The art and science of late nineteenth-century images of human prehistory at the national museum of natural history in Paris / Maria P. Gindhart.

Gindhart, Maria P.
2 v. : ill. ; 29 cm.
Local subjects:
Penn dissertations -- History of art. (search)
History of art -- Penn dissertations. (search)
This dissertation explores the symbiotic relationship between the paintings and sculptures of the Stone Age that were exhibited at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris in the late nineteenth century and the prehistoric fossils and artifacts that were collected, studied, and displayed there. While authentic prehistoric objects validated the artistic representations that made reference to them, artists' renderings of earliest times established a context for the Paleolithic and Neolithic vestiges housed at the Museum. In addition, these works of art frequently communicated a sense of France's preeminence and were used to further French colonialism. On a more subconscious level, these images of human origins were materializations of the society in which they were created, as they crystallized contemporary attitudes about gender, race, and progress. After examining the display of both science and art in and around the Museum's New Galleries of Comparative Anatomy, Paleontology, and Anthropology (1898) in Chapter One, the dissertation proceeds to a detailed consideration of select works of art. Chapter Two focuses on the ways in which Emmanuel Fremiet's sculpted reliefs of prehistoric humans and contemporary "primitives" served to support the Museum's colonialist agenda. Fernand Cormon's painting cycle, which depicts the development of humanity and thus served as a visual manifestation of what was taught in the amphitheater in which it was situated, is the subject of Chapter Three. Chapter Four then juxtaposes Paul Richer's bronze statue of a Stone Age sculptor with paintings of prehistoric artists by Albert Besnard and Paul Jamin in regard to prevailing beliefs about the physical appearance and intellectual capabilities of early painters and sculptors. In conclusion, there is a brief analysis of the decline of art at the Museum and the general shift in the twentieth century from fine art depictions of prehistory to "scientific" visual reconstructions of the deep past. Although displayed in science museums because of their didactic content, these later recreations lacked the aesthetic and decorative cachet of late nineteenth-century paintings and sculptures.
Adviser: Susan Sidlauskas.
Thesis (Ph.D. in History of Art) -- University of Pennsylvania, 2002.
Includes bibliographical references.
Local notes:
University Microfilms order no.: 3054944.
Sidlauskas, Susan, advisor.
University of Pennsylvania.
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