Ancient civilizations recognized that the power of the god, king, or state could be encoded in architecture, monuments, and art. Such cultural expressions became effective means to highlight the power and glory of the state. With the fall of the Roman Empire in the west, these methods were initially adopted by the early Church as it endeavored to assert its power. By the Renaissance, the Italian city states found in culture a valuable tool to transmit their enlightened dynamism. But it is with the rise of a unified, centralized French state that culture in all its manifestations would be used to promote a vision of the power of the nation and the king. Louis XIV and his successors established a culture industry that propagandized the glory of France. This series of six lectures will explore that “culture of power” and the power of culture. Portions of two lectures will take place in the Museum’s galleries in order to examine some pertinent examples.
Co-sponsored by Life Lessons: The Wm. & Margery Sadowsky Center for Adult Learning at the Springfield JCC.
Instructor: Dr. Simon Sibelman
Wednesday, 10-11:30 am
Six classes: March 14, 21, 28; April 4, 11, 18
Lecture 1: From Babylon to Rome and Beyond: The Ancient Heritage as Foundation
This lecture will explore the rich heritage of how various civilizations used history to highlight their power. Special attention will be given to how the early Church’s expropriated the ancients’ use of culture to highlight its emergent earthly power.
Lecture 2: From Church to State
The second lecture will begin in the galleries and explore the Church’s use of painting and statuary to communicate the power of its message. Then, returning to the lecture room, the remainder of the lecture will focus on how the emerging nation states began to use culture to express their power.
Lecture 3: The French State
With the accession of the Bourbons to the throne of France, the monarchy recognized the necessity to establish a “unified” vision of the nation which had been wracked by religious civil wars for the greater part of the sixteenth century. Beginning with Henri IV and then Louis XIII, the French State would centralize culture in order to create that image.
Lecture 4: The Culture of Power as Powerful Theatre
In 1643, Louis IV ascended the throne. He was not quite six years old. In his long reign, he would subjugate the arts into the mammoth task of representing the king and the French nation in all their glory. What he began would be continued by his successors, Louis XV and XVI.
Lecture 5: The Powerful Ripple Effect of Culture
This lecture will focus on the extraordinary impact France had on the other monarchial states of Europe. Of particular interest will be the impact France would have on England, Holland and Russia.
Lecture 6: Ancient Régime and Revolution
This lecture will begin in the Channing Blake Gallery of Eighteenth Century French Art in the Museum where we shall examine several pieces of art and determine how they mark a shift in focus that led us to the French Revolution. Back in the lecture hall, we shall see that the Revolution did not destroy the culture of power but energetically engaged it to promote new ideas and ideals.