such filmic and para-filmic images,29 especially when the autonomous photograph Gregor’s Room III is supplemented by a small-format photograph (fig. 8). The latter is intended to be a production still—not a very common practice for photographic works—but it compels an intra-diegetic mystery by presenting the construction worker as a figure in the door seen from the dark so that its atmosphere has a retroactive effect on the large-scale photograph. By contrast, the production still for Gregor’s Room II performs, on a superficial level, primarily a documentary function, soberly presenting the set architecture, which is never seen in the video in that form, from outside as a box with a simple frame (fig. 5). However, as with the low ceiling and column that actually belong to the set, the lines between the installation and its surroundings are deliberately blurred here. The illuminated spatial cell, as a box within the box, draws the shadowy studio with a muntin window on the left into its fiction. At the same time, the artists emphasize that the spatial constructions in their studio were lived in and with,30 which again puts their artificiality into perspective but conversely bears witness to the continued performative anchoring of their works.31 Accordingly, in the photograph Gregor’s Room III the references to a construction site thematize the making of the set and at the same time fictionalize it again. This is reinforced not only by the miniaturizing, vortex-like view from above,32 which this time cuts out the ends of the backdrop that would destroy the illusion. Similarly, the traces of the construction work also participate in an overarching narrative for this group of works, which turns Kafka’s protagonist-centered interior perspective outwards by shifting the focus to the newly invented minor characters. This leaves an undecided quality: just as with the emptying of the spatial cell perpetuated by the video loop in Gregor’s Room II, the set architecture in Gregor’s Room III hangs in the balance between building up and deconstruction. The matter-of-fact emptying and remodeling suggest a stripping of hominess that in Kafka negates humanness, but also any right to change, and now—in the certain consistency of Gregor’s Room I–III33—could also promise a new beginning, which the family liberated of Gregor also allows itself. Seen in this way, what is being removed here are not least the traces of an interior that was hotly contested among the family and that ultimately turned into a deadly trap. Only the picture on the wall, briefly

29 See Pauleit 2004 (as in note 11), pp. 68 sqq. 30 ‘To Be Inside and Outside at the Same Time’. Interview with Stephan Urbaschek, June 11, 2005, in: Ingvild Goetz (ed.), Imagination Becomes Reality. Part II: Painting Surface Space, Munich: Goetz Collection, 2005, pp. 91–96, p. 95. 31 In House with Pool (2004), too, the interior is accessed by living in a house that is about to be torn down. See ibid., p. 96. 32 To achieve this standpoint for the shooting, the set had to be transported out of the artists’ studio to a place where this perspective would be possible at all. See ibid., p. 95. 33 Kaiser sees this continuity from the visit of the property agent and furniture packer to the remodeling. See Kaiser 2001 (as in note 21), p. 123.


 Annette Urban

Fig. 9: M, D 1931, Director: Fritz Lang, production still, Deutsche Kinemathek.

Fig. 10: Rope, USA 1948, Director: Alfred Hitchcock, set with wild walls, Royal Film Archive Brussels.

visible in Gregor’s Room I and II, reminds us of Gregor Samsa’s newspaper clipping of a woman in a fur and the bachelor’s room haunted by desire, providing an indication of the deeper tensions of the son who puts his own needs aside for the family, to the point of self-abnegation. Kafka narrates Gregor Samsa’s unacceptable transformation through his exclusion from the communal life of a family unit that initially still provides for basic needs but finally proves to be sadistic. Rather than this ultimate withdrawal from the home, Hubbard/Birchler present an “unsteady interior” in a continual metamorphosis.34

3 Wild Walls and Revolving Sets: Film Architecture in Motion But this metamorphosis reflects on a thematic level the constructedness of the spatial cell and ultimately proves in the multi-work context of Gregor’s Room I–III that this supposedly totally un-cinematic complete construction is indeed a typical set. As Hubbard and Birchler report, this freestanding cell permitted extremely free movement around the model but also the model’s own movement, thus allowing the artists to sound out approaches for their video and photographic works by literally shifting scenes and changing perspectives on the set.35 To that end, the artists, inspired by

34 Urbaschek 2005 (as in note 30), p. 95. 35 See ibid.

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Alfred Hitchcock,36 employ wild walls, that is, adjustable backdrops commonly used in the film industry. Hitchcock’s first independent film Rope (1948) not only made excessive use of them, but also underscores once again the seemingly paradoxical connection between the mobile set and the hermetically confined location. In contrast to John Divola’s photographs in MGM Lot, the utilization of wild walls in Gregor’s Room is, as we have seen, not revealed anywhere. Even in the production stills, they remain nearly as invisible as in film. Accordingly, only a photograph of Hitchcock’s set (fig. 10) permits a rare view of the elaborate ruptures and missing pieces of the backdrop for Rope. Already here, the mobile elements serve up a decidedly theatrical chamber play37 that derives its tension precisely from the “spatial confinement” of a single-set film,38 which is atypical of the medium. This bachelor’s interior too becomes a trap in a murderous game when its two occupants not only strangle their unsuspecting friend in their home simply for the thrill but also hide him in a chest—another enclosure within the apartment, which is never left during the entire film—and then arrange table settings on it for their guests, who only gradually become suspicious. The rolling sections of wall in the elaborate set of the film39 can by no means be experienced as a “‘collapsible’ apartment”.40 The wild walls in Rope do not serve to free up the camera movement, but rather help produce a continuum that is not exactly circular, but is at least as spatially and temporally unbroken as possible. As a result, in this tale of the seemingly perfect crime of two friends inspired by their professor to attempt the ‘fine art’ of murder and later found guilty by him, the time of watching the film corresponds to the real time of the event, as it is initially experienced in the case of Gregor’s Room as well. For that reason, edits are emphatically avoided as is the shot/counter-shot principle: rather than jumping back and forth in the room, the camera often dogs the backs of the actors and condenses their interaction into a lurking, noticeably constricting circling of both objects and the partners in the dialogue.41 Hitchcock was thus approaching something better known from everyday perception than from film: the “continuous field of vision” of the sort

36 See, The Uncanny Potential. A Dialogue between Teresa Hubbard/Alexander Birchler and Martin Hentschel, in: Hentschel 2001 (as in note 21), pp. 75–87, p. 83. 37 Rope is the cinematic adaptation of a play by Patrick Hamilton in which the time of the action and the duration of the play are identical. See François Truffaut, Hitchcock, New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1967, p. 130. 38 Steven Jacobs, The Wrong House. The Architecture of Alfred Hitchcock, Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2007, pp. 266–277, p. 272. 39 See ibid., passim. The precisely rehearsed sequences of steps for both the camera and the actors ultimately led to planning using a model of the set. 40 Hitchcock, quoted in ibid., p. 274. 41 See ibid., p. 272.


 Annette Urban

that for Rudolf Arnheim prototypically represents a room.42 Through the swiveling doorframe, a series of rooms opens up for the camera as a side stage, above all for the guests who are gradually arriving. An exterior is only faded in in the menacing interiority of the penthouse, which floats above the city, overly refined and latently homoerotic,43 housing a banal evil. For much of the film it is simply present as a skyline that emblematizes big city modernity, filmed with the aid of a cyclorama and a miniature model. Only when the murderers are exposed in the finale, does the neon sign aggressively invading the interior break up this treacherous sanctuary. Whereas in Hitchcock’s chamber play the chest becomes the secret pivot point of the interior space, Hubbard and Birchler stoically circle a box, which in the gloomy production still, as an intact model with a mysterious core, tempts us inwards (fig. 8). The parallels, at first concerning aspects of production, thus reveal other references. In Gregor’s Room II, framed by window openings that are at once real and made unreal, the viewer’s gaze is made to converge with that of a mysterious, half intradiegetic, half extra-diegetic observer. This voyeurism seems incongruent with but also mystifies the banal activity of the male protagonist who packs boxes and sweeps out the room. But while the video is already rid of the traces of the (interior) drama central to Kafka’s story, it reoccurs in the behavior of the new minor characters in Gregor’s Room I and III, one searching for an intruder, the other facing a devastated room. With its perspective that both remains outside and becomes intertwined with the inside, dovetailing the “territories of the stage and camera”,44 the seemingly revolving film set ensures that the pictorial space of this cinematic interior is organized almost centripetally. The “house of a film”,45 which is always open and designed around exits, is turned outside in as the exits lead into a place-less black that is pure gaze. In the actually centrifugal space of the film screen,46 a strip of individual views through the room’s openings pass by, pushing their way in from the side and thereby recalling both the shutter mechanism of a camera47 and the frames of a filmstrip. With their architectonic construct, Hubbard and Birchler thus introduce visible–invisible spatial and temporal cuts into their simultaneously fluid and discontinuous pictorial spaces. Hitchcock’s supposedly largely unedited film, too, does not get by without black image pauses, such as a close-up of a back or the opened lid of the chest, which ‘conceal’ the inevitable change of rolls of film and even the occasional cut.48 What has

42 Rudolf Arnheim, Film as Art, Berkeley / Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1969, p. 17. 43 See Jacobs 2007 (as in note 38), pp. 268–270. 44 Dressler 2009 (as in note 12), p. 90. 45 Seel 2009 (as in note 3), p. 158. 46 This is the view expressed by André Bazin, What is Cinema?, Vol. 1, Berkeley / Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1967, p. 166. 47 See Urbaschek 2005 (as in note 30), p. 95. 48 See Thomas M. Bauso, Rope. Hitchcock’s Unkindest Cut, in: Walter Raubichek, Walter Srebnick (eds.), Hitchcock’s Rereleased Films. From Rope to Vertigo, Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press,

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been ironically naturalized there is transferred by Hubbard/Birchler from the invisible interstices of the images into visibility. As in early cinema they shift the montage forward from postproduction to shooting, since the pre-cinematic reality as a set already has seams, ‘cuts’, and voids available.

4 Built Cuts in Photographic Imagery Because in Gregor’s Room II a set architecture appears as a built cut in the nevertheless ongoing image, a cinematically sequential inner and outer perspective can condense within one pictorial field. This interweaving of split perspectives within a single frame functions similarily to the divergent spaces that dovetail in multi-projections and initiates an analogous installation aesthetic in one-channel works and even in photographs. In the latter, the cut included in the picture stands out as all the more built as a result of the fixed image. Thus the edges of the sliced set architecture in the earlier series Stripping (fig. 11), as black bars in the foremost picture plane, cause uncertainty as to whether the views into the interiors, with their female figures, and the views of the exterior, loosely connected by shadows and gestures, really belong together.49 The cross section explodes any conventional framing of the kind found in Gregor’s Room owing to the parallelism with windows or doors. At the same time, this loss of a frame seems to fulfill the desire stimulated by window façades, namely, not just to get a closer view of a mere slice of the interior but rather to entirely overcome its fragmentariness. Only now, the viewer’s standpoint has thus become completely unreal. And the backdrops (that by comparison seem intact in Gregor’s Room) are so affected by such openings that the women seem to seek reassurance from their cutopen, even more strikingly doll-house-like enclosure,50 or else they eye the outdoors mistrustfully. This does not remain in the dark here, but it is just as imaginary. For the adjacent vacant lots are composed using a cinema-like projection of photographic backgrounds and are therefore at least as illusory as the set construction, which is conversely inspired by the real, often similarly provisionally renovated Berlin architecture of the late 1990s. The use of the rear courtyard connects a cinematic reference,

1991, pp. 236–239, and Peter Wollen, Rope. Three Hypotheses, in: Richard Allan, Sam Ishii Gonzales (eds.), Alfred Hitchcock. Centenary Essays, London: BFI, 1999, pp. 75–85. 49 See Urbaschek 2005 (as in note 30), p. 94. 50 See Beate Söntgen, Bühnen des Inneren. Die entkleideten Interieurs von Teresa Hubbard und Alexander Birchler, in: Silke Walther (ed.), Carte Blanche. Mediale Formate in der Kunst der Moderne, Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos 2007, pp. 201–212.


 Annette Urban

Fig. 11: Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler, Stripping, 1998, 5 c-print photographs, each 145 × 180 cm, Kunstmuseum Basel, Museum für Gegenwartskunst.

in this case to Hitchcock’s Rear Window,51 with the life-world anchoring of the set in the artists’ studio, which was itself located in a rear courtyard in Berlin, and in which studio practice and life once again dovetail performatively. Just as in Stripping, where a tightly cropped and cohesive ensemble of backdrops and an illusionistic light projection come together with a collage-like effect, set constructions can even ‘build up’ film stills directly. In photo collages by Martina Sauter (fig. 12), (set) architectures that precisely supplement the spatial constellations of the film image keep a seam open, despite the collages’ suggestive coherence and enduring spatial illusion. In often vertical cuts, the layers of photography and diffuse cinematic image reshot from television not only meet, but they also dovetail with materially concrete frames, door jambs, and niches as the transition zones and axes of sight around which filmic space otherwise moves. Much like in Stripping, Sauter’s starkly receding doors produce ambiguous dividing lines and hence hybrid image cuts and

51 See Hentschel 2001 (as in note 21), p. 79. Alexander Birchler makes this connection.

Fig. 12: Martina Sauter, Schwarzer Rock, 2010, 30 × 23.5 cm, doublelayered photo collage.

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Fig. 13: John Divola, from Continuity/Incidental Subject #32, 1995 – Bought, USA 1931 Warner Brothers, Director: Achrie Mayo, 20.3 × 25.4 cm contact prints.

spatial sections. In many cases, cracks in doors stir up narrative expectations here too and, as divided space, already allude to the invisible section of space next door.52 The sequence of angled views resulting from photographs and film stills shot around corners shifts the interior toward the corridors and doors so central to film, which, as in Kafka, dramatize accessibility. A torque, which in Gregor’s Room II seems to start the entire set revolving, thus seems to be already built into these photo-filmic spaces,53 and the many exits, which are as nested as the stories they suggest, go in circles. Ultimately backdrops, as suggested in Gregor’s Room and Stripping, can authenticate cinematic scenarios and turn them into a ‘true’ scene of the interior. This is all the more obvious in the work of Martina Sauter, who uses not only sets she constructs herself but also spaces in her surroundings as supplement. Construction elements that are less glamorous than worn-out and props so sharply lit that their materiality as things comes into focus ensure that the often female stars of the screen featured in Sauter’s work are not eliminated right away but in a sense domesticated. Despite their prominent occupants, film sets are thus turned into actual interiors: in

52 See Seel 2009 (as in note 3), pp. 153–158. Seel designates this as the commonality between film and architecture that is experienced from the inside out. 53 Martina Sauter works in her studio with a set construction like a revolving stage, composed of several segments of obtuse angles and adjustable walls. On her work, see Stefanie Kreuzer, Eyecatcher, in: Martina Sauter. 57 Photographs, Dordrecht: Thieme Art, Kunstraum Marion Scharmann, 2007, pp. 12–40.


 Annette Urban

them the actresses who otherwise dominate the visual spectacle are sometimes as parenthetical as the minor character in Gregor’s Room II or the actors and property men who slip in as Incidental Subjects in John Divola’s eponymous series of artistically appropriated continuity stills (fig. 13).54 As they have turned up by accident in the picture, these cropped or blurry marginal figures are often captured at doors that serve as access points to the stage set, and which in Gregor’s Room also (de)regulate the passage between fiction and the reality of its production. Their unscripted or even quotidian action has a reality effect on the film set and is as well an impetus for other stories. This dual valence characterizes, already in Stripping, the frozen threshold figures in which, especially in the work of Sauter and Divola, a sense of cinematic motion is still incorporated. In Sauter’s collages, they remain elusive, and hence all the more desirable, screen projections. The fantasy they also inspire of being different or someone else, i.e., this other woman, is, however, thwarted by the hard cuts through bodies and physiognomies. These cuts do not conceal but expose the artificial–natural suture characterizing not only cinematic space but also female bodies.55 The cinematographic—or better, photo-filmic—gaze vividly pictures an interior latently mobile because of its backdrops that thereby not only embraces but in equal measure cuts down notably its female occupants. (translated from the German by Steven Lindberg and Kristie Kachler)

54 On this, see Edward Dimendberg, To Be Continued, in: John Divola. Continuity, Santa Monica, CA: RAM Publications, Smart Art Press, 1997, pp. 49–55. 55 See Katharina Sykora, Suture und Performanz. Über die Medialisierung der Geschlechtergrenze, in: Werner Scheel, Kunibert Bering (eds.), Kunst und Ästhetik. Erkundungen in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag 1997, pp. 141–158, pp. 152 sqq.

Politics and Ethics

Benjamin H. D. Buchloh

Gerhard Richter’s Tisch: Memory Images and German Disavowal in 1962 I take photos from illustrated journals and dissolve them with a chemical solution and swipe and smear them. That is fabulous fun. I have always loved illustrated magazines, perhaps because of their documentary actuality. I have also already made a few attempts to paint something like that in a larger format. Curious to see how it will continue. I am pursuing something which in a certain way resembles the most recent movement: Pop Art (from popular), probably came up in America and is now heating up the minds here. (Gerhard Richter, Letter to Helmut Heinze, June 1963)

1 Preamble One assumption underlying the following discussion is the somewhat speculative, and perhaps all too general claim that key paintings in the history of the twentieth century have not just signaled crucial aesthetic changes, but have equally announced and enacted fundamental epistemological shifts within socially determined structures of historical perception. Inevitably, the precise historical contextualization of these shifts would vary tremendously, yet their concrete and specific determinations have been all too often subsumed under formalist or structuralist abstractions (for example, in my own earlier discussions of Richter’s work, when merely posing the question of photography and painting after the Readymade), or general aesthetic and art-historical concerns (as in considering Richter’s supposed proximity to Pop Art). An earlier case from avantgarde history could serve as an example of the type of contradictions we will face in the following: while abstract painting in 1913 had designed radical utopian reorderings of bourgeois subject formation, and had become an active agent to abolish all forms of sociopolitical domination and subjective hierarchies, other practices of the same historical period responded more passively to the sociopolitical and economical challenges or ignored them altogether. While some works that had emerged after 1913 had called for sociopolitical changes at different rates of rapidity and radicality, others seem to have been formulated as sly and subversive critiques of the apparently irresistible and unstoppable advancement of alienation and universal reification (as Marcel Duchamp did most famously). Others, yet again, had just passively resonated with the external pressures to sustain convention, following a melancholic drift towards retrospection, or had been mourning the losses of previously held affective aesthetic structures, blinded by a refusal to recognize the failures of their former epistemological aspirations (as did Matisse and Picasso, during the mid-1920s, to just name the two most obvious examples).


 Benjamin H. D. Buchloh

Pessimistically, or more indifferent to these questions at hand, they might have just thought of the collective conditions of reification as already having been too deeply ingrained within the cognitive and perceptual apparatus of society to be transformed any longer by artistic means and painterly culture alone. Or they might have quite simplistically doubted the competence, or even desirability of artistic interventions in history altogether. This type of a fundamentally passive, affirmative, and compensatory definition of the aesthetic functions had been formulated in one of the earliest metaphors associating painting with furniture, when Matisse assigned painting the function of serving as an armchair for the tired businessman. When Gerhard Richter invested the first painting he painted after his arrival in West Germany in 1961 with an explicit meditation on the classic functions of a table as a tableau (or, the tableau as a table, as a surface on which to unpack and display of what was available and what was at stake), his furniture metaphor undoubtedly did not endow painting with any of these compensatory, let alone hedonistic, dimensions.1 I will be dealing with Richter’s Tisch (Table), 1962 (fig. 1), as a painting whose central aesthetic and epistemic importance (to me at least) seems to originate from the precision with which it positioned itself almost programmatically at another crucial intersection of collectively and subjectively experienced historical and artistic contradictions. These contradictions, however, did not any longer address the conflicted status and functions that painting had performed in avantgarde history (such as radical progressivist abstraction versus conservative representation), or painting’s problematic relation to the challenges of political agency, or its confrontation with the public functions of photography and montage culture of the twenties and thirties.

2 Memory Crisis and Mnemonic Painting It is widely understood by now that historical disavowal and repression of the recent political past were ruling the sociopolitical and psychosexual forms of cognition and perception in post–World War II Germany at the time of Richter’s arrival in the West in 1961. And in the past forty years or so, German literature, film, and artistic production, and the ensuing debates in historical criticism, have developed new concepts of Erinnerungskultur, or the culture of memory, a cultural formation that responded to these conditions of disavowal. Quite rightfully, artists such as Joseph Beuys and Anselm Kiefer, filmmakers such as Hans Joachim Syberberg or Edgar Reitz, or writers

1 Tisch is in fact not the first painting Richter painted after his arrival in West Germany in 1961, but he destroyed most of the earlier paintings. Moreover the artist officially nominated Tisch to be his first painting by giving it this position and number in his catalogue raisonné.

Gerhard Richter’s Tisch: Memory Images and German Disavowal in 1962 


Fig. 1: Gerhard Richter, Tisch, 1962, oil on canvas, 90 × 113 cm, Cambridge, Harvard Art Museum.

such as Paul Celan and W. G. Sebald have been posited as central in such a project of reflecting and commemorating the destructions that Nazi Fascism wrought on Jewish lives and cultures, and European bourgeois culture at large. Furthermore, these artists also attempted to work through the Holocaust’s lasting impact on life after the war, by questioning the (im-)possibility of cultural continuity, and that of traditional nation state identity, and the formation of a German subjectivity in particular. While there have been many moments when one could have wondered whether the compensatory functions of this memory culture had not been publically initiated in order to finally forget the memories of that unmasterable past, we do not dispute that it has also had integrating functions for the partial reconstruction of German post–World War II identities at large.2 Thus our first set of questions will attempt to clarify whether Rich-

2 On the concept of “memory crisis”, see Richard Terdiman, Present Past‬. ‪Modernity and the Memory Crisis, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993. Later, see Susan Rubin Suleiman, Crises of Memory and the Second World War, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.‬‪‬


 Benjamin H. D. Buchloh

ter’s Tisch can in fact be seen as being an integral example of these early efforts at constructing a mnemonic approach to the recent German past, a performative enactment of an opposition to the collectively ruling forces of historical disavowal in post– World War II Germany, countering the comforting forms of repression with a demand for artistic and cultural anamnesis. However, I want to slightly complicate the historical account of German reconstruction culture by first confronting an earlier and more hermetic phase, the period of 1955–1962, when German disavowal and historical repression were unchallenged in the visual arts, a phase that preceded the successful development of a specifically German memory culture since the mid—to late 1960s. That period was in fact most clearly defined by what Alexander and Margarete Mitscherlich, in their foundational study in 1967, would call the German inability to mourn, a text which became utterly crucial for at least two generations of postwar Germans in actually confronting the German history of disavowal and repression.3 But to speak of a culture of disavowal is of course a paradox, since we generally assume that genuine cultural articulation dismantles any type of repressive apparatus, in fact, that it is precisely one of the foundational aesthetic functions to make visible and readable what has been withheld from comprehension and symbolization. Thus we will attempt to clarify the difficulties aesthetic interventions face whenever they confront massive social and ideological formations of interdiction or prohibition, and whether authentic memory images can only be developed to the very degree that they actually inscribe themselves within the hardened and pervasive forms of collectively ruling disavowal. Then I want to ask a second, more concrete question: to what extent was Western European culture of the 1950s and early 1960s in general, and the reconstruction culture of West Germany in particular, inevitably marred by such an intense defiance of inducing the labors of memory and mourning? In West Germany this defiance would be most evident in a variety of emphatic artistic counter-identifications with positions formulated by an international neo-avantgarde immediately after World War II, a spectrum that ranged from Lucio Fontana to Yves Klein’s impact on forming the German Zero movement, and from Robert Rauschenberg to Andy Warhol’s impact on forming the moment of Richter’s and Polke’s Capitalist Realism. The paradoxical conditions of German post–World War II reconstruction culture become even more apparent when we consider the fact that the initial efforts during the 1950s, both on the level of artistic production, as much as on that of historical and cultural reception, did not at all reflect on the actual realities brought about by the recent political past of German Fascism. Least of all did they engage with a culture of mourning the victims of the Holocaust. Rather, these efforts seem to have been

3 Alexander and Margarete Mitscherlich, Die Unfähigkeit zu Trauern, Munich: Piper, 1967. English edition The Inability to Mourn. Principles of Collective Behavior, New York, NY: Grove Press, 1975.

Gerhard Richter’s Tisch: Memory Images and German Disavowal in 1962 


primarily motivated by the desire to rapidly restore the status of a by now mythical, former German Kulturnation. In other words, they seem an attempt to overcome the pall of cultural prohibitions and the delays of avantgarde reception that the cultural policies of German Nazi Fascism had cast unto the country. One significant and by now well-studied example of cultural reconstruction that retrieved and repressed at the same time would be the policies of the first two Documenta exhibitions in 1955 and 1959 (the latter would become an event of extraordinary importance in Richter’s formation, as we will argue shortly). Both exhibitions claimed that the retrieval of avantgarde culture was of primary urgency, yet their efforts to establish retrospective links with the lost artistic legacies focused on the more conservative dimensions of the European avantgardes of the 1920s and 1930s, in particular on German Expressionist painting. Thereby, these claims themselves were already tainted by a dual disavowal: rather than inducing the critical processes of actual political and cultural reflection on the historical forces that had lead to the destruction of Weimar culture, or addressing the still very recent past of Nazi Germany, the mnemonic impulses of the first two documenta exhibitions, were deflected onto the art historical reconstruction of an acceptable cultural past. Furthermore, the very criteria of selecting aspects of these lost or forbidden “avantgardes” performed the second elision: all anti-painterly practices (e.g., from Dada to Duchamp), let alone all politically inflected practices of Weimar and European avantgarde history (e.g., from John Heartfield to radical Surrealism, let alone the Soviet avantgardes of the 1919–1929 period) were completely excluded from these initial exhibitions of German reconstruction culture. Similar paradoxes can be found in the manner in which German artists of that generation attempted to reposition themselves within the international neo-avantgarde. I will specifically refer to artists working in Düsseldorf before Richter’s arrival in a city that had recently imported French informel to West Germany, artists such as K.O. Goetz or Gerhard Hoehme who would become Richter’s—and also Sigmar Polke’s— teachers. Or we could equally think of Richter’s slightly older peers such as Gotthard Graubner or Günther Uecker who had left East Germany a few years earlier to establish themselves in the West as innovative neo-avantgardists. What seems to have initially driven all of these artists was precisely the desire to exempt themselves manifestly from the baneful German legacies, and to (re)-connect as quickly as possible with an imaginary internationalist neo-avantgarde by imitating Parisian, Italian, or even American gambits. Rather than initiating actual historical reflection, they claimed a dislocated and contextless radicality that generated a whole spectrum of aesthetic pacifiers and placebos pleasing to the bourgeois audiences of West Germany. One particularly telling example would be the artists of Düsseldorf’s Zero group, mimicking the predefined neo-avantgarde idioms of Lucio Fontana and Yves Klein. Both had practiced their own versions of a historical disavowal of Italian Fascism and French Vichy collaborationism, and both now eagerly performed the spectacularization of culture. The Zero group insisted eagerly on having access to a mythical Stunde Null, 


 Benjamin H. D. Buchloh

a zero hour of new beginnings, unencumbered by memory and history, claiming to start with a tabula rasa, which in their case meant merely erasing any mnemonic reference to recent German history. We will try to clarify whether Richter’s literal enactment of the tabula rasa actually formulated an opposition to this deceptive promise that cultural production could serve as erasure and elision of history, and whether this opposition could be seen as one of the decisive historical determinations for his foundational early work.4 Yet I will have to concretize the historical context a bit further, asking whether those circumstances that he confronted after his transition to West Germany, starting his second course of studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf, were more conducive or more prohibitive to the development of a mnemonic culture than the actual political and cultural conditions which Richter had confronted during his upbringing and education at the Fine Arts Academy of Dresden in the East German DDR. The Communist state in which Richter had grown up, whose party apparatus had finally supported his admission to the academy in Dresden and his education as an artist (after his first application had been rejected), and where he had achieved his first professional recognition as a Socialist Realist mural painter in 1958, had defined itself officially as the anti-fascist German State. The so-called Socialist government of the GDR during that period would neither recognize the State of Israel, nor share the West German politics of reparation to the victims of the Holocaust and their families, and German Communism’s doubly deceived, and self-deceiving population refused to acknowledge any participation in or responsibility for the Nazi crimes and the Holocaust. East German government and Communist party officials claimed that the population of the GDR collectively inhabited a Socialist territory of exemption from, if not resistance against Nazi Fascism, granting the collective population a quasiautomatic status as anti-fascists. This condition de facto could only be claimed by those members of the Communist party who had actually emigrated to Moscow or other exiles, but certainly not by the population of East Germany at large, which contained, now reinstated in common functions in everyday life, almost as many former members of the Nazi party as were reinstated in ruling positions in the West. Thus, when Richter made his transition to West Germany in 1961, he not only had to discover and embrace the so-called miracles of a zealous German economic reconstruction and the newly imported American model of consumer capitalism, but he also had to confront the actual legacies of German Nazi history, and the ruling disavowal of that recent history, for the first time. Attempting to re-situate himself within West German culture, the artist became both witness and subject to a cultural and political Americanization, a process which obviously served a broad spectrum of economical,

4 If anybody in the German context could be considered a predecessor, it would have to be the work of Joseph Beuys of the late 1950s, as for example his preliminary studies for the Auschwitz Vitrine, 1956–1964.

Gerhard Richter’s Tisch: Memory Images and German Disavowal in 1962 


ideological, and psychosocial functions. And if the adulation of American consumer culture had been massively enforced throughout Europe with the introduction of the Marshall Plan in 1948, the German admiration for all things American did not solely originate in a sense of gratitude, as we now know through the work of Jeffrey Herf and Eric Santner. Rather, this adulation of American culture in West Germany was driven to the same extent by the desperate need for a counter-identification with the victors.5 After all, the narcissistic investment with the Fascist figures had not been dismantled by internal resistance, critical opposition, and eventual uprising, but merely by an enforced liberation that had been brought about by the Allies from the outside, liberating Germany from itself. At the moment of 1961, the process of what was then called, in a dubious German term, the process of Vergangenheitsbewältigung (the mastery of the past) had originated only fairly recently. From the beginning that process was rightfully criticized by Theodor W. Adorno, recognizing that the so-called “mastering of the past” was more of a process of self-justification than a process of accepting guilt and responsibility, and least of all, as he emphasized, was it a process of actually mourning of the victims of the Holocaust.6 Rather than initiating a process of working through recent German history, Vergangenheitsbewältigung seemed to facilitate forgetting for many of the citizens of the new West German state. Accordingly, within the sphere of culture, similar mechanisms determined the period of reconstruction. And even if the veneration of the artists of the New York School was at that time pervasive in all European countries, nobody seems to have internalized the ethics and aesthetics of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman more intensely than this generation of German artists. Whether it was Beuys or Blinky Palermo, or whether it was Gotthard Graubner or Imi Knoebel, all of these artists still claimed—even as late as the 1970s—to have established and sustained a vital connection to their imaginary American precursors, fulfilling the function of an artistic lifeline that was seemingly uncontaminated by German history. In a similar fashion, Uecker, Mack, and Piene sutured their Zero projects to Klein and Fontana, heroicizing painterly practices with which they had in fact hardly anything in common at all. A slightly modified, yet structurally comparable model of dialogic interaction, if not influence, could explain the initial encounters of the recently Westernized Richter with American Pop art, in particular the artist’s discovery of the work of Robert

5 Jeffrey Herf, Divided Memory. The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997, and Eric Santner, Stranded Objects. Mourning, Memory and Film in Postwar Germany, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990. 6 See Theodor W. Adorno, Was bedeutet Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit, and Erziehung nach Auschwitz, in: Theodor W. Adorno, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. X, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2003, pp. 2–67.


 Benjamin H. D. Buchloh

Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein. Clearly, Pop Art’s aesthetic and epistemological inversions of Abstract Expressionism had generated a succinct diagnosis of the status of painting under the most advanced forms of an American culture industry that would have to be applicable with modifications in Europe as well. And it seems accurate to assume, as the above citation in the epigraph suggests, that these inversions were embraced by Richter with the same enthusiasm, and an almost selfdeceiving naiveté, with which the populace at large had embraced all other seemingly unmediated cultural and industrial imports from the United States (films, cars, clothing, music, and nutrition). In the following we will therefore have to address further the question to what extent Richter’s painterly process and performativity (as opposed to a merely photographic iconicity) aimed—and succeeded, or failed—to generate an authentic mnemonic cultural practice of that time. Furthermore we will have to ask, more precisely, whether we can simply speak of an iconography of memory, or whether mnemonic cultural practices actually have to perform a particular type of semiotic operation in order to work through a given system of historically determined and socially sustained repression (such as the governing informel and tachiste painting of Richter’s teachers in Düsseldorf at the time of his arrival in 1961 or the ideology of the Zero artists). In other words, we ask whether the elaboration of mnemonic experience would not require a specific performative rupture of the prevailing conditions of disavowal at each particular historical moment, and whether these specific discursive operations would not be more crucial than what any iconographic representation of a historical event itself might falsely promise.7

3 Tabula Rasa and Tisch Long recognized as the pictorial Urszene of Richter’s oeuvre, and having been ostentatiously positioned by the artist as Number One when authorizing his catalogue raisonné, the painting Tisch (Table) (1962) has received rather extensive discussion, and by now it is generally recognized as one of the key works of German, if not European reconstruction culture. Yet, it appears that its meaning and the causes for its historical centrality have remained ultimately opaque. Therefore, in the following, we want to find out what visual evidence we could distill from the painting’s contradictory

7 A comparison between political claims made by artists for the use of photographic images depicting political or historical events (as for example in Vostell’s use of images of the Vietnam War at the time) would instantly illuminate that Richter’s choice to situate a particular set of images at the intersection between aesthetics and historically specific politics in Germany at the moment of the early 1960s made his work perform rather than merely depict the putative mnemonic functions of the photograph.

Gerhard Richter’s Tisch: Memory Images and German Disavowal in 1962 


Fig. 2: Gerhard Richter, Woman Reading on The Beach, 1960.

features in specifically painterly and pictorial terms (before we engage with the questions of photographic representation), evidence that would amount to a verifiable historical argument without exceeding a modicum of inevitable interpretive speculation. This first official work painted by Gerhard Richter in the West (as opposed to the former, twenty-nine-year-old Dresden painter’s peculiarly anodyne, and simultaneously insidious variety of East German Socialist Realism, as exemplified in Woman Reading on The Beach from 1960 or his mural Lebensfreude from 1959 (fig. 2/ Plate 16, fig. 3)) tells us as much about his recent and sudden adaptations as it does about the programmatic elimination and literal erasures of the painter’s earlier identity. First of all, of course, it tells us about his departure from East Germany, and his detachment from his first formation as a fully trained mural painter for the Communist Party of Stalinist State Socialism, to which the artist seems to have been devoted for a few years, be it by youthful naiveté, by careerist desire, or by ideological opportunism. Second: beyond this programmatic pictorial exorcism from Socialist Realism, the painting engages in an infinitely more complex and subtle set of operations: an initiation, a rehearsal, and an ultimate transformation, if not a travesty of all of the blinding discoveries that the young Richter had made at Documenta II in 1959, when recognizing the new epistemes of contemporary European and American pictorial practices. Other than the American cult figure of Jackson Pollock, two European artists in particular had left an enormous impression on him, as he has frequently 


 Benjamin H. D. Buchloh

Fig. 3: Gerhard Richter, Joy of Life, mural, 1956 (now painted over), Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, Dresden.

confirmed in conversations, Jean Fautrier and Lucio Fontana. And now, in Richter’s first attempt to emulate these discoveries in an astonishing palimpsest of recent painterly pursuits (notabene, American, French, and Italian, not the expansively displayed German tachistes, once again), he will have to construct a paradoxical simultaneity of these contradictory citations, and compound them with an additional set of erasures. Tisch thus seems to be suspended in a climactic confrontation between the American and the European modes of post-automatist gesture, or rather, the various painterly and gestural gambits with which artists were engaged after Surrealism: either to mechanize and eventually spectacularize gesture, or to erase painterly ductus altogether. In combining and synthesizing all of these elements (gesture against and as erasure, gesture defying and delivering a pictorial and spatial void, gesture containing and undoing a photographic matrix), Richter would simultaneously perform and cancel these recently conquered pictorial strategies, eventually reaching his own, newly discovered paradigm of a painted photograph and a readymade painting. Even though the radical painterly discourses that had reemerged during the post– World War II period were generally defined by extreme discontinuities and incompatible oppositions (all the more so, since for the most part they were citational, originating in utterly different contexts of avantgarde formations of the 1920s), it would be hard to imagine a greater painterly (and also critical and art-historical) challenge than attempting a synthesis of Pollock and Rauschenberg, of Fautrier and Fontana, as Richter tried in Tisch. To discover the decontextualized citations of monochrome 

Gerhard Richter’s Tisch: Memory Images and German Disavowal in 1962 


painting, abstract automatist gesture, and of photomontage aesthetics, and to try to integrate them in a present painterly idiom, would have shattered the identity of any young artist at that time, were it not for Richter’s commitment to radical pictorial truth value. And Richter’s encounter with these contradictions seems to have generated less of a chasm than a daring fusion of attraction and repulsion, driven by a diffidence typical of a young artist’s genuine encounter with given pictorial conventions. Revealing his own misreading of the works under consideration (and even more so his inevitable lack of familiarity with Western European and American neo-avantgarde strategies of the fifties), Richter emphasized that what attracted him most at that moment was the shock value of his predecessors’ paintings. While it is obvious for example that shock had indeed been one of the strategies with which the Dada avantgardes had responded to World War I, one would certainly neither credit Pollock’s, nor Fontana’s, nor Fautrier’s painting after World War II with a strategy of shock protesting against recently experienced collective forms of barbarism. Rather, if anything made the European paintings of Italian and French descent comparable at all, it would have been their profound disillusion with regard to the formerly presumed utopian and sociopolitical powers of the historical avantgarde. The post–World War II “zero degree of painting” most certainly did not result from the utopian reductivism from which the shock of revolutionary forces had once emerged (as had been the case with the empirio-critical reduction of painting in the hands of the Russian and Soviet, or Dutch artists forty years before). The new degree zero originated now more in the historically determined final detachment of painting from any investment with progressive and critical aspirations, possibly even from the insight that aesthetic practice and transformative political promises from now on would have to remain severed. Both Fautrier and Fontana had confronted these historical closures of utopian aspirations in the late 1940s from very different perspectives, and both saw painting as approaching very different thresholds of dissolution. While Fontana articulated that sense of a determined finality with ostentatious gestural histrionics, assimilating painterly gesture and chroma increasingly to the apparently inescapable conditions of spectacularization, Fautrier by contrast responded with a slow process of painterly decomposition, mourning painting’s proper disappearance. Or, we could argue that Fontana, after Pollock and Georges Mathieu, had ostentatiously embraced painting’s initial encounter and eventual assimilation with spectacle culture (which made him of course such an important influence on Yves Klein). Fautrier, in manifest opposition, literally performed painting’s withdrawal from the grand gesture, tracing its gradual disintegration under the increasing pressures of spectacularization. As Fontana evacuated painterly gesture of all expressivity by forcing gesture into a declamatory mechanicity of execution, the innate historical violence of spectacle was already becoming evident in the shift from paintbrush to knife, or other tools such as screwdrivers, with which the pictorial surface was pierced, cut, and lacerated. Not surprisingly, this violation of perception was often explicitly—and most problematically—sexualized by the artist and his early critics as a heroic, virile attack on the canvas as virgin territory. 


 Benjamin H. D. Buchloh

Yet what was actually at stake in the violent laceration of painting was not the pictorial surface as an object of the projection of male desire, but rather, the historically mandated task of having to evacuate desire and psychic presence from the act of painting altogether. All painterly practices, even the most aggressive and antagonistic ones such as Pollock’s belated and hypertrophic automatism, were now recruited for the ever-expanding dominion of spectacle, even if they had been previously thought of as being exempt, if not even in critical opposition to its universal claims for control and domination. Fautrier’s handling of paint and impasto had situated his work at the opposite end of that historical spectrum, endowing it with the exact dialectical counterparts of painting’s dilemma after World War II. Questioning whether chroma and texture could actually still correspond to a phenomenology of the prelinguistic forms of the subject’s constitution in haptic, tactile, and visual experiences, Fautrier’s post–World War II work contemplated whether the historically traumatized body could be painted at all. And his explicit rejection of critical self-reflexivity as one of Modernist painting’s epistemological foundations had actually opened up painting’s mnemonic potential, the extreme opposite of Fontana’s spectacle. Not surprisingly, the cognition of this oppositional force would exude equal, if not greater attraction and impact on Richter’s conversion on the road to the West. If Richter, in his encounters with Fautrier and Fontana, had intuitively recognized that these oppositions were indeed some of the most crucial aspects of the dilemmas of post–World War II European painting, the artist expanded these seemingly irreconcilable contradictions of painterly production even further when he painted Tisch. To fully grasp the extent of that epistemological expansion, we now have to turn to the third foundational element in Richter’s newly constructed Westernized identity: the discovery of a matrix of found photographs and the commodity objects of everyday life, induced by his encounter with Rauschenberg and Fluxus. Radically altering both models, Richter increased the effects of their random selection and their seemingly universal equivalence, while at the same time paradoxically foregrounding their iconic impact.

4 Avantgarde Disavowals Therefore, our final set of questions addresses the considerable delays with which painterly practices of the post–World War II period recuperated an awareness of the former centrality of photography in the avantgarde cultures of the prewar period. And if the work of Robert Rauschenberg in the 1950s could serve as the American epitome of post–World War II painting’s delayed reception process of an earlier photographic culture of the prewar avantgardes, Richter’s own, even more belated rediscovery of the photographic medium was undoubtedly mediated by his responses to Rauschen

Gerhard Richter’s Tisch: Memory Images and German Disavowal in 1962 


berg’s work. As had been the case with gesture and facture, erasure and iconic inscription, the painting Tisch places these epistemological conflicts between painting and photography once again almost literally on the table/tableau as the surfaces of their most cogent display. When queried on his actual encounter with the aesthetics of photography and photomontage, Richter has named Rauschenberg’s belated and depoliticized resuscitation of the paradigm of collage in general and of the photographic montage image in particular without hesitation as the foundational moment of his re-discovery of these media and genres. Once again, Richter had been confronted with this legacy for the first time at documenta II in 1959, and again several years later in Düsseldorf when reading publications and hearing reports on Rauschenberg’s first painterly fusions of drawing and photomontage. This new technique of solvent transfer drawings, which Rauschenberg had started in 1952, had culminated in his XXXIV Drawings for Dante’s Inferno (1958–1960).8 These drawings had been exhibited to great acclaim in JeanPierre Wilhelm’s Gallery 22 in 1960, a year before Richter’s arrival in Düsseldorf, and had been published in 1963 as a portfolio of lithographic reproductions. The encounter with these works had left a lasting impact on the discussions among Richter’s new circle of peers, in particular his new friends Konrad Lueg and Sigmar Polke, who had actually seen the exhibition of Rauschenberg’s montage images.9 Undoubtedly these discussions had also triggered the enthusiastic, either brazenly naive, or breathtakingly callous adoption of Rauschenberg’s new techniques in Richter’s letter in 1963 quoted at the beginning of this essay. When I asked Richter about his relationship to the legacies of John Heartfield or Hannah Höch, the two figures who first conceived the practices of photomontage in Weimar Germany, Richter responded that he ignored them altogether during his life in

8 The traditional saga about Rauschenberg’s discovery of this peculiar medium of a chemical image solvent and transfer process runs as follows: Rauschenberg claimed to have discovered the chemical, sold as a cheap children’s toy during a visit to Cuba in 1952. Apparently he observed Cuban children using the solvent to rub off and duplicate the images from American illustrated journals like Saturday Evening Post or Life Magazine, inspiring him after his return from Cuba to apply the same method in some early transfer drawings, though he only fully explored the technique when he went to work on the Dante Drawings in 1958. 9 Susanne Rennert explicitly states that both Fischer and Polke attended the opening of the exhibition of Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly at Jean-Pierre Wilhelm’s Gallery 22 in Düsseldorf in 1960, which would be the closing exhibition of the extraordinary activities that Wilhelm had initiated in Düsseldorf. Rauschenberg exhibited a group of these early solvent transfer drawings, if not the entire XXXIV Drawings for Dante’s Inferno in this final exhibition of Jean Pierre Wilhelm’s Gallery  22, in Düsseldorf, April 22–May 30, 1960.Wilhelm would continue as an extraordinarily advanced thinker about artistic practices when three years later he coorganized the two major Fluxus Festivals in Düsseldorf in 1962 and 1963 respectively. See Sylvia Martin and Susanne Rennert (eds.), Le hasard fait bien des choses: Jean Pierre Wilhelm: Informel, Fluxus und die Galerie 22, Cologne: Walther König Verlag, 2013.


 Benjamin H. D. Buchloh

the GDR, and that in any case he had been totally indifferent to the Dada legacies in general. Worse yet, when the question came to Heartfield in particular, Richter stated that he intensely disliked his work when he had encountered it during his studies in Dresden in the 1950s. After all, Richter had pretended to have wholeheartedly, even if only temporarily adopted the politics of State Socialism and the cultural policies of Socialist Realist painting. These authoritarian forms of figurative and narrative painting had been instituted as the new principles of cultural production for the state Socialism of the Soviet Union since 1932, and had been subsequently imposed on its Stalinist satellites of which the German GDR, along with Albania, was of course one of the most avid and ardent allies. Thus it was precisely the history and theory of anti-fascist photomontage aesthetics that had been totally effaced by the narrow spectrum of so-called Socialist Realism in the GDR, precisely the medium and strategies within which Heartfield had emerged as the preeminent figure of international photomontage aesthetics, and within which he had determined the anti-fascist cultural oppositions of the 1920s and 1930s. While this was clearly the principal reason that the so-called Socialist authorities of the East German Democratic Republic had marginalized Heartfield for the first five years after his return from exile in England in 1950, the political chicaneries of the German Stalinists also had initially falsely accused Heartfield of having been a spy in the service of the British government. Thus it is reasonable to assume that Richter’s disdain for and phobia of Heartfield’s photomontage work originated in the East German enforcement of State Socialist Realism. But additionally it would be plausible to assume that Richter’s virulent anti-Communism, which emerged after his departure from the GDR, nurtured his historical rejection of Heartfield all the more due to Heartfield’s early aesthetic and political affiliations with the newly founded German Communist party in 1919 and the radical left wing of Berlin Dada. What Richter’s disavowal of an entire aesthetic and artistic legacy signals to us is of course one of the most crippling conditions that had defined postwar reconstruction culture in Germany at large: the total discrediting of any model of a possible cultural continuity and identification. Whether it was the devastation that Fascist ideology had wrought upon concepts of the nation state itself, or whether it was the destruction of institutions of the public sphere, like the art academies, the universities and the museums that had traditionally provided models of a continuity of subject formation. This applied of course all the more to the parameters of any politicized forms of class consciousness and its economical and political strategies of transformation, or the actual artistic practices that the avantgardes had formulated in the pre-fascist period. The fact that artists could not reposition themselves at all in any relation to the radical avantgarde cultures of Weimar Germany must have been one of the most destructive conditions for post–World War II German artists. Some explanations for this apparently insurmountable chasm seem obvious by now; others still need further exploration, since the phenomenon has not been systematically addressed at all. For 

Gerhard Richter’s Tisch: Memory Images and German Disavowal in 1962 


reasons that still seem to be only partially understood, German artists after World War II could neither identify successfully with the more conservative painterly positions (for example, Max Beckmann), nor, as we just saw in Richter’s case, with the more radical forms of montage aesthetics. And it was precisely those artists who attempted to sustain artificial continuities (as did Georg Baselitz for example, claiming bonds with legacies ranging from Lovis Corinth to German Expressionism) that ultimately failed all the more in gaining any actual credibility for their painterly endeavors. Most paradoxical, however, is the fact that it was precisely those political cultural practices that had opposed the rise of Nazi Fascism, from Berlin—and Hannover— Dada to left-wing Neue Sachlichkeit, that were now perceived as an additional hindrance for any attempt at constructing a new cultural German identity. Regardless of whether they had been activist photomontage artists and had been oppositional and exiled (like John Heartfield), or whether they had been radical thinkers in the context of painterly abstraction and had perished under Nazi prosecution (like Otto Freundlich for example), those artists who had taken an explicit political stance apparently were disqualified from historical recollection in the first twenty years of West German reconstruction culture.10 We must therefore assume that during this period any recovery of artistic practices engaged with a political dimension remained blocked precisely because of the political violence with which the Germans themselves had destroyed the Weimar avantgardes on their own territory. This condition seems to have been perceived with such intense shame that most artists until the early 1960s considered the total depoliticization of their work the more promising route, one that allowed them to stay clear of any burden reminiscent of the history and trauma that had been inflicted on their politicized predecessors. One step was the decision to avoid the question of the highly problematized interrelation between nation state, culture, and artistic production altogether, assuming that the fictions of a new cultural internationalism (such as those promulgated by Zero and tachisme for example, and even intensified with the arrival of American Fluxus and Pop Art in Düsseldorf) could now become the solely valid, determining parameters of production.

5 Photographic Matrix and Memory Image As we have argued, Richter’s photographic paintings clearly originate in the rediscovery of the photographic matrix in Rauschenberg’s work, in particular the solvent transfer drawings of the early 1950s, yet they initiate a fundamentally different regis-

10 One would only have to think of the celebratory resuscitation of the work of artists of the so-called “inner emigration”, such as Willi Baumeister and Oskar Schlemmer in the post–World War II period to recognize this mechanism, or in the field of photography the early resuscitation of the work of August Sander and Albert Renger-Patzsch in the project of Bernd and Hilla Becher.


 Benjamin H. D. Buchloh

ter of reading photographic images in post–World War II German painting and photography. The photo paintings from 1962–1966 suspend two principles in a dialectical tension: one claims a universal validity and aleatory availability of any photographic image as a readymade, whereas the other principle invests this seemingly meaningless universal equivalence with a sudden historical and iconographical charge. Yet, we do not only have to understand the emerging control of the painterly gesture by the photograph, but also the total immersion of the pictorial field by photographic technology. Thus we have to explore further what type of historical functions the photographic image might have performed at that time, and whether its status and functions were at all comparable with the earlier onset of photographic culture in the 1920s when photography had been one of the fundamental forces to dislodge the hegemony of painterly aesthetics. And it is here that the seemingly pointless comparison between the photomontage of the Dadaists and Rauschenberg’s pseudo-montages becomes even more pertinent and productive. After all, it makes evident that the utopian and progressivist aspirations with which the Dadaists had celebrated the arrival of the photographic image, for both its technologically innovative and epistemologically provocative implications, found a fundamental reversal in Rauschenberg’s cult of image containment in the late 1950s. Neither the promise of multiplication and reproduction, a radically altered distribution form, nor of supposedly liberating the aesthetic sphere from privileged forms of perception and experience could have been claimed by Rauschenberg, and even less so by Richter, as the motivations for their turn to the photographic. And in addition to the new sobriety with which photography was now undoubtedly reconsidered, i.e., as a violent force of control and domination rather than as a progressive force of collective emancipation with technological and scientific means of depiction and documentation, photography now, at the moment of the late 1950s, appeared more and more as an already delinquent technology, approaching the brink of obsolescence. Photography, so it seems, slowly recognized its proper departure from having been the most powerful visual regime since the mid-1920s. If it had initially controlled the aesthetic sphere of the avantgardes as much as the sphere of the infinite ideologies of consumption (fashion, design, tourism, journalism), it now had been relegated to a secondary, if not tertiary, position with regard to the newly unleashed superpowers of televised images, inevitably imbuing any deployment of the photographic image with an emerging sense of disenfranchisement. And it is precisely this melancholic sense of a loss and the disappearance of photographic functions that opens a deep chasm between the two photographic formations of prewar avantgarde and postwar reconstruction culture, the very chasm from within which a fundamentally different system of photographic representation would emerge. Recognizing this as a possible future photographic culture of the mnemonic image is of course central for our comprehension of what might ultimately distinguish Richter’s work from that of his American predecessors in the photographic turn. 

Gerhard Richter’s Tisch: Memory Images and German Disavowal in 1962 


Richter’s photo paintings, rather than resulting from the collage’s production procedure of cutting, or from the photomontage principles of iconic combination, now have been simultaneously generated and negated in a pictorial paradox. As the iconic photographic apparition results physically and materially from the painter’s gestural execution of erasure, the purely indexical gesture of erasure paradoxically generates an iconic representation. In this dialectic, purely iconic representation and purely indexical erasure have been intricately intertwined, intensifying in fact many of the key contradictions that had heretofore determined the practice of photomontage.11 Already with Rauschenberg’s deadpan desire to copy whatever the mass-cultural apparatus of advertisement and Picture Post journalism might have spewed at its spectators, the most urgent question with which the collage/photomontage process had confronted its readers and spectators seemed to have been voided: namely, whether its iconic elements were to be seen either as a denotative and a referential image, potentially generating a textual and critical narrative (as in Höch and Heartfield), or whether the random confluence of images was to be seen as a semiotic operation, precisely dissolving and leveling iconicity altogether in order to liberate spectators from the iconic fetters working in the service of product propaganda and ideology. And while Richter undoubtedly shared Rauschenberg’s insight that such a seemingly harmless operation as copying random industrially produced images, offering itself as a naive child’s play, would already reveal the extent to which the protototalitarian process of mass-cultural indoctrination was operative in American and European reconstruction culture after World War II, he extended Rauschenberg’s technique of transferring and combining found images even further by literally incorporating these as singularized icons, anchoring the simulated photographs even deeper within the pictorial production process itself. Richter follows precisely what is at stake in the overall assimilation of the pictorial production to the photographic process of chemical and optical recording. But his simulation of painting as photograph in fact exceeds Rauschenberg’s tantalizing game of gesture and copy, of inscription and imprint. And the simulacral operation that Richter performs in Tisch, for the first time with incomparable provocative rigor, operates on all levels: in the ostentatious restriction to the grisaille, in the paint application that follows the principle of an emulsion and liquid distribution rather than a painterly facture or compositional ordering, and of course in the iconic banality of reproducing everyday life and its aleatory objects.12

11 Obviously, the key precursor for this paradoxical synthesis of a simultaneous erasure and engendering of mark making processes in Rauschenberg’s own trajectory had been his Erased de Kooning Drawing from 1953, a work that Richter could not have known in 1962. 12 In a conservatory session that Carol Mancusi Ungaro conducted with the painting at Harvard’s Busch Reisinger Museum, it became evident to what extent the paint application in Tisch in large segments follows a purely mechanical transfer and deposit of pigment applied with tools of imprinting or mechanical depositing, rather than painterly brushwork.


 Benjamin H. D. Buchloh

We would argue that Richter’s provocative and enigmatic statement that he wanted to make a photograph with painterly means implied that not a single gesture, painterly or graphic, could claim any longer to articulate the unconscious, subjective, or collective. Thus, the control of the automatist gesture by the iconic mass-produced image constructs a matrix, a form of containment that had become a universal condition of artistic articulation. It posits itself in manifest opposition to the mythemes of the previous decades, surrealist and automatist, and their Abstract Expressionist continuation, which had claimed that the subject’s unconscious articulation, if only performed properly according to the rules of an uncensored and unrestricted activation of the pulsation of the drives, would trigger liberatory impulses in both spectators and readers of automatist texts. What Richter then ultimately criticized when subjecting gesture and facture to the rule of photographic control was not just the political naiveté with which the legacies of Surrealist automatism in Abstract Expressionism and European tachisme and informel had approached the circumstances of a collective organization of desire. Richter’s Tisch and the following photographic matrix paintings articulate a fundamentally different conception of painting’s relation to the unconscious, one suspended in an extreme duality: the act and the structure of painting are now situated between a micrological, indexical gesture that induces the grisaille copy of a photograph, and a gestural articulation that seems to lead to the mere erasure of the most banal of icons, a painting depicting a table. Yet even a cursory glance at Richter’s painting as it emerges in the early 1960s confronts us anew with these questions of iconography versus semiosis: are these explicitly denotative, referential images, in which we suddenly encounter actual historical subjects, seemingly unmediated by any predecessor, establishing a previously unthinkable iconography of memory in 1962? Or are they merely the result of aleatory associations that will not tell us anything about the subject of representation, but quite a bit more about the collective and public social functions of the photographic image in contemporary image regimes? Would an iconographic interpretation not be instantly problematized by the disturbing fact that Richter’s paintings between 1962 and 1966 simultaneously depict perpetrators and victims, i.e., Uncle Rudi (1965), the Nazi Soldier, as much as Aunt Marianne (1965), the schizophrenic aunt who died as a victim of the Nazi’s euthanasia program? Or given a painting such as Family on the Beach (1964, which depicts Dr. Eufinger, who was one of the medical authorities in the Fascist euthanasia program (and therefore indirectly contributed to the death of Richter’s beloved aunt), and later would become Richter’s father-in-law. Or an even more discomforting painting like Herr Heyde (1965), featuring a portrait of a man who had been one of the central figures in implementing those programs of medical torture and extermination in the concentration camps. Herr Heyde, who had gone into hiding after the end of the Nazi regime in 1945 and had lived for almost twenty years under an assumed name, continuing his practice as a jovial local doctor, is portrayed here shortly before he committed suicide in jail awaiting his verdict at the Auschwitz trials in Frankfurt in 1965. 

Gerhard Richter’s Tisch: Memory Images and German Disavowal in 1962 


But what about the other paintings from the same moment merely depicting the most banal objects, painted in exactly the same manner of grisaille, the classic technique and genre of commemoration of the dead and the lifeless, which Richter had recently rediscovered for his painting? Do they not confront us—at least in terms of historical representation—with an initially illegible iconography? According to Richter’s earlier commentaries, he had randomly selected these images from a very large, if not potentially infinite stock of available sources: from family albums and amateur photography, from advertisements and reportages in illustrated magazines, the whole gamut of the newly available photographic image world of everyday life in post–World War II capitalist consumer culture. What, for example, could be the iconographic significance of a group of uncanny domestic objects, such as a simple Kitchen Chair, or a Flemish Crown, or, even more basic and base than any other object, a roll of Toilet Paper (even executed in three different versions), all painted by Richter during 1964–1966 in the same mournful grisaille manner? Would the utter banality of these images, manifestly un- or even anti-iconic, not only lack any credibility as potentially mnemonic images, but, worse than that, would they not contaminate, if not discredit altogether the paintings’ promises to induce historical memory? We would argue that these images of everyday objects in Richter’s depiction not only confront us suddenly with an uncanny banality of objects, but rather they represent them as though these objects themselves had now become the carriers of condensed disavowal. And their supposed normalcy and apparent harmlessness only intensify the sense of an undercurrent that links these objects all the more to the collectively prevailing behavior of dissemblance and concealment in the culture of disavowal ruling Germany in the early to mid-1960s. Richter’s own original response to his work’s interpretative challenges has taken two extremely divergent positions on these questions. In the first one, sustained until the mid-1970s, Richter argued that he had selected random photographic images for painterly reproduction in the early to mid-1960s, which had no inherent meaning and significance whatsoever. Rather, they had been chosen only as markers of the artistic and epistemological conflicts between the status of the found photograph, its painterly reproduction, and the problematical discourse of painting itself. Furthermore the artist argued that these images were chosen at random, more or less like readymades, mimicking the impulses he had received from his encounters with Fluxus in Düsseldorf in 1963: to stage a provocative and anti-hierarchical universal equivalence of all objects and images. Yet, after a number of scholarly commentaries had revealed the specificity of the family images in particular, Richter inverted his position.13 He admitted reluc-

13 Most important in the reversal of interpretive approaches to the family paintings of the mid-1960s was a study by Jürgen Schreiber, Ein Maler aus Deutschland. Gerhard Richter—Das Drama einer Familie, Munich / Zürich: Pendo Verlag, 2005.


 Benjamin H. D. Buchloh

tantly that a principle of latent iconographic selection had indeed been at work in the parsing out of the family images. And the artist conceded further that he had initially hoped to prevent the iconography of the family history from endowing his artistic production with a manifestly autobiographical feature. In other words, he admitted not only that his selections had pursued a private project of a critical and mnemonic reflection on the troubled and tragic history of his family, deeply entwined in the conflicts of German Nazi history and post–World War II history at large, but he also acknowledged that his assimilation to the radical Fluxus aesthetic of aleatory and arbitrary choices had perhaps served him primarily to conceal the seemingly private motivations of his painting’s mnemonic impulses. Therefore, as image and idiom of the photographic had become the new (or renewed) matrix of Richter’s pictorial production, a broad